Like its close cousin the Toyota 4Runner, the Lexus GX 460 really feels like a truck thanks to body-on-frame construction. I've never seen a Lexus on a trail, but the GX's shocks feel soft enough to absorb Trophy Truck jumps. That makes turning an oceanic experience, and makes me wonder who this SUV is actually for.
(Disclosure: Lexus let me borrow a GX for the weekend. That's it. Sorry to disappoint conspiracy theorists who might think we work for Lexus now.)
Toyota sells this vehicle as the Land Cruiser Prado in not-America, where it's basically marketed as a "Land Cruiser lite" that's off-roader first, luxury vehicle second. That idea gets a little convoluted when the paved-road-native Lexus front bumper goes on and the vehicle is presented to Americans, who don't use low range nearly as often as the average Prado owner in a place like Australia.
But what the hell do I know, Lexus has been crapping these things out for more than a decade, so they must be on to something I just don't get.
How many lines can you count on this front bumper?
- If you yearn to return to the days of 56k internet speeds, you'll love this SUV.
- Exterior doesn't look that bad in person. Still, it doesn't look great.
- I'm glad Lexus is hanging on to those supersoft seats.
- Supersoft suspension takes some getting used to, however.
- Did I mention bodyroll?
Got so distracted looking at the front I almost didn't notice Toyota kept the kink in the rear window. I like it.
The Predator face isn't nearly as offensive in person as it is in photos. That said, it's still pretty weird. I respect that Lexus is trying to stand out, but the whole bumper is just way too complicated to work with the general shape of an SUV.
The rear is significantly less polarizing, if a bit bloated. From the side the GX just looks really tall.
If you saw this thing in a Rorschach test you might say "hungry roller skate."
Hard lines and soft seats.
The same strong, plastic lines from the 4Runner define the console of the Lexus GX. "Feels safe," commented one of my passengers, who also calls every SUV "a jeep."
To me it felt more like the AIWA stereo I had in middle school; big heaps of bold plastic surrounding a primitive and seriously overstyled digital display. I don't understand why modern luxury car customers would be into that look, but I found the shapes and layout of the GX dash appealing. All the buttons are easy to find, and nicely backlit in LED white.
I was happy to learn Lexus is sticking to the "softer is better" luxury-seat school of thought. The chairs of a slow-moving luxobarge should feel like a couch from Bob's Discount Furniture.
Audio, Infotainment, Gadgets
The GX was secretly glad this stream was inaccessible for a crossing attempt.
Lexus' infotainment software is called Enform, and it's terrible. The graphics, which are the weakest I've seen this year, could be forgiven. Even navigating though the Enform menus is fairly intuitive and the GPS' direction-reading voice rather pleasant.
But the delay in response time from input to action is absolutely abhorrent. If you push a button on screen, you'll have time to stare at it, raise an eyebrow, and grumble a complaint before the task is executed. Felt like surfing the net on AOL in the early 90's, and I'll reiterate the display looks as old as that joke.
Mark Levinson is the stereo co-brander, and once you finally get dialed in to a good XM station the audio output is pretty solid.
It takes a lotta plastic to hide a V8.
The 302 hp 4.6 V8 burns tons of juice at low speed. I spent about half of my 200 mile evaluation in bad traffic and the other half trying to stretch every drop of fuel out on the highway. The result was 15.9 MPG. EPA puts combined consumption at 17. So as usual, that's going to be a tough figure to hit with a real-world driver.
Off the line throttle response is as slovenly as the infotainment input, but you won't have trouble moving if you really boot it. Hey, you can afford the gas. You just spend $60,000 on an SUV.
The GX doesn't need quite as much encouragement to accelerate when it's rolling with momentum, but it's never really thrilled about passing or getting out of its own way.
Gearbox & Transfer Case
I know, boots on automatics are wack. Also the knob looks backwards. But the look of this console is generally pretty tidy.
The automatic gearbox clunks through the gates from Park to Drive with a surprisingly satisfying forcefulness. Unfortunately there's nothing satisfying about manually shifting in "Sport Mode," the GX treats driver gear-change inputs like a suggestion and shifts when it's good and ready.
Low range engages with a nice little switch and a lot of beeping. It gives the GX enough grunt to get itself out of a ditch, but it doesn't have the same dramatic feel as the crawl ratio on a Land Rover or a Jeep.
Either the GX I was leant had burned through most of its brake pads in its 8,000 mile life, or this SUV should ship with a warning about leaving lots of lead time to stops.
Brakes were basically non-functional for the first inch or so of pedal, started to vaguely reel the vehicle in after that, then finally brought the GX to a halt with a lot more input than I would have thought necessary.
Ride & Handling
Hang on to something!
Most SUVs have warnings on the sun visor; something like "don't steer too suddenly or you're gonna tip over!" with an ominous illustration of your vehicle on its side. I've never felt compelled to endorse heeding that message harder than after stepping out of the Lexus GX.
The GX shares the body-on-frame platform of the Toyota 4Runner and Land Cruiser Prado, and you'll never forget it behind the wheel. This thing body-rolls harder than a life raft in a Hokusai painting. Switching the suspension from "Comfort" to "Sport" mode lessens the affect, but you can't break physics with sorcery even if it has a fancy name (that'd be Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, or KDSS in this case).
But as long as you keep it straight, the GX provides pillowy-plush softness through New York's meanest potholes.
Hauling, Towing, Cargo Management
Lexus claims the GX can heave 6,500 pounds of trailer, but based on my experience with the brakes I'd be nervous about stopping with anything heavier than a hot dog stand hooked up to the hitch.
Rear cargo space felt a little more generous than the 4Runner's, but that all goes away when the power third-row seats pop up. Side-swinging rear door makes useage easier for short people, but creates difficulty in tight parallel-parking situations. It's also crazy-heavy.
Off-Road & Maneuverability
The GX has the power and grip to writhe its way over some pretty substantial ruts, but even with the suspension raised to the "Hi" position that front bumper really wants to gobble up the ground.
Power steering is dialed up high enough that it's pretty easy to park anywhere, even though the backup camera is decidedly more primitive than what I've seen on other luxury SUVs.
Lexus GX in its natural habitat
Besides softer seats, I can't really see a reason to spend fifty to sixty grand on a Lexus GX when you could have a Toyota 4Runner with almost as much luxury for forty-something.
It's worth noting that Lexuses tend to hold their value pretty well, and you'll be hard up to find a softer ride anywhere. But for the amount of off-roading a GX owner is realistically going to do, I think most would be happier in a European luxury SUV. The BMW X5, VW Touareg, and Mercedes-Benz ML might not have the rough-n-tumble feel of a body-on-frame setup but they're on a whole other level of interior refinement from the tarted up Toyota.
The GX is a comfy luxury SUV with more off-road pretenses than most. It's also slow, thirsty, and frustrating to work the controls on. Toyota doesn't need to sell many of these to make money, and that's a big part of why they're still around.
I liked the view from behind the steering wheel and could have spent a day in the seats, but I have no idea how Lexus convinces people to give them $60,000 for these things considering the alternatives.
Specifications As Tested
2014 Lexus GX 460
MSRP: $60,350 (Starts at $49,805)
Engine: 4.6 V8 "1UR-FE"
Output: 301 hp @ 5,500 rpm / 329 lb.-ft. @ 3,500 rpm
Towing: 6,500 lbs
Max Cargo Volume: 64.7 cu. ft.
Curb Weight: 5,305 lbs
GVWR: 6,600 lbs (Max weight including passengers and cargo)
Overall Length 192.1"
Overall Width 74.2"
Overall Height 74.2"
Ground Clearance 8.1"
Approach Angle - "Normal" setting 21º
Departure Angle - "Normal" 23º
Breakover Angle 21º