- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2004

A full-size go-anywhere-in-any-weather sport-utility vehicle brings to mind a large boxy vehicle long on ability but short on appearance, with a bone-shaking ride. Think again; the Lexus GX 470 SUV has all the tough-guy attributes, rides like a dream and is as svelte as a sporty sedan.

The GX 470 provides the upscale automaker with three vehicles in this segment. The GX 470 is positioned between the car-based RX 330 and the premium-luxury LX 470 in size, price and capability.

Size-wise, the GX 470 is slightly smaller than the premium luxury LX 470. Its 109.8-inch wheelbase and 188.2-inch length are 2.4 inches and 4.3 inches shorter, respectively. It is also 2.4 inches narrower and slightly lower than its larger sibling.

The GX 470 combines the appointments and workmanship of a luxury sedan. Its very stiff perimeter frame and high-tech suspension are the main reasons for its ability to deliver a high level of ride comfort.

The new SUV provides available seating for eight and the latest in safety technology. The Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) includes dual front and side air-bag restraint systems and side curtain air bags.

The GX 470 is a smooth pleasure to drive. Its double-overhead-cam 4.7-liter V-8 engine produces 235 horsepower and 320 foot/pounds of torque. With an optional tow package, the GX 470 offers a 5,000-pound towing capacity, making it perfect for hauling trailers or boats to those out-of-the-way sites.

One of the nice features of the new SUV is that it produces 80 percent of its peak torque — or 256 foot/pounds — at just 1,100 rpm.

Mileage isn’t too bad considering the SUV weighs in at 4,675 pounds. The EPA rates it at 15 miles per gallon city and 18 mpg highway.. The test vehicle averaged 15.3 mpg in combined driving on city streets and freeways.

Its acceleration is surprising with the ability to go from 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds and the quarter mile in 16.5 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited at 112 mph.

For those who criticize SUVs as bad for the environment, the GX 470 meets Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) certification.

After driving the SUV on highways and city streets, I can report the five-speed automatic transmission offer seamless shift quality, and its shift logic holds back on inclines for power and on descents for increased engine braking — a feature that will please when towing.

The GX 470 is equipped with a unique four-wheel-drive system that provides distinct benefits on- and off-road, without the compromises these two environments often demand. A total off-road management system makes it one of the most capable vehicles in its class.

Its dynamic handling technology includes:

• Anti-lock brakes.

• Traction control.

• Downhill assist control.

• Brake assist.

• Vehicle skid control.

• Electronic brake distribution.

• Adaptive variable suspension damping.

The suspension damping system provides an extremely smooth ride, while the rear Adaptive Height Control provides flexibility.

It will lower the vehicle 1.2 inches from the neutral setting for easy cargo loading and provides for an extra 1.6 inches for going off-road.

Styling of the GX 470 is contemporary and bold, with well-integrated fender flares and a clear link to other Lexus family members.

My lone question is why would anyone after spending $50,000-plus take such a good-looking vehicle off-road. Anyone who has departed the pavement knows his vehicle will return battered and bruised. It’s the nature of the game. In my book the GX 470 has enough on-road attributes to keep one rolling on the pavement. You’ll have the satisfaction of keeping the vehicle unscathed and at the same time knowing it has the ability to do the job should you desire.

The test SUV came loaded with the optional tow hitch, navigation/Mark Levinson Audio Package that includes DVD Navigation System with steering-wheel voice-command button, 14-speaker 240-watt audio system with CD changer located in the glove box, a rear-seat entertainment system including CD/DVD player with 7-inch screen, two wireless headphones with remote control and a third-row seat with rear air conditioning.

All the goodies brought the price from a base $44,925 to $53,679.

This definitely luxurious vehicle includes such features as automatic climate control, leather seating and trim, steering-wheel audio controls, and a memory system for the driver’s seat, steering wheel position and outside mirrors.

The GX 740 is a big full-sized sport-utility vehicle that is happy on-road and off without some of the discomforts of past SUVs.

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