Lexus GX470 First Drive & Review & Car and Driver

11 Sep 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Lexus GX470 First Drive & Review & Car and Driver
Lexus GX470

If tall is good in a sport-utility vehicle, then way tall should be better.

If you think of the GX470 as a gussied-up and gold-plated Toyota 4Runner, you’re mostly right. But the gussying and gilding are so extensive that this mid-sizer seems less a truck than a Lexus on stilts.

As SUVs go, this one’s dimensions are right at the top end of the middle class, close to the Acura MDX and Mercury Mountaineer in length, and about halfway between them in width.

The gussying up starts with the raising of its roof by three inches and finishes with an optional third row of seating (only two rows are available in the 4Runner). The MDX and the Mountaineer both have three rows as standard equipment, but just because they are relatively roomy back there, don’t expect the same of the GX470. Unlike the Acura, this is a body-on-frame design; that crowds the interior noticeably (it’s also 2.3 inches narrower).

Moreover, it has a live axle in back, unlike the Mountaineer’s frame construction, which means that the necessarily high floor (for axle clearance) eats seriously into footroom.

I intended the space for elementary-school children, said chief engineer Kunihiro Hoshi, although he hopes adults will find it tolerable for short trips.

If they’re less than five foot three, maybe. Hoshi, ever the optimist, included three sets of three-point belts.

Lexus GX470

Whereas the raised roof was absolutely necessary to gain sufficient space overhead for a third row, Hoshi says cathedralesque headroom is also part of Lexus luxury.

So is a commanding view of the world around; the Lexus front seats jack you up farther off the floor. The 4Runner is sportier, he says, so its driver should sit low.

Despite the higher roofline and still generous ground clearance (8.3 inches minimum), Hoshi says the center of gravity of the GX is 1.2 inches lower than that of the old 4Runner. The track is also substantially wider, by 2.9 inches in front and 3.3 inches in back. Rollover resistance is greatly enhanced, he says, so much so that he wanted to show films of the GX undergoing stability tests.

Toyota management nixed that idea figuring, probably correctly, that trial lawyers will have the last word on that topic no matter how diligent the engineering.

Interestingly, some of the Lexus gilding raises the center of gravity, at least marginally. It has a thicker windshield and side glass to reduce cabin noise. Altogether, the GX470 carries about 44 additional pounds of sound reducer compared with the 4Runner, with commendable results.

At highway speeds, we hear only a ruffle of the wind and some singing from the tire treads. That’s all that’s left, Hoshi says, when everything else is hushed.

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