Finding takers for the GX 460 isn’t so easy anymore. Even with lower gas prices, Americans have been leaning away from rugged off-road-ready SUVs and toward crossovers with better fuel economy. Now entering the seventh year of its second generation, the GX hasn’t undergone many changes since 2010.
The truck-based Lexus GX offers a luxurious cabin for family journeys, along with full-fledged four-wheel-drive capabilities.
Slotted below the full-size LX 570, the GX 460 is closely related to the Toyota 4Runner. Rather than the 4Runner’s V6 engine, though, the Lexus GX 460 gets a more powerful V8. Overall, the GX delivers on Lexus’s long-lived promise of plush refinement, modern technology, and elegant design. None of those traits are typical of truck-based SUVs.
In addition to tough body-on-frame construction, the GX 460 gets low-range gearing in its four-wheel-drive system. (No two-wheel-drive version is offered.) Electronic assists are ready to help maintain control under a variety of conditions, in sundry terrains.
The four-wheel drive system includes a Torsen center differential, distributing 60 percent of engine power to rear wheels in normal driving. A center differential lock helps provide traction in sand, mud, or snow.
Comfortable inside and pleasurable on the road, the GX 460 promises off-road prowess that few real-world buyers actually need, but many would like to have, just in case. Another selling point is strong towing ability.
Anyone who has driven a true separate-body, truck-based SUV is likely to feel right at home, if more comfortably cocooned, in a cabin that might be dubbed delicate. Front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the driver should find a satisfying position without trouble.
Beneath the tall hood, a 4.6-liter V8 produces 301 horsepower, mating with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Not everything is perfect, led by a flaw that’s no surprise: poor fuel economy. Specifically, the GX 460 is EPA-rated at 15/20 mpg City/Highway.
We thought the steering felt too light and the brake pedal felt soft.
In terms of cargo-carrying convenience, the GX 460 has no rise-up liftgate. Instead, there’s a side-opening hatch, which can be helpful for loading. Trouble is, it’s hinged at the right, which can interfere with loading and unloading from the curb side.
An available navigation system comes with Enform services, including Destination Assist. For 2016, new Enform Remote allows owners to view and control vehicle details via a smartphone app.
The Lexus GX 460 ($50,140) comes with leatherette upholstery, nine-speaker audio, HD radio with real-time weather and traffic, 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone/music, 18-inch alloy wheels, rearview camera, LED headlights, sunroof.
Premium ($54,585) adds three-zone automatic climate control, navigation, heated rear seats, heated and ventilated front seats, LED foglamps, Intuitive Park Assist, mahogany wood trim.
Luxury ($61,515) adds semi-aniline leather upholstery, adaptive variable suspension, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, rear air suspension with auto leveling, heated steering wheel, power folding third-row seats.
Each GX 460 is equipped with ten airbags. Combining two safety-tech packages can bring a Pre-Collision System, dynamic cruise control, Driver Attention Monitor, Lane Departure Alert, intelligent high-beams, and Wide-View Side and Front Monitor.
Though gently rounded, the Lexus GX exhibits classic-SUV proportions, melded with a considerable amount of chrome. Up front is a bold, if curious, rendition of Lexus’s spindle grille, flanked by big headlights and assertive-looking bumper air dams. Fenders that look carved-out and a tall beltline help yield a trucklike appearance.
Designers took the organic, gentle, and aerodynamic styling of the brand’s L-Finesse designs, augmented by a more solid and sculpted, if simple, look. From behind, it’s wider and more conservative, highlighted by tall taillights. In profile, the Lexus GX is emphatically truck-derived.
Inside, both the layout and look are upright and, again, trucklike. Materials and trim, on the other hand, stress high quality. Lexus managed to mix the chunky trim and bulky door handles of a truck with luxurious, soft materials. Instrument-panel design is also quite upright, with a horizontal-bar theme.
Compared to newer utility vehicles, you sit quite high relative to the beltline, which translates to great outward visibility. Well-padded, supportive seats combine with plenty of legroom and headroom, creating a truly pleasant environment.
Controls actually feel less cluttered than in Lexus passenger cars. We applaud the steering-wheel controls; readily legible gauge layout; and carefully laid-out center stack.
The second row is quite roomy. Not only is it split, but the seat slides forward and backwards to adjust legroom and ease entry into the third row. That third row is impractical and small, as well as hard to reach. Its standard power-folding mechanism steals space, too, preventing the cargo area from being low and flat. Adults and teens will probably suffer crunched knees and tight headroom.
Thick rear pillars make blind spots substantial. Fortunately, a rearview camera is standard, and a Wide-View Side and Front Monitor is available.
Off-road capability impedes the on-road dynamic character of the GX. Thus, this SUV isn’t as nimble on the highway as might be expected. Some drivers will be satisfied with the trade-off for its considerable off-road talents.
Ride quality is good, with or without adaptive suspension. Entry-level models, however, don’t seem to cope as well with choppy roads.
A GX feels surprisingly comfortable on twisty roads at a moderate pace. Steering lacks road feel, responds slowly, and suffers artificial off-center weighting. Thus, you can’t forget that the GX is a more traditional SUV than nimble crossovers. Spongy brake-pedal feel is especially unappealing.
Accelerating to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds is relatively sluggish for a V8. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts promptly and smoothly, yielding no flat spots in sending power to all four wheels.
Five-setting Crawl Control manages momentum over harshest terrain, at speeds between 1.0 and 3.7 mph. A standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System helps keep the GX 460 level when cornering, as well as and in tricky off-road situations. At times when on-road, however, the system creates a jittery sensation.
If five-passenger seating will suffice, a GX is loaded with luxury amenities and classy interior trim. Still, active-safety features require an upgrade or an option group. Trucklike on the outside, it’s eminently refined and well-made inside.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.