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To be blunt and to-the-point: There aren't many luxury SUVs like the 2013 Lexus GX 460 left in the U.S. market today, and there are plenty of good reasons why that is. As it stands, the GX 460 is a niche vehicle that has solid truck roots but a muddled message about what it does with them and how it fits into busy families' vehicle needs.
Fitting into the Lexus lineup just below the Land Cruiser-based Lexus LX 570, the GX 460 is a very well-equipped, extra-luxurious version of the Toyota Land Cruise Prado that sells in other regions of the world. It's also related to the Toyota 4Runner, but while the Toyota sticks to V-6 engines and simpler features and appointments, the GX gets a strong V-8 engine, power-folding third-row seats, and various luxury and technology options that aren't typically found in truck-based SUVs. Lexus levels of interior refinement are expected (and delivered), of course.
The GX is already entering its fourth year in its current generation, and other than a few minor cosmetic improvements for last year (color-keyed bodyside molding, and a new high-gloss wheel finish for the Premium model) this mid-size SUV has seen few changes. As a gently rounded take on the classic SUV proportions--crossed with some obligatory 'machined' brightwork cues here and there borrowed from Toyota's larger trucks like the Tundra pickup--the GX 460 is neither extroverted nor flashy. But the carved-out fenders and tall, imposing beltline do make it look quite trucky, and separate it from the rest of the Lexus lineup, except the LX. Inside, the look and layout are upright and trucklike, for sure, but short on typical Lexus standards for materials and trim details.
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 at the same time it's definitely more than another off-road poseur. 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. And the full-time four-wheel drive system includes a Torsen center differential, distributing power 60 percent to the rear wheels in normal driving, with more sent to the rear wheels during acceleration (not just when a wheel slips); so its deft on snowy driveways, too.
Anyone who's driven a true truck-based SUV before will probably feel right at home in the GX. With a big, torquey 301-horsepower V-8, it accelerates strongly with no flat spots (0 to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds), and the six-speed automatic transmission provides quick, smooth shifts. The standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) is a mixed blessing, really, helping keep it level in corners and in precarious off-road situations yet adding a jittery feeling at times on pavement. Ride quality is otherwise good, and the cabin is quiet, as a Lexus should be inside. Light, long-ratio steering and a soft brake pedal enforce the idea that it's a traditional SUV at heart. So does the GX's gas mileage, which is wallet-emptying 15 mpg city, 20 highway (and premium fuel is required).
In the GX you sit very high relative to the beltline, at least compared to other new vehicles, so there's great outward visibility. Well padded seats and plenty of support combine with plenty of headroom and legroom to make this a really pleasant place to be. The second row is roomy, too, but behind that the GX is somewhere between disappointing and a packaging disaster. The third row is small and impractical, as it's hard to get to, and the odd (and mandatory) power-folding mechanism robs lots of space behind it, keeping the cargo area from being flat and low. And then there's the side-opening hatch: It's hinged on the right, meaning that you have to find your way around it when loading from the curb side.
Despite the truck roots of the GX 460, Lexus has equipped it with all the common convenience and luxury features, while the Premium grade steps up to the rich infotainment features and tech extras. Intuitive Park Assist, a 330-watt Mark Levinson surround-sound system, and a rear-seat entertainment system are among the extras. So are two different safety-tech packages that together can bring a pre-collision system, driver attention monitor, dynamic cruise control, intelligent high-beam assist, crawl control, lane-departure alert, and a wide-view front-and-side monitor. The nav system that's available in the GX comes with the Enform suite of services, including a Destination Assist service that allows remote operator-assisted destination programming.