2014 Lexus GX 460 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 18, 2014

Few vehicles can boast the 2014 Lexus GX 460's on- and off-road capabilities--but how many luxury car owners go rock-crawling?

Slotted right below the full-size Lexus LX 570, the 2014 Lexus GX 460 is one of the few remaining truck-based premium SUVs. The GX is built on the same platform as the foreign-market Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. It's also cousins with the Toyota 4Runner, but the GX gets the more powerful V-8 engine in lieu of the 4Runner's V-6.

The GX is a niche product that can be used for family-hauling or rock-crawling. But in today's U.S. market, it's a niche product with a muddled message—and some inherent flaws that might be hard to overlook, though it does deliver on the Lexus promise for luxurious interior refinement, modern technologies and elegant exterior styling–none of which are typically found on truck-based SUVs.

The GX is already entering its fifth year in its current generation, and it hasn't seen many changes since its debut in 2010. However, there are some updates to the exterior this year–including Lexus' new "spindle" grille, LED daytime-running lights and headlamps, and new wheels. 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.

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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. The 2014 model also receives the most current version of Lexus Remote Touch infotainment. 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.

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.

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2014 Lexus GX 460

Styling

The trucky outline of the Lexus GX can't be overcome by the pretty-elsewhere spindle grille.

The 2014 Lexus GX receives a facelift for 2014, making it look much more like the rest of the current Lexus lineup.

It now wears one of the most pronounced iterations of the brand's 'spindle' grille, which is flanked by large headlamps, some very noticeable chrome, and a pair of very aggressive looking air dams in the bumper.  From behind, it's more conservative–and cleaner–with its tall taillights and wide design. In profile, the GX is decidedly truck-like, thanks to its imposing beltline and carved-out fenders.

While the GX 460 is based on the brawny-looking 4Runner, it's more of a wallflower, overall. Lexus has 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.

"Tough premium" is the way that Lexus refers to the interior, in which they've combined 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--assuring a sense of toughness--although inside, the look and layout are a somewhat more upright version of other Lexus cabins.

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2014 Lexus GX 460

Performance

It's not the best on-road SUV we've ever driven, but the Lexus GX accelerates strongly and has a good measure of off-road talent.

The 2014 Lexus GX 460 is a conventional SUV–making it a hearty contender for rock-crawling and off-roading–but at the expensive of some of its agility on the highway.

It's powered by a 4.6-liter V-8 that produces 301 horsepower, and it accelerates willingly from 0-60 in only 7.8 seconds. That engine is mated to a smooth, quick-shifting six-speed automatic. Brakes are on the softer side of the spectrum, and its long-ratio steering is a constant reminder that the GX is more traditional SUV than nimble crossover.

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.

Although most of the time we like the flat cornering that KDSS allows, it has a knack of leading you to believe you have more grip left than you actually do. In any case, the GX feels surprisingly comfortable on a twisty road at a moderate pace, although there's no road feel through the steering and an artificial weighting off center. The spongy brake-pedal feel is also one of the least appealing aspects.

Considering the 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. It's not; 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.

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2014 Lexus GX 460

Comfort & Quality

Its front seats are comfortable, but the flexibility and utility of the Lexus GX doesn't begin to compare with some big crossovers.

If you're looking for a crossover with car-like driving dynamics, the GX isn't for you–it's built for shopper who's owned (and enjoys) a old-style, truck-based SUV. It doesn't feel rugged inside, though–rather, it's supremely refined, with almost no road or wind noise, though you do hear the engine with strong acceleration. 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.

The look and feel of the interior appointments in the GX 460 is also top-notch. The GX has more unique interior pieces (compared to the related 4Runner) than ever before, and 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 seating position is high relative to the beltline, at least compared to other new vehicles, so there's great outward visibility. Front seats are nicely padded, with excellent support as well as good headroom and legroom. The second row is very roomy, too, and it's not only split but it slides fore and aft to adjust legroom and aid entry to the third row.

That back row itself doesn't make a lot of sense and will leave adults--or even teenagers--with their knees mashed into the seatback, with tight headroom to boot. Unfortunately, the seat can't be removed, 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.

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2014 Lexus GX 460

Safety

No crash-test data is available, but the Lexus GX has a surprising set of high-tech safety options.

The GX is closely related to the Toyota 4Runner, which earns excellent safety ratings with the IIHS, so despite the Lexus SUV's lack of recent crash test ratings by the agencies who conduct those assessments, we've rated the GX well. It also comes with a slew of active and passive safety and crash avoidance features that should help in the event of an emergency.

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.

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.

Safety Connect—a GPS-based roadside assistance system—is included with all GX models. And the GX 460 has a few features that might actually help avoid an accident. The Pre-Collision System primes the braking system for emergency braking and employs a driver monitor system; it's packaged together with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Lane Departure Alert, sounds a buzzer to warn the driver if the vehicle strays out of lane markings.

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2014 Lexus GX 460

Features

Lexus has layered its latest luxury features on the GX sport-utility vehicle, including smartphone connectivity.

The 2014 Lexus GX comes with all of the expected luxury and convenience features you'd want on an upscale SUV, and stepping it up to the Premium model adds some of the most current technology and infotainment goodies, too.

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.

Option-list highlights include a safety-tech package, 330-watt Mark Levinson surround sound, a rear-seat entertainment system, and Intuitive Park Assist.

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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2014 Lexus GX 460

Fuel Economy

The Lexus GX 460's gas mileage puts a big dent in Toyota's hybrid karma.

The 2014 Lexus GX is thirsty, but only a little more so than other traditional SUVs on the market. It's rated at 15-mpg city, 20-mpg highway by the EPA, but keep in mind that it requires premium gasoline when it's time to refuel.

To put this in a positive light, in real-world driving we've managed to meet or beat those ratings across a couple of drives--a feat we can't claim in many new vehicles.

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