2004 GX 470 New Car Test Drive
The Lexus GX 470 bucks the trend. Most luxury SUVs nowadays are based on cars. They are essentially high-riding, all-wheel-drive alternatives to luxury station wagons and are usually built on front-wheel-drive unit-body sedan platforms. The GX 470, on the other hand, is based on traditional truck engineering concepts. It uses body-on-frame construction, a rear-wheel-drive chassis layout, a rugged four-wheel-drive system, and a live rear axle.
Granted, the GX 470 rides smoothly and coddles its occupants in Lexus luxury. Yet it also offers incredibly good off-road capability that rivals the best from Jeep and Land Rover. That's not surprising because the Lexus GX 470 shares most of its engineering with the Toyota 4Runner, a newly redesigned SUV that offers truly impressive off-road prowess. If you want an authentic luxury SUV, this is an excellent choice.
The GX 470 benefits from a powerful 4.7-liter V8 and a five-speed automatic that are responsive, smooth and quiet. It's equipped with the latest in off-road technology, including a suspension and drivetrain that gives it the ability to go virtually anywhere. But it's also prepared very well for on-road driving, where most of us spend most of our time. Its brakes are excellent and it's equipped with Vehicle Skid Control, a sophisticated system designed to help the driver maintain control in slippery corners. Inside, the GX 470 is roomy and quiet, swathed in leather and birdseye maple. It is a Lexus, so everything is where it's supposed to be; the switchgear and other controls are a study in ergonomic excellence.
Lexus launched the GX 470 as a new nameplate for 2003. Advanced safety features have been added for 2004, including roll-sensing curtain airbags designed to deploy in a severe tilt angle, roll, or lateral G force (side impact). Also for 2004 new is an optional electro-hydraulic suspension system designed to improve control and comfort on road and off road.
The Lexus GX 470 ($45,075) is positioned in the luxury-utility vehicle market segment, with a single model strategy augmented by major options and option packages. That's marketing jargon meaning this baby comes loaded with expensive equipment and features, yet you can add even more stuff.
More than 20 premium features come standard, from glass moonroof to illuminated running boards. Among them: leather upholstery, power seats, power mirrors, power windows, a wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated seats, rain-sensing wipers, automatic dual climate control, Homelink, a 115V AC power outlet in the cargo area, AM/FM/cassette/6-disc CD changer with 11 speakers, rear seat audio system with remote control and headphones, roof rack. The 4.7-liter V8 with a five-speed automatic transmission (rather than a four-speed automatic) are standard. Also standard: anti-lock brakes, traction control, Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), Torsen limited-slip differential, and the Adaptive Variable Suspension with adjustable height control. GX 470 rides on 265/65HR17 tires wrapped around 17-inch alloy wheels.
Options include a third-row seat with rear air conditioning ($2,030); Navigation system bundled with a Mark Levinson premium audio system ($2,700); a rear-seat entertainment system with two headphones ($1,560). A tow hitch receiver ($50) is optional. The new Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, an option on late-2004 models, uses electronically controlled hydraulic cylinders to help vary the degree of sway resistance provided by the front and rear stabilizer bars.
Standard passive-safety equipment includes dual multi-stage frontal airbags and side airbags for the front and second-row seats. Roll-sensing curtain airbags are being added to late 2004 models (curtain airbags are used on early 2004 models). A new tire pressure monitoring system is being added as well. Three-point seatbelts are provided for each seating position, and the front belts are equipped with pretensioners and force limiters to help minimize injuries from the belts themselves in an impact.