In the Lexus lineup, the GX 470 is situated between the entry-level crossover RX and the premium full-size LX. Targeted exclusively for the North American market, the Lexus GX design has been characterized as focused on blending both on-road and off-road capabilities in a single vehicle. Since 2003, the GX 470 has been upgraded with added technological features, including a new off-road suspension system and a Sport model.
The Lexus GX 470 was introduced as a 2003 model in November 2002, and released at the same time as the now-defunct competitor, the Lincoln Aviator. The GX 470 has a welded steel body, an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission, and an enhanced four-wheel drive system. The GX interior offers a place for up to eight passengers with three rows of seating, although the third row is tight with only 24in (609.6mm) of legroom for its three passengers. A side-opening rear tailgate is standard. Other features include built-in mudguards, water-repellent glass for the windshield and the driver & passenger doors, integrated illuminated running boards, and a roof rack with crossbars. The premium Mark Levinson audio system along with a rear seat DVD entertainment system are available as options.
The GX 470 is powered by a 4.7L,VVT-i 32-valve, four-cam V8 2UZ-FE engine with 270horsepower (201kW) — 263hp (196kW) for 2008 models — at 5,400 rpm and 330lb·ft (447N·m) of torque at 3,400 rpm. This is one of the largest engines that has ever been put into a Lexus. The largest is a 5.7 liter V8 featured in the LX 570. The GX also met all the requirements to make it a certified Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle II (ULEV II). The following year-by-year changes occurred after the GX's 2003 debut:
For 2004, the GX received a number of safety upgrades that included a roll-sensing feature for the side-curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitoring system and an optional rear backup camera system (for those vehicles with the navigation system installed). An optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) became available as a late-year addition. KDSS frees and adjusts the GX's stabilizer bars so that each wheel can move with less restriction over uneven terrain. KDSS uses front and rear hydraulic pressure-sensing valves and larger stabilizer bars to reduce body roll during off-road conditions, while retaining smooth ride quality on regular road surfaces.