2003 All-Star Mid-Size Sport-Utility: Lexus GX470
The two previous winners in this category - the BMW X5 and the Acura MDX - are still popular among our staff members. In fact, five rounds of voting were required to arrive at this year's decision, which is indicative of the sort of competition that makes the mid-size SUV battleground the bloodiest in autodom. The continued growth of this segment is evidence that America's thirst for sport-utilities is far from quenched, but one newcomer in particular caught our attention. From the same company that created the original entry-luxury crossover, the RX300, as well as the vaunted flagship LX470, it's no surprise that the new GX470 fits as comfortably into the Lexus lineup as it does on our All-Stars roster. How well a vehicle performs on the road may be the basis for most of our prose - and praise - but we believe that vehicles bearing the sport-utility prefix should demonstrate competence over a variety of terrains. Most modern SUVs are minivan-like in their passenger- and cargo-carrying capabilities, but the suspensions that make for a smooth highway ride often have the opposite effect on a mountain trail. The GX470 shows that you can have the best of both worlds, the paved and the unpaved, and that the live-axle rear end is far from dead. It proves yet again that with Lexus, there is no such thing as sacrifice.