Lexus GX 470
What? Not the vehicle you were expecting to take the crown in the toughest field of 4x4 of the Year competitors ever? Well, it's not exactly what we expected either. But the truth is in the testing and the facts are that the Lexus GX 470 went everywhere and did everything off road that we asked the H2, Wrangler Rubicon, FX4 Ranger, and 12 other heavyweights to do--and it bested them all with Four Seasons suite accommodations, dynamic suspension, and enough 007 gadgetry to make the other vehicles look a little...well, entry level.
In fact, after spending a week in the Lexus figuring out that we liked about it--almost everything--we began fearing that we might have gone soft. It's not like us to fall in love with luxury--we're all about performance! So as the miles ticked by, and the judging books were filled out, we began to realize this Lexus was unlike anything we had ever driven. We weren't being fooled by the upper-class SUV image. Nope, we had fallen for what Lexus calls its "Total Off-Road Management System."
Whatever marketing catch phrase you use to describe it, this is the year that the Lexus raised the technology bar and marked the end of the off-road Stone Age. The GX 470 came to the fight with an advance antilock brake system that's been adapted to be a functional off-road tool in ways no OEM has ever done before. The triple-threat combo of Active TRAC traction control, Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), and Downhill Assist Control (DAC, which makes a ton of noise while active, but proves that the engineers back at Lexus have discovered the formula to defeat gravity) are not just acronyms and names that sound impressive, but are legitimate systems that can replace the need for conventional front and rear limited-slip differentials and low gears for downhill control.
Frankly, we expected that this year's winner of the 4x4 of the Year award would be one of the rigs that took a page from the aftermarket playbook and incorporated hardware like aggressive tires, selectable lockers, or 4:1 low range gears. This Lexus proved our hunch wrong and won it all with its own in-house engineering packaged in a well-rounded luxury sport/ute.