• MIDDLE OF LUXURY

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    lexusgx4600120131112Lexus GX460 dons spindle grille as it joins brand’s range of posh sport-utes

    LEXUS Manila has completed its compact/midsize/huge trio of luxurious sport-utility vehicles as it released last week the 2014 Lexus GX460—the brand’s median SUV. The latest model adds to the compact crossover RX and the full-size LX sport-ute.

    But besides serving as the carmaker’s Goldilocks-just-right sport-ute—or “LUV” in Lexus-speak, for “luxury utility vehicle”—the 2014 rendition of the GX460 also consummates Lexus’s affair with a bolder design language as the model becomes the last in the present stable to articulate it. And, speaking of which, it’s a vernacular marked by a thick accent coming in the form of Lexus’s signature spindle grille.

    In addition to the massive maw that accentuates the vehicle’s scale, the latest GX460, priced at P5.578 million, also gets significantly reshaped LED headlamps (with washers) and daytime running lights, as well as more illuminated jewelry that reside within slashes on the front bumper, to match the spindle grille. The rear receives subtler changes, most noticeable among which are tail lamps now covered with clear lenses, further raising the bling factor. Unlike in other makeovers, the GX460’s fuses coherently with the vehicle’s original styling, better drawing attention to its chiseled and bulging front and rear fenders. New 18-inch alloys round out the refresh.

    In the cabin, added to the GX460 is an eight-inch touch-screen panel that doubles as the control center for the alphabet-soup of functions in the new nine-speaker multimedia system—CD/MP3/DVD/Aux-in/USB/GPS (with a map)—and as monitor for the rear-view camera. Lexus said the multimedia system’s home screen is customizable and can display either the navigation map, audio status and other info, and compass—or all these. Bluetooth accesses a paired phone’s directory or music from other devices.

    Retained are standard items like the 10-way power front seats; automatic climate control for the front, middle-row and rear seat passengers; a moonroof; and a flip-up glass panel in the rear window.

    Under the revised sheetmetal, also retained are things that make the GX460 (and its Toyota Prado twin which, incidentally, and for obvious reasons, won’t get the spindle-grille treatment) one of the most competent sport-utes on the planet. These start with its 4.6-liter V8 gasoline engine that churns out 301hp and 446Nm of torque, the grunt sent to the rear wheels or all four by a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission and a torque-sensing limited-slip diff that can allocate power on which axle has the better amount of grip provided by its wheels. The vehicle’s center diff can be locked, too, for low-speed off-road driving. Further proof that the GX460 is a genuine all-terra machine and no mere crossover pretender is that its body is mounted on an honest ladder chassis, which is far more stronger and, therefore, suited to take on rougher beatings.

    These rugged underpinnings, which are standard fare on sport-utes that cost a fraction of the GX460’s tag, are tricked out by some truly notable electronic wizardry that elevates the vehicle from, well, sport-utes that cost a fraction of its price. Lexus ticked off the GX460’s full-time four-wheel drivetrain’s features, starting with crawl control, which automatically takes over throttling and braking on really nasty terrain so that the driver can concentrate on steering. Then there are the downhill and hill-start assists that control speed or brake the vehicle to help ensure it does not roll toward a direction not intended by the driver; Active Traction Control, or A-Trac, which more cleverly packages the locking front and rear differentials than what is usual, and which can transfer oomph to the wheel that has better grip afoot; vehicle stability control that works both on pavement or off it; an adaptive variable suspension that automatically adjusts damping relative to a particular surface on which the vehicle rolls, and which has three ride settings to offer (comfort, normal or sport); adjustable height control that should come useful in flood-fording or in other similarly unpleasant conditions; and the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS).

    This last bit, Lexus explained, strikes a happy compromise between the stiffer damping settings needed on pavement for improved vehicle control and the long suspension travel articulation required on bad surfaces. KDSS continuously varies the GX460’s lean-angle resistance by using hydraulic cylinders acting on the stabilizer bars on both ends of the vehicle, and also allows the wheels on each axle to move up and down more freely independent of each other. This helps keep all four wheels in contact with the ground, which, regardless of a vehicle’s size, type or form, is a good thing.

    Especially so on a handsomely restyled midsize luxury sport-ute.

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