2011 Lexus GX 460 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 19, 2011

The 2011 Lexus GX 470 is refined, comfortable, and ready for off-roading or towing; cargo versatility is sorely lacking compared to other SUVs, though.

The Lexus GX 460 is closely related to the Toyota 4Runner, and fits into the Lexus lineup just below the Land Cruiser–related LX 570. But while the 4Runner sticks with V-6 engines and simpler features and appointments, a strong V-8 engine, power-folding third-row seats, plus a host of luxury and technology options—and of course Lexus levels of refinement—help differentiate the GX.

The 2011 GX 460 is by no means extroverted or flashy; rather, with its redesign last year, designers blended the gentle, organic, and aerodynamic styling of recent Lexus L-Finesse designs with a "machined steel bar" theme, giving it a more sculpted, solid (but simple and straightforward) look that separates it from the cars and crossovers. Alongside, the GX looks the most 'trucky,' because of its carved-out fenders and very tall, imposing beltline.

With a big, torquey 301-hp V-8 engine and and off-road-friendly four-wheel-drive system, the 2011 Lexus GX 460 is definitely a traditional SUV at heart. The combination, with a six-speed automatic transmission, brings strong acceleration and quick, smooth shifts—although you do hear the engine a fair amount inside when accelerating. Lexus says it can get to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds.

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Even though the GX 460's low running boards wouldn't suit serious rock-crawling, it's more than another off-road poseur. The full-time four-wheel drive system includes a Torsen center differential and distributes power 60 percent to the rear wheels in normal driving, with more sent to the rear wheels during acceleration. This body-on-frame ute has a low range, plus a center diff lock that might be of use for sand, mud, or snow, while a host of electronic controls help you maintain control and moderate speed while getting off-roading.

Those who are accustomed to truck-based SUVs will feel right at home in the 2011 Lexus GX 460. There's a nice, high seating position in front—so much so that at least looking ahead and to the side you don't feel that the beltline is so tall—and the front seats and driving position in the GX 460 remind us why so many drivers were won over by SUVs in the past decade. Seating in the GX 460 is superb in front, with nicely padded seats affording plenty of support plus good headroom and legroom and a general feeling of spaciousness. The second row is very roomy, too, and the third-row is power-folding—actually a drawback for cargo space as they can't be removed. The side-opening rear hatch—and opening to the wrong side for easy curb loading—will be a glaring flaw to many shoppers.

The look and feel of the interior appointments in the GX 460, overall, is top-notch, and road and wind noise are remarkably absent from the GX cabin, though you do hear the V-8 whenever accelerating, even lightly, and more than expected for a luxury vehicle. There's definitely more side head-toss in the GX compared to car-based crossover models, but otherwise ride quality is excellent; Premium-grade models also get an Adaptive Variable Suspension that allows Sport, Normal, and Comfort modes, but in either case ride quality is quite good.

The 2011 Lexus GX 460 is lavishly equipped but delightfully uncomplicated with respect to features: It comes with nearly all the traditional luxury and comfort features standard. You'll only need to opt up—especially on the Premium Grade model—for the rich technology, entertainment, and information features, like 330-watt Mark Levinson surround sound, a rear seat entertainment system, Intuitive Park Assist, and the aforementioned safety-tech package.

7

2011 Lexus GX 460

Styling

The 2011 Lexus GX 460 appears conservative inside and out, but it's classy, uncluttered look with more than a dash of truck ruggedness.

The 2011 GX 460 is by no means extroverted or flashy; rather, with its redesign last year, designers blended the gentle, organic, and aerodynamic styling of recent Lexus L-Finesse designs with a "machined steel bar" theme, giving it a more sculpted, solid (but simple and straightforward) look that separates it from the cars and crossovers.

From the front, the likeness with Lexus cars is obvious, with a similar chromed grille flanked by rather large headlamps (which bow slightly to meet U.S. regs). In back, the GX has a clean, uncluttered look, mainly thanks to the narrow vertical taillamps and a new wiper design that's hidden under the roof spoiler. Alongside, the GX looks the most 'trucky,' because of its carved-out fenders and very tall, imposing beltline.

Lexus refers to the interior design as "tough premium," with the GX 460 combining the expected chunky trim and bulkier door handles with soft, luxurious materials. The instrument-panel design is quite upright and has a horizontal-bar theme running its length.

8

2011 Lexus GX 460

Performance

The 2011 Lexus GX 460 accelerates quickly, handles well enough for the road, and boasts respectable off-road ability, but it's hardly agile.

The 2011 Lexus GX 460 is very much a traditional SUV at heart, with a big, torquey 301-hp V-8 engine and and off-road-friendly four-wheel-drive system. The combination, with a six-speed automatic transmission, brings strong acceleration and quick, smooth shifts—although you do hear the engine a fair amount inside when accelerating. Lexus says it can get to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds.

Even though the GX 460's low running boards wouldn't suit serious rock-crawling, it's more than another off-road poseur. The full-time four-wheel drive system includes a Torsen center differential and distributes power 60 percent to the rear wheels in normal driving, with more sent to the rear wheels during acceleration. This body-on-frame ute has a low range, plus a center diff lock that might be of use for sand, mud, or snow, while a host of electronic controls help you maintain control and moderate speed while getting off-roading.

Among the most noteworthy of the GX's electronic tools is the available Crawl Control, which micromanages momentum over the toughest terrain at crawl speeds between 1.0 and 3.7 mph, selectable in five increments. All the more impressive is the standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which hydraulically links the front and rear stabilizer bars. It serves two roles: Off-road it allows wheel articulation while helping press down on the opposing wheel to maintain contact, while on-road it aids ride quality and minimizes body roll.

However, on curvy roads, KDSS has a knack of leading you to believe you have more grip left than you actually do. Overall, the GX feels surprisingly comfortable on a twisty road at a moderate pace. The steering is fairly good for a vehicle like this, with no road feel and an artificial weighting off center, but you'll find yourself making plenty of small adjustments in highway crosswinds. But one of the least appealing aspects of the driving experience is the brakes—they felt spongy and difficult to modulate.

7

2011 Lexus GX 460

Comfort & Quality

The well-appointed interior in the GX 460 offers pleasant materials with plenty of space for the first two rows; cargo space is disappointing, though.

Those who are accustomed to truck-based SUVs will feel right at home in the 2011 Lexus GX 460. There's a nice, high seating position in front—so much so that at least looking ahead and to the side you don't feel that the beltline is so tall—and the front seats and driving position in the GX 460 remind us why so many drivers were won over by SUVs in the past decade. Seating in the GX 460 is superb in front, with nicely padded seats affording plenty of support plus good headroom and legroom and a general feeling of spaciousness.

The second row of seating in the 2011 GX 460 is split and slides fore and aft more than a foot in all so that third-row occupants can get in and out more easily, and so that second- and third-row passengers can compromise for the best allocation of legroom. The back row is also split, with an all-new design that should be more convenient for occasional third-row users; the sections are electrically operated and can be brought up or down in a half-minute or so by holding down a button just inside the side-opening rear hatch.

Aside from the handy power deployment, the upside of this new third-row arrangement is that it's actually doable for adults for short stints—if you're willing to accept a seating position that places your knees up near your chest. But there's also a big downside to the new design: While the third row in the old GX could be removed, making the GX feel more like a vehicle that was retrofitted with the power third-row arrangement on a budget, from an existing vehicle, than an all-new one. There's very little cargo space behind the third row when it's up.

The look and feel of the interior appointments in the GX 460, overall, is top-notch. The GX has more unique interior pieces (compared to the related 4Runner) than ever before. The controls felt better designed and less cluttered than those in Lexus cars, and we loved the redesigned steering-wheel controls and nice, legible gauge layout and cleanly laid-out center-stack for audio, climate, and nav functions. The only odd thing is the sliding panel that partially covers audio controls.

Road and wind noise are remarkably absent from the GX cabin, though you do hear the V-8 whenever accelerating, even lightly, and more than expected for a luxury vehicle. There's definitely more side head-toss in the GX compared to car-based crossover models, but otherwise ride quality is excellent; Premium-grade models also get an Adaptive Variable Suspension that allows Sport, Normal, and Comfort modes, but in either case ride quality is quite good.

8

2011 Lexus GX 460

Safety

Though outward visibility can be an issue, the 2011 Lexus GX 460 offers more safety features that other vehicles in this class, plus some nifty tech options.

The 2011 Lexus GX 460 comes with pretty much every conventional passive and active safety feature you can think of—plus some sophisticated, high-tech active-safety features that might just help you avoid an accident.

In addition to the usual stability control and anti-lock brakes, Lexus claims that the GX 460 has a best-in-class ten airbags, including front side, rear seat side, and three-row side-curtain bags, plus knee bags for both front occupants. Active front head restraints also enhance rear impact safety.

Unfortunately, with the beltline brought even higher than before and a thicker back pillar, the blind spots have grown, leaving you to double- and triple-check when changing lanes. A back-up camera is now standard, but a wide-view front and side monitor system that helps a lot more is optional and requires the navigation system.

Also available is a Pre-Collision System, which primes the braking system for emergency braking and employs a driver monitor system; the feature is packaged together with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Lane Departure Alert, which detects lane markings and sounds a buzzer to warn the driver. Safety Connect—a GPS-based roadside assistance system—is included with all GX models.

The Lexus GX 460 was completely redesigned, with a new structure, last year, and there aren't yet any crash-test ratings available. But the 2011 Toyota 4Runner, which is somewhat related to the GX 460, has achieved a mostly impressive set of safety ratings, including top ratings from the IIHS in frontal and side impact and an 'acceptable' rating for roof strength.

9

2011 Lexus GX 460

Features

The 2011 Lexus GX 460 has one of the best feature sets among luxury SUVs.

The 2011 Lexus GX 460 is lavishly equipped but delightfully uncomplicated with respect to features: It comes with nearly all the traditional luxury and comfort features standard. You'll only need to opt up—especially on the Premium Grade model—for the rich technology, entertainment, and information features, like 330-watt Mark Levinson surround sound, a rear seat entertainment system, Intuitive Park Assist, and the aforementioned safety-tech package.

The navigation system in the GX is packaged with Enform, which offers a suite of services delivering weather, stock quotes, and sports scores, among other things, plus a Destination Assist service that allows a remote operator to input program your nav system.

About the only conventional luxury-SUV feature that's not included in the GX 460 is a power hatch—the GX has a manual, side-opening rear door instead.

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2011 Lexus GX 460

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Lexus GX 460 isn't green at all, and has a strong thirst for premium gasoline.

The Lexus GX got a new engine last year, bringing significant improvements in fuel economy. The 2011 GX 460 is better on gas than some of its V-8 rivals, but at 15 mpg city, 20 highway it's still quite the guzzler, and near the bottom of the scale among all vehicles. And to add to the impact of the fuel bills, premium (91 octane or higher) gasoline is required.

But there is a positive note: In real-world driving, over several separate driving experiences, we've managed to meet or beat those EPA ratings, and averaged about 19 mpg overall in mixed-condition driving.

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