Introduced as a new model in 2004, the Lexus GX 470 enters 2005 slightly tweaked. Its 4.7-litre V8 receives Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-i), a two-stage acoustic control induction system and a higher compression ratio, increasing horsepower from 235 to 275, and torque from 320 to 330 lb-ft. The engine meets Low Emissions Vehicle standards.

Sitting in Lexus’ SUV line-up halfway between the RX 330 and the LX 470, the GX 470 shares its body-on-frame architecture with the Toyota 4Runner, although its roofline is 7½ cm taller, for more headroom. Three rows of seats accommodate up to eight passengers.

The sole transmission choice is a five-speed automatic that sends power through a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a Torsen torque-sensing centre differential. Under normal driving conditions, the torque is split 60 per cent rear, 40 per cent front. Since the GX 470 also shares the 4Runner’s off-road capability, it comes with downhill assist control, hill-start assist control, a limited-slip centre differential and skid plates.

Features include 17-inch alloy wheels, load-levelling rear air suspension, adjustable height control system, front and rear ventilated brake discs, dual zone automatic climate control, rear air conditioning with climate control, Mark Levinson six-CD stereo with fourteen speakers and wheel-mounted controls, leather interior, eight-way driver and four-way passenger heated power seats, driver position memory, 60/40 fold-and-tumble middle seats, 50/50 split rear bench, auto up/down on all windows, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with compass, birds-eye maple wood trim, privacy glass, power sunroof, illuminated running boards, rain-sensing wipers, intermittent rear wiper, automatic headlamps, fog lamps and power tilt and telescoping wheel.

The Ultra Premium Package adds a rear DVD entertainment system, two sets of wireless headphones, and a DVD-based navigation system with back-up camera.

More rugged than the RX 330, more manageable than the LX 470, the GX 470 provides a luxury ride, with a third-row seat that can be folded out of the way or removed entirely should the trip be all about cargo. While its suspension can handle the rough stuff, it’s really a bit too refined to be out in the nastier areas; illuminated running boards don’t really seem made for fording streams or cutting through dense brush. But on the highway, the GX 470 is in its element, with a buttery-smooth ride and luxurious appointments. For those not as intrigued by all the extra goodies, the priciest V8-powered Toyota 4Runner Limited can be had for $16,780 less.

The GX 470 is built in Tahara, Japan.

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