- Strong V-8 powertrain
- Useful off-road electronics
- Decent ride quality
- Towing ability
- High cargo floor
- Poor fuel economy
- Too-light steering
- Spongy brake pedal feel
- Hatch opens to the wrong side for curb loading
The 2012 GX 460 is a good pick for those who need the serious towing ability of a body-on-frame SUV, along with the refinement of a Lexus. But gas mileage is dismal, and it has some pretty critical packaging flaws that limit its usefulness.
The 2012 Lexus GX 460 fits into the Lexus lineup just below the Land Cruiser-based Lexus LX 570. And actually, it is part of the Land Cruiser family; it's a full-featured, extra-luxurious version of the Land Cruiser Prado that sells in other international markets.
The GX is also related to the Toyota 4Runner, and there's a clear differentiation. The Toyota sticks to V-6 engines and simpler features and appointments, while the GX gets a strong V-8 engine, power-folding third-row seats, and a host of luxury and technology options—plus Lexus levels of refinement.
This is the third year for the GX in its current iteration, and with the last redesign designers didn't push the envelope much. The only real changes to the GX 460 for 2012 include the addition of color-keyed bodyside molding, and a new high-gloss wheel finish for the Premium model. In all, you won't find the GX 460 to be extroverted or flashy, rather organic, and a gently rounded take on the classic SUV proportions—although carrying a 'machined' look from Toyota's larger truck designs that separates it from other Lexus cars and crossovers. Alongside, the GX looks the most 'trucky,' because of its carved-out fenders and very tall, imposing beltline, while inside, the look and layout are upright but definitely up to Lexus standards.
With its low running boards, chrome trim all around, and what could be seen as a delicate interior, you might not expect the GX 460 to be a serious rock-crawler. In that, you'd be right; but it's definitely 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. There's also a low range for this tough body-on-frame ute, a host of electronic controls that will help you maintain control in various conditions, and a true center diff lock that you'd use for sand, mud, or snow.
On the road, the 2012 Lexus GX 460 accelerates strongly, with its big, torquey 301-horsepower V-8—0 to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds—and the six-speed automatic transmission provides quick, smooth shifts. And even though the suspension helps keep it level in corners, light, long-ratio steering and a soft brake pedal enforce the idea that it's a traditional SUV at heart. Fuel economy is, as you might guess, embarrassingly low for a daily driver, at an EPA 15/20 mpg.
In fact, anyone who's driven a truck-based SUV in the past will be right at home in the GX 460. You sit high relative to the beltline, at least compared to other new vehicles, so there's great outward visibility. 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. As for the third row, it makes little sense; it's very small, and the power-folding mechanism that's mandatory occupies some of the space behind, keeping the cargo floor from being flat and low. What's more, the side-opening hatch opens on the wrong side for easy curb loading.
On the plus side, the GX 460 is supremely refined, with nearly no road and wind noise, although you do hear the engine whenever accelerating, more than some might expect. Ride quality is quite good, whether or not you get the Adaptive Variable Suspension that comes with Premium-grade models, but there's a bit more 'head-toss' on choppy roads.
You simply won't have to worry about whether the 2012 Lexus GX 460 comes well-equipped; it comes with all the common convenience and luxury features, while the Premium grade steps up to the rich infotainment features and tech extras. Highlights include a safety-tech package, 330-watt Mark Levinson surround sound, a rear seat entertainment system, and Intuitive Park Assist.