- Towing ability
- Good front seats, driving position
- Useful off-road electronics
- Powerful V-8
- Side-opening hatch opens away from the curb
- Too-light steering
- Poor gas mileage
- Spongy brake pedal feel
- Disappointing, high cargo floor
The 2015 Lexus GX can go where few others can, but how many luxury car owners really take their SUVs off-road?
A decade ago, 'tough-truck' luxury was all the rage. But the Lexus GX 460 is strictly a niche product today.
For the U.S. the GX 460 has become an increasingly hard sell. Even as gas prices have continued to trend down, Americans continue to gravitate to more road-bound crossovers with better fuel economy. That said, it offers a luxurious cabin for family-hauling, as well as a full-fledged off-roading four-wheel-drive system for weekend warriors.
Anyone who's driven a true body-on-frame, truck-based SUV like the GX before will probably feel right at home in it. 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.
Slotted right below the full-size Lexus LX 570, 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 also delivers 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 sixth year in its current generation, and it hasn't seen many changes since its debut in 2010. However, there were some updates to the exterior last 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.
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 2015 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.