With a big, torquey V-8 engine and pleasant throttle calibration—plus surprisingly good on-the-road handling composure—the GX 460 is easy to drive smoothly yet moves quite quickly when you need it to. A new 301-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 replaces the 4.7-liter used through 2009 in the GX 470, and the GX now gets six speeds for its automatic transmission, up from five. The new powertrain is up to Lexus standards of smoothness and refinement, although you do hear the engine a fair amount inside when accelerating. Lexus says it can get to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, and the transmission kicks down quickly—even a couple of gears if needed—quickly yet without jolts. Fuel economy ratings are significantly improved, at 15 mpg city, 20 highway, up from 14/18 before, and TheCarConnection.com confirmed an average of nearly 19 mpg in mostly highway driving.
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 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. That said, 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. We found brakes to be one of the least appealing part of the driving experience—they felt spongy and difficult to modulate. 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.
Edmunds: “The extra power is welcome, as the new GX has gained a healthy 500 pounds.”
Motor Trend: "The new powertrain is excellent"
Car and Driver: "output merely matches that of some V-6s."
Popular Mechanics: “Considering the amount of heft the GX 460's engine must lug, that it achieves an EPA-estimated 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway is surprising, if not impressive.”
Edmunds: “the GX gets off the mark and around town with respectable gusto.”
ConsumerGuide: "The steering is nicely weighted but lacks road feel."
MotorWeek: "On the blacktop, the GX 460 took corners fast and flat, an impressive feat for a 5,300-pound SUV.”
Popular Mechanics: “The compromised nature of the suspension is most apparent under hard braking where the GX's nose tends to dive like a dolphin.”
Edmunds: “the GX remains confidently planted, with no wallowing or top-heaviness to speak of”
Car and Driver: "The GX460 doesn’t feature the 4Runner’s terrain-selectable technology that adjusts the powertrain to varying surfaces"
Car and Driver: "Crawl Control…was anything but smooth"
Popular Mechanics: “When the going gets tough, the GX 460 will crawl over obstacles with precision and dignity.”
Autoblog: “Back on tarmac, KDSS reattaches the bars hydraulically, reducing body roll and improving handling. It's an amazing bit of tech.”
MotorWeek: "The GX 460 is still tow-rated at 6,500 pounds. That's almost twice the typical midsize crossover."
Car and Driver: "The Lexus GX460 is a gilded version of the Toyota 4Runner, a mall-cruising shopping-utility vehicle with the chops for off-road adventure."