When the sport/utility market grew beyond Jeeps, Blazers, and Broncos, Lexus was still a sparkling dollar sign in Toyota executives' eyes. But then Lexus reworked a Land Cruiser into an LX 450 and introduced the RX 300, which quickly became one of their top sellers. Now comes the third Lexus SUV, more akin to the new 4Runner than the Sequoia or LX 470.
Built from the ground up to see service in less than ideal circumstances, the GX 470 foundation is a fully boxed frame with nine welded crossmembers, yielding frame stiffness more like that of a unibody. We did manage to get one perched on three wheels and had no difficulty opening or closing a door or tailgate. In keeping with contemporary concerns, the forward crossmember is mounted low so that, in the event of a collision, it hits a car at a strong point and not a window. A GX is marginally taller than an LX, but not as wide nor long, and almost a half ton lighter.
It's unlikely the GX will be mistaken for anything but a Lexus, with the projector headlamps, faint emerald-tint lamp covers, tapered grille, pronounced fender flares, and illuminated runningboards. The integration of said boards, flares, and mud guards is much improved, and aerodynamics generate little wind noise. In reality, you could close your eyes and use the scent of leather and sound of silence to determine it's a Lexus.
The standard GX is a five-passenger unit, with generous front buckets and comfortable accommodations for three across the 60/40 rear seat. Cargo space is close to 50 cubic feet, but this can be dropped to 13 by ordering the third-row, three-person, 50/50 seat (which includes rear climate). The last row can be folded against the side windows or easily removed for maximizing space, and it has ample room for kids or adults who shop in the kids' department. The rear door swings open to the street side, so there's no tailgate to climb over or hatch to scrape on the garage roof or interfere with an effective rear wiper.
Any luxury car owner will find appointments familiar, with leather seats and trim and bird's-eye maple woodwork so beautifully polished that the console section can reflect significant sun glare. General admission includes two-person memory system, 10-way driver and four-way passenger power heated seats, dual-zone climate control, powered and defrosted quarter windows, automatic dimming mirrors with heat and tilt outside, power tilt/telescoping wheel with exit function, redundant audio controls, seven-function trip computer that offers altimeter and barometer displays, foglamps, rolling code security system, and 11-speaker six-disc in-dash sound system.