Lexus marketers have invented a new acronym to describe the ever-expanding upscale end of the SUV market: LUV, for "luxury-utility vehicle." The GX470--cousin to the 2003 Toyota 4Runner--becomes the third such utility vehicle in the Lexus lineup, and, with an estimated base price of $45,000, this newcomer bridges the substantial price chasm that separates the RX300 from the LX470.
The GX470 inherits its drivetrain from bigger brother LX470, including the 235-horsepower 4.7-liter V-8 engine and five-speed automatic transmission. This engine is so quiet it's equipped with a starter inhibitor. Output falls short of competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz ML500 and the BMW X5 4.4i (288 and 290 horsepower, respectively), but the 320 pound-feet of torque provides plenty of pull, even at high altitudes.
When things start to go downhill, simply flip the transfer lever to 4-Lo, push the DAC (Downhill Assist Control) button, and keep your feet off the pedals. The GX470 will make its way down steep grades at 2 to 4 mph with the nonchalance of a mountain goat. All you have to do is steer.
Unlike most of its nearest rivals, the GX is as polite off-road as it is on-road, thanks to sturdy body-on-frame construction, a height-adjustable suspension that provides up to 9.8 inches of ground clearance, and a locking Torsen center differential. Dynamically, the GX is enhanced with a bevy of electronic aids, including Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), active traction control (Active TRAC), and a host of other technological systems (assuming that EBD, ABS, HAC, DAC, VSC, DVD, and LSD have nothing to do with illicit drugs or communicable diseases).
In the end, the GX470 is greater than the sum of its acronyms. With an interior more comfortable than most resort hotels, the LUV-able GX is like an upright LS wagon with four-wheel drive. If you want one, get to your Lexus dealer ASAP. They'll sell out PDQ.