The 2007 Lexus GX 470 looks big and brawny. It doesn't seem excessively long on the outside, but it does look tall, especially from the rear, in part because of the vertically oriented tail lamps and other design cues. From the rear it almost looks tippy, which is unfortunate because it's anything but.
The GX 470 shares its basic five-door body shell with the Toyota 4Runner. Unique rear quarters give the Lexus a different visual personality, however. It looks cleaner and more contemporary, a bit more like a tall station wagon compared to the carefully calculated rugged-truck look of the 4Runner. Unique grilles and bumpers distinguish the two vehicles and give them their respective Lexus and Toyota identities, but a more careful examination reveals that they are more alike than different.
Details add visual richness to the GX 470. These include its peaky hood and grille combination, along with its nicely integrated body-colored bumpers, fender flares and side moldings. Massive headlamps and those complex, high-mounted tail lamps define its corners.
The Lexus GX 470 interior is trimmed in rich leather and bird's-eye maple. It's roomy and well finished, with large, comfortable seats and lots of elbow room. The materials are excellent. Tall side windows afford a good view out, making the cabin seem airy.
In this sport-utility vehicle, everything seems to be where it's supposed to be, and everything is clearly labeled. All of the gauges and instruments are large and easy to read, with simple graphics shared by other Lexus products. Switches and controls are large, straightforward, elegantly designed and easy to operate.
The navigation system has been upgraded for 2007. This is the fifth-generation Lexus system, and it includes voice recognition that allows the driver to enter a destination by voice command. The screen now features a high-resolution, 800x480-pixel display in 32,000 colors. Maps and roads are shown with 3-D shadow effects, and the system can even display graphic representations of buildings in selected cities. System functions include multiple route calculation, route preview, simplified highway-junction graphics and a dual-map screen option. Spanish has been added to English and French text-display choices.
The 2007 navigation system integrates Bluetooth wireless technology. When using a compatible phone, Bluetooth allows the driver to transfer phone books to the nav system and make calls through its touch-screen panel or voice commands.
The backup camera displays what's directly behind the GX 470 on the seven-inch navigation screen when reverse is engaged. Beyond helping the driver to avoid backing over obstacles, such as a tricycle left in the driveway, it's also useful when parking in tight spaces.
The standard audio system now includes an auxiliary input jack. The Mark Levinson audio option turns the GX 470 into a concert hall on wheels, with 14 speakers and 240 watts of power. The Panasonic rear-seat entertainment system ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction in a 2005 J.D. Power and Associates study, and it's been upgraded for 2007 with a nine-inch, wide-screen display. The high-resolution screen lowers from the headliner. Front-seat passengers can also watch a DVD with the Mark Levinson audio system, but only when the vehicle is in Park. The video plays on the navigation screen.
The GX is a space-efficient vehicle. The second row bench seat is roomy, comfortable and easy to get into. It splits 60/40 for versatility and folds flat. A family of four with a big dog will feel right at home.
Order the optional third row and the GX 470 can seat eight, sort of. The third row is suitable for children, but it's nearly hopeless for adults. On the positive side, the rear air conditioning included with the third seat allows separate temperature adjustment for third-row kiddies and dogs.
Split 50/50, the third-row seat can 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 to more than 77 cubic feet by folding or removing the lightweight rear seats and then folding the second row as well. At one time we would have said that this is not a lot of cargo space for a mid-size SUV. Now that some leaders in the field have sacrificed efficiency for style, however, the GX 470 doesn't look so bad by comparison. The Mercedes-Benz M-Class offers only 72.4 cubic feet, almost 10 feet less than the previous generation, BMW X5's offers just 62 cubic feet. Unfortunately, the GX 470's cargo door still opens from the left side. It might be great in right-hand-drive Japan, but it's awkward in the U.S., forcing you to walk around it when unloading curbside at the airport.