For the second year in a row, the Lexus GX 470 luxury sport utility vehicle was named "Four Wheeler of the Year" by the editors of Four Wheeler
Magazine. The competing GX 470 was equipped with the new Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that recently made its debut on the 2004 model.
Delivered annually since 1974, the "Four Wheeler of the Year" award has become a prestigious honor that is prized by manufacturers. The GX overcame six other four-wheel-drive vehicles for the title. "Winning the title two years running is unprecedented," said Denny Clements, Lexus Group vice president and general manager. "The new KDSS system allowed the GX to compete again and it clearly underscores the contribution it makes to on and off-road dynamics."
The GX 470 won the 2003 award on the strength of its "surprising ability and balance," according to Four Wheeler
Magazine. This year, the GX "consistently performed well in all categories of our testing," said Four Wheeler
technical editor Craig Perronne. "It was also the best on the trail and this helped it to gather the most points to make it our choice for Four Wheeler of the Year."
Proven in the World Rally Championship, the KDSS is a global first for production vehicles, according to Lexus. The system offers significant benefits in ride, handling and traction that can be felt in a wide variety of driving conditions -- on and off-road -- by employing a simple hydraulic control system acting on both front and rear stabilizer bars, the company said.
KDSS varies the degree of roll stiffness provided by each of the stabilizer bars in response to changing road conditions and driver inputs, but rather than increasing roll stiffness, the system reduces it as conditions require. With its variable roll stiffness, a KDSS-equipped GX 470 is able to use much larger stabilizer bars that help reduce maximum body roll angle by nearly 50 percent, significantly improving handling response, Lexus said.
Large stabilizer bars would normally mean a stiff ride over single-wheel bumps, but with KDSS, the energy is distributed between front and rear so that ride comfort is not disturbed. In some cases it's actually better, according to Lexus. Larger stabilizer bars also mean that shock absorber damping force can be better optimized to improve ride comfort, without sacrificing handling, the company said.
The front and rear stabilizer bars, which have nearly double the standard torsional stiffness, are supported by their own inter-connecting hydraulic cylinders. In normal cornering, the bars work conventionally to resist body roll motion and there is no fluid flow between the cylinders. But when unequal wheel loading occurs in certain conditions, fluid can move between the front and rear cylinders, helping to equalize loading.
The constantly changing and variable terrain that's typical of most off-road situations highlights the benefits of KDSS. Stiff stabilizer bars can limit off-road performance because the inside wheels tend to lift and lose traction when outside wheels encounter bumps. But with KDSS, the hydraulic cylinders allow the wheels on each axle to move with a larger degree of side-to-side independence, minimizing any tendency for wheel lift. The increased suspension articulation freedom helps maximize traction, even in the most challenging off-road driving situations, Lexus said.
KDSS works in concert with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which continuously changes shock absorber damping in response to road conditions and driver input. Combining these suspension technologies helps provide superior ride and handling and maximum traction both on and off-road. This new option is now available on 2004 GX 470 models now at a cost of $1,750.