Visit the Lexus fun park

Cam­eras make big beast a beauty, writes KEITHDIDHAM

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

RE­MEM­BER when cars came with real tool kits con­tain­ing an as­sort­ment of span­ners, pliers and screw­drivers rolled in a pouch?

No? You’re for­given, be­cause that was a gen­er­a­tion ago, when cars were of­ten un­re­li­able and a length of bal­ing wire, chew­ing gum or a ham­mer fixed most prob­lems.

In those days you could ac­tu­ally see the en­gine, and had space to work on it.

Not any more. En­gines are buried un­der pretty plas­tic overs, you need long arms and child-sized hands to reach any­thing, and there’s noth­ing me­chan­i­cal you could fix any­way.

The good old days . . . For­get it. At least to­day’s cars are gen­er­ally bul­let­proof and, if they do fail, they will tell you what ails them. The me­chanic’s (or should that be tech­ni­cian’s?) lap­top is the es­sen­tial tool in the work­shop.

Com­put­ers and en­gine con­trol units ( ECUs) man­age just about ev­ery­thing nowa­days, whether it’s mak­ing sure the en­gine, trans­mis­sion, sus­pen­sion and safety gear are all talk­ing to each other, or looking af­ter crea­ture com­forts such as cabin tem­per­a­ture and the stereo sys­tem.

I was think­ing about all of this elec­tronic wiz­ardry while co­cooned in the leather lux­ury of Lexus’ new RX350, a soft-roader that is tak­ing on BMW, Audi and Benz in the ur­ban wagon mar­ket.

I’d just inched the big Lexus down a nar­row, twist­ing laneway — the sort of ex­er­cise that has the very real po­ten­tial of in­flict­ing em­bar­rass­ing panel dam­age and brings you out in a cold sweat. But this Lexus is clever. The rear-fac­ing cam­era with re­verse guid­ance sys­tem made it child’s play. To top it off, a cam­era mounted un­der the mir­ror on the passenger’s door lets you see ex­actly how much clear­ance you have to play with.

Now I’ll ad­mit when I first saw the door cam­era I dis­missed it as yet an­other Lexus elec­tronic gim­mick but, as I did over the power-op­er­ated tail­gate, I’ve changed my mind as to its value.

Park­ing ma­noeu­vres were ex­e­cuted without a scratch or scrape to ex­plain to Mr Lexus, and, back on the road, the RX350 felt and drove like a plush and whis­per-quiet limo.

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