Visit the Lexus fun park
Cameras make big beast a beauty, writes KEITHDIDHAM
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.