First Test: 2003 Lexus LX 470
A little bit of this, a little bit of that
Just because the all-new '03 GX 470 (based off the new Toyota 4Runner platform, both of which competed in our '03 Sport Utility of the Year) appeared this year, Lexus was not about to simply toss its top-of-the-line model, the LX 470, a few mid-generation improvements. Although much of the LX is unchanged (it remains one of the quietest and most capable 4x4 SUVs sold in the U.S.), power output for the DOHC 4.7L V-8 is up to 235 hp due to a new ignition system and drive-by-wire setup. However, it's the new, close-ratio five-speed automatic transmission that makes the vehicle seem quicker than its 9.5-sec 0-60 would indicate (practically identical to that of the '02).
New technology for this year includes a unique, near-infrared driving aid called "Night View" and a sophisticated speed-sensing, variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering unit that adjusts firmness and quickness based on electronic sensors. These changes, in combination with the smarter stability control and brake computer, make the new LX 470 almost 3 mph faster in our 600-ft slalom, with five-percent-better braking performance, stopping the hulkish SUV from 60 mph in 126 ft. Exterior styling remains unchanged, with the exception of a more Lexus-consistent look to the projector headlights and grille, and a new 18-in. wheel option with 275/60 low-profile tires.
With new inside options like a Mark Levinson audio system and DVD entertainment, as well as such carryover technology as the height-adjustable suspension and "Soft-to-Firm" ride control, the new LX 470 looks to continue its solid presence in the luxo-SUV market. Expect pricing to start around $64,500.