New Car Test Drive
Car Reviews   |   Sneak Previews   |   Most Researched

2003 Lexus GX 470


2003 Lexus GX 470
All-new go-anywhere luxury SUV.

By Jim McCraw

Base Price (MSRP) - $44,925
As Tested (MSRP) - $47,960

Overview

The 2003 Lexus GX 470 is a brand-new nameplate that's based on the all-new Toyota 4Runner. The new Lexus comes with a powerful 4.7-liter V8 that's smooth and quiet. The GX 470 features the latest in off-road management systems and a suspension that gives it the ability to go virtually anywhere. On the road, it uses Vehicle Skid Control to help the driver maintain control in slippery corners. Its brakes are excellent. 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 Lexus GX 470 fits between the popular car-based RX 330 and the ultra-luxurious, ultra-capable truck-based LX 470. It's smaller and lighter than the Toyota Land Cruiser-based LX 470. Like the LX, the GX uses traditional truck engineering with body-on-frame construction, a rear-wheel-drive chassis layout, and a V8 engine.

Though based on the 4Runner, the Lexus GX 470 offers a personality of its own. To some extent, it competes with the BMW X5 4.4i and the Mercedes-Benz ML 500, but the Lexus is longer, wider, taller and lighter than either of those entries.

Model Lineup

The Lexus GX 470 ($44,925) 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 items come standard, from the glass moonroof to the illuminated running boards. A five-speed automatic transmission (rather than a four-speed automatic) comes standard. Also standard: anti-lock brakes, traction control, 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 (RSAS) with remote control and headphones, a roof rack. Standard equipment includes a Torsen limited-slip differential, Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), adjustable height control, and 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); Lexus Link ($1,215), which is similar to GM's OnStar system and includes one year of service; a rear-seat entertainment system with two headphones ($1,560). A tow hitch receiver ($430) is optional.

Standard passive-safety equipment includes dual multi-stage front airbags and side airbags and side curtain airbags for the front and second-row seats. 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.

Walkaround

The Lexus GX 470 doesn't look big on the outside even though it's fairly large, which is a major plus. Without the optional roof rack, it looks even smaller. Huge, complex and expensive lamps adorn each of its four corners, and the taillamps are mounted high where everyone can see them. Yet its overall shape and a minimum of decoration result in a nice and simple appearance. The body shell is the same five-door design as a Toyota 4Runner, with a Lexus-style grille and lamps. GX 470 rides on 265/65HR17 tires.

The GX 470 has a peaky hood and grille combination, massive headlamps, nicely integrated body-colored bumpers, fender flares and side moldings, a clean crisp look that's almost too clean.

2003 Lexus GX 470
2003 Lexus GX 470

Interior Features

What you get most of with the GX 470 is the luxury that we've all grown used to with Lexus-brand vehicles. This is a big, brawny vehicle that offers the last word in leather and birdseye maple wood glamour, very large and commodious seats, lots of elbow room, and lots of help to make your ride more fun and more comfortable. All of the gauges and instruments are large and easy to read, with simple graphics shared by other Lexus products.

The GX 470 in its eight-seat configuration offers plenty of room and easy in/out at the 60/40 split second row, with a 50/50 split third seat accessible via the folding second seat. The third-row seats can either be folded up out of the way or removed and stored. What starts as a 13 cubic-foot cargo bay can be expanded in steps by folding or removing seats up to more than 77 cubic feet with the lightweight rear seats removed and the second row folded.

We were impressed by two things inside the GX 470: the quiet, and the use of space. At highway cruising speeds, the V8 is barely audible. A normal family of four with one large pet will feel right at home inside the GX, cosseted and comfortable with tall side windows affording a good view out. The quality of materials, fit, and finish, is excellent, and the cabin really works.

For the time being, the only options for the GX 470 are the navigation system, bundled with the Mark Levinson 240-watt sound system ($2700), the DVD entertainment system ($1560), and the third-seat package with rear air conditioning ($2030), a tow hitch receiver ($430), and the Lexus Link concierge service.

One of the beauties of driving any Lexus product is that everything is where it's supposed to be, and everything is clearly labeled. Even something as complex as a navigation system has been reduced to everyday equipment in the GX 470 because it was designed so well.

Our only functional criticism is aimed at the rear cargo compartment, which is accessed by opening the door from the side. We've grown so accustomed to a horizontally split tailgate or a top-hinged liftgate in this market segment that the door design just didn't feel natural to us anymore.

2003 Lexus GX 470

Driving Impressions

The Lexus GS 470 is a no-compromise SUV, and during our on-road/off-road adventures with it in and around Park City, Utah, we fell in love with it for the way it drives and handles, seemingly ready for anything this side of a Rockies avalanche. Its array of onboard electronics is unrivalled in this segment at this price, and all systems work in concert to make this machine come alive, whatever the driving conditions. The GX 470 comes ready to play.

The 4.7-liter V8 delivers world-class power, torque, smoothness, and quietness. The V8 is shared with the Lexus LX 470 and is optional with the Toyota 4Runner. It comes coupled with a new five-speed automatic transmission, which offers quicker response and better gearing than a traditional four-speed automatic.

Should you venture off road in this luxurious vehicle you'll have at your command the latest in off-road management systems. It has a full-time four-wheel-drive system with an expensive locking Torsen torque-sensing differential that can shift the power from the front axle to the rear axle continuously. It automatically directs power according to the traction available at each of the four corners. In normal highway conditions, power is split 40/60 percent front/rear. If the rear wheels spin, the differential can change the front/rear ratio to 53/47 percent to control the slippage. Conversely, sending more power to the rear wheels (29/71 front/rear) during steering maneuvers improves tracking through curves.

Downhill Assist Control (DAC) makes it easier to control the truck down steep, slippery slopes: Simply take your feet off the pedals and the GX 470 slowly walks down the incline, using the anti-lock brake system and electronic traction control to keep the GX 470 pointed in the intended direction. Touch the brake or the gas to slow down or speed up, then take your feet off the pedals again and the system takes over. It even works in reverse, in case you have to back down a hill and try again. Downhill Assist Control is very neat feature that makes sense and a feature that anybody can use after one lesson. Going uphill? Hill-Start Assist Control helps keep the GX 470 stationary while starting on a steep incline.

On the road, Vehicle Skid Control improves control and lateral traction while cornering on dry or slippery road surfaces. Skid control helps the driver keep the GX on the intended path by reducing power or applying brake to individual wheels. Skid control can prevent a spin or reduce the chance of sliding off the road.

We found the brakes of the GX 470 to be superb. They are large, and all four discs are ventilated for long life and fade-free performance (most trucks use ventilated discs only on the front wheels). The GX 470 comes standard with the latest in brake technology: Anti-lock brakes (ABS) help the driver maintain control of the steering in a panic stop. Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) distributes the proper brake force between front and rear wheels to achieve shorter stopping distances. Brake assist can help the driver use the full potential of the brakes in panic stops.

As heavy as it is, the GX 470 is no slouch in the performance department, capable of full-throttle sprints to 60 mph from rest in about 8.5 seconds, with a nice V-8 intake roar to go with it. If you're towing anything up to its limit of 5000 pounds, this truck will handle it with ease. The bad news is that, even if you try hard, you probably won't see 20 miles per gallon for the life of the vehicle.

While it is heavier than a unibody SUV would be, we're happy to have the body-on-frame design of the GX 470 for the quietness it affords. The new power steering system, which actually has different-ratio gears on the outer ends of the steering rack than on the interior, makes steering quick and light in parking situations, but quick and heavy on the highway, so the truck never feels over-assisted and never feels darty. The GX 470 handles impressively well

2003 Lexus GX 470

Summary

Toyota has slowly and deliberately become SUV headquarters for buyers who want quality, durability and reliability in a cargo hauler. Toyota and Lexus, its luxury division, offers more different kinds of sport-utility vehicles than any other manufacturer.

We've been hoping for a Lexus that offers more space, style, and power than the RX 300, and this is it. The Lexus GX 470 is a good choice for buyers who want luxury, capability and reliability. Its price far less than the big LX 470. It offers off-road capability not found in the new RX 330 and will go places the big LX 470 can't go. Equipped with the third-row seat, the GX 470 can carry up to eight people.


Model Line Overview

Base Price (MSRP) $44,925
As Tested (MSRP) $47,960

Model lineup:GX470 ($44,925)
Engines:235-hp 4.7-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Transmissions:5-speed automatic
Safety equipment (Standard):ABS, EBD, brake assist, anti-skid system (VSC), traction control, front airbags, side airbags, side curtain airbags, seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters
Safety equipment (Optional):none
Basic warranty:4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in:Tahara, Japan

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP):GX 470 ($44,925)
Standard equipment:automatic transmission, 4-wheel drive, power steering, ABS, traction control
Options as tested:third-row seat with rear a/c ($2030); tow hitch receiver ($430)
Destination charge:($575)
Gas Guzzler Tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSRP): $47,960
Layout:4-wheel drive
Engine:4.7-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Horsepower (hp @ rpm):235 @ 4800
Torque(lb.-ft. @ rpm):320 @ 3400
Transmission:5-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:15/18 mpg
Wheelbase:109.8 in.
Length/width/height:188.2/74.0/74.6 in.
Track, f/r:62.2/62.2 in.
Turning circle:N/A
Seating capacity:8
Head/hip/leg room, f:41.0/55.1/41.8 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:40.4/54.8/36.8 in.
Head/hip/leg room, r:36.1/56.4/24.9 in.
Cargo volume:77.5 cu. ft.
PayloadN/A
Towing capacity:5000 Lbs.
Suspension F:independent with lower torsion bar-type double wishbone
Suspension R:solid axle, four-link with coil springs
Ground Clearance:8.3 in.
Curb weight:4675 Lbs.
Tires:P265/65HR-17 M+S
Brakes, f/r:disc/disc with ABS
Fuel capacity:23 gal.

Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of 17/Nov/2002.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-331-4331 - www.toyota.com