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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel


The mid-size Lexus GX 470 is a fully capable SUV using the same platform as the Toyota 4Runner, but looks and feels tighter and lighter. Some of its competitors are the BMW X3, Volvo XC90, and Infiniti QX56.

First introduced as a 2003 model, the GX 470 houses one of the largest engines ever put in a Lexus, the 4.7-liter, 263-horsepower V8 engine. I drove an 8-passenger 2008 Lexus GX 470 with full-time 4-wheel drive. Luxury and convenience highlights include leather seating, walnut trim (steering wheel, center console shifter), tri-zone climate control, heated outside mirrors, and heated seats. The vehicle also came with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System or KDSS ($1,750), the voice-activated navigation package equipped with Bluetooth, DVD/CD, 14-speaker audio system, ($3,250) and the towing package ($50) for a total price of $52,630.

This KDSS adjusts sway resistance through front and rear stabilizing bars, making you feel more stable against resistance you might find in both on-road and off-road driving situations. The wheels on each axle move with a larger degree of independence, preventing wheel lift. Furthermore, the GX 470 is equipped with Downhill Assist Control (DAC), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Rear Adjustable Height Control (AHC) – all electronically controlled off-road settings designed for your car to be the one to get you through sticky on-and-off-road situations.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Lexus vehicles are very premium cars about workmanship, with the GX 470 model being no exception to possessing superior fit and finish. You name it, the GX has it: aside of the attributes listed above, you'll get a larger-than-average moonroof, power liftgate, blind spot sensors, adaptive headlights, rain-sensory windshield wipers, and driver's seat memory. The third row is tiny and a bit awkward with just 24 inches of legroom, but this is not big (nor small) news for this seating area.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The GX has vehicle stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, and anti-locking brakes. Additionally, you have a rear back-up camera very useful for backing into tight spots. Lexus Link telematic system is available for a cost or subscription, offering connection to trained Lexus advisors in lei of an accident (like OnStar). Lexus vehicles are backed by a 48-month/50,000-mile basic limited warranty with roadside assistance for 48 months – higher than average numbers here, as 36-month/30,000 is often the standard.

Cost Issues: Is the mid-size SUV market full of vehicles as nice as the GX but at least twenty grand less? Yes. You are paying for Toyota reliability. Keep in mind the Kelley Blue Book gave the GX its Best Resale Value Award in 2006.

Activity & Performance Ability: The GX uses the same V8 engine housed in the LX 470 –reliable, high-performing powertrain components Consumer Reports has put their stamp of consumer satisfaction on. You have a competent vehicle for off road or inclement road conditions – the GX was named 4-Wheeler of the Year in 2003 and 2004 from 4x4 Magazine and has maintained that reputation. It's a smooth ride over bumps, which is owed to that KDSS.

The Green Concern: Gas consumption is 14-mpg city and 18-mpg highway, with consumer reports bearing an average of 15-mpg. This is not a strong suit for the GX 470, but expected with a V8 engine size. You're retaining the gas mileage of a big truck.

This vehicle is not hard to figure out: You're going to have a more upscale SUV experience in a Lexus GX 470, and a reliable one at that.

2008 Katrina Ramser