2018 Lexus GX Review

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The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 23, 2018

The Lexus GX 460 pairs scads of off-road hardware with lots of luxury trim, but most drivers will be better off with a crossover.

The 2018 Lexus GX is glam on the surface, but its skeleton is entirely blue collar. The tall ride, side-hinged tailgate, and off-road controls hint at that.

We give it a 6.0 out of 10 overall, with points above average for comfort, performance, and features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With a big spindle grille and a sport-styling package grafted on its old-school SUV body, the Lexus GX is at odds with itself. The exterior’s at war with itself in the same way as its cabin, which pulls off the mix with more confidence. Amid its myriad off-road switches and buttons, real wood and leather (on most models) pads the GX’s rugged roots over with some Ivy League library feel.

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There’s enough off-road technology in the GX 460 to cruise almost anywhere. Whether it’s used often or not is anyone’s guess, but the creamy V-8 power, sweet 6-speed automatic, and center-locking four-wheel-drive system are just the start. The GX can push down opposing wheels when one leaves the ground, for better grip. It can dole out more power to the rear wheels for smoother launches. It can take over low-speed crawling entirely on behalf of the drivetrain and brakes, so the driver only has to steer. On pavement, those features cut sharply into its appeal. Steering is all but sensation-free, and a smothering ride damps out much of the information drivers need to move a vehicle safely and quickly. It’s an SUV, not a crossover, after all.

The GX has a commanding view from the driver seat, plush cushions, and ample room in the front and in the second row, though it’s a climb to enter it. The third-row seat suffers all kinds of compromises: it’s tough to access, leaves little head and knee room, and doesn’t fold flat, which means the high, narrow cargo area is even less useful.

Safety equipment lags other Lexus SUVs, and no crash-test data has been published. The base GX has synthetic leather seats and doesn’t come with navigation; you’ll pay more for premium audio, surround-view cameras, crawl control and adaptive dampers, and really lovely semi-aniline leather. There’s no way to pay for better gas mileage, though. The GX 460 clocks in at 16 mpg combined, which is low even for today’s big SUVs.

5

2018 Lexus GX

Styling

The cabin feels Lexus enough, but the GX 460’s sheetmetal has split personalities.

The Lexus GX doesn’t win much attention for great styling. All the attention goes to its awkward front end, which doesn’t mate its latest styling themes with its traditional SUV body well.

We give it a point for its richly upholstered interior, and subtract one for the below average exterior, bringing it to a 5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The latest Lexus front end factors a big spindle-shaped grille into the GX 460’s front end. It’s increasingly awkward, as the years pass and as new SUVs get bolder front ends without so much mismatching. The nose is bulky and stands out in relief from the beltline down, in an attempt to make the SUV look more grounded. It’s a big contrast with its slimmer and plainer body—too big, we think.

The GX 460’s interior carves out space for people amid bulky door handles, chunky shapes, and luxurious, soft trim. An upright dash intersects with horizontal bands of wood that splits up the controls. The GX doesn’t run away from its hardcore SUV roots, but the layers of rich interior materials do suggest it doesn’t attend many family reunions.

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6

2018 Lexus GX

Performance

Need lots of off-road grip, suspension travel, and a pillowy ride? Willing to give up all good steering feel? The Lexus GX has you covered.

Much of the Lexus GX’s performance profile centers on its old-school SUV mission and the compromises it makes to act like a contemporary crossover.

We give it extra points here for the smothering ride quality it musters, and for its off-road artillery, but take away a point for its wobbly on-road feel, for a 6 on the performance meter. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Power comes from a 4.6-liter V-8 with 301 horsepower. It shoves the GX down the road to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, a V-6 number by our scale. At least it’s hooked up to a quick, smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic.

All the off-road tech

It’s turtles all the way down from there, as the GX piles on all sorts of fixtures and functions to guide itself smoothly off-road through increasingly implausible scenarios its American drivers never will even contemplate, unless they involve snack foods.

All GX SUVs have rear air springs and an electrohydraulic system that lets the wheels communicate as they articulate over obstacles. When one wheel rises, the system presses down on the opposing wheel for better traction. The same Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is an option on the Toyota 4Runner and standard on the Land Cruiser. 

Like similar systems on the Mercedes GLS and others, the system does remarkable things, but also disguises body lean, and leaves the driver less informed as to tire grip. It does make the ride much smoother, even on moderately twisty roads, despite the GX’s height and the height at which it carries weight.

The ride’s even better with the adaptive dampers on the Luxury edition, but steering is a letdown. Its artificial feel persists from off-center and it’s slow to respond, as are its spongy brakes.

Of course, the GX has full-time four-wheel drive, with a 40/60-power split via a Torsen center differential that sends even more power to the rear under acceleration. The system has a true low range, a center differential lock, and a crawl-control feature that takes over low-speed traction from 1.0 to 3.7 mph.

It seems obvious, but ask yourself: Who really wants to take a luxury SUV off-road? If the answer is you, take a look at the less expensive Toyota 4Runner, and its superior approach angle.

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7

2018 Lexus GX

Comfort & Quality

The Lexus GX covers its packaging and functional shortcomings with lots of leather.

Lexus outfits the GX 460 like the old-world SUV it is. That’s both good and bad. The interior has a dated space, but elegant grace notes layer it with rich appeal.

We give it points above average for excellent front seats and finish, for a 7 in quality and comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Lexus packages the GX like the circa-1990s SUV it really is. It’s tall, somewhat narrow, with a high floor. The layout benefits the driver and passenger, who ride high in well-padded chairs that sit well above the window line. Outward vision is great, and head and leg room abound.

Lexus damps out the SUV-ness of it all with a thick layer of luxuriant trim, except on base models, which sit out with synthetic leather. Other versions get real wood and proper leather, while Luxury versions wear a less treated semi-aniline leather.

The controls feel better designed and less cluttered than those in so many rivals that overwhelm with complexity. We also love the steering-wheel controls, the legible gauge layout, and the cleanly laid out center stack for audio, climate, and navigation functions. There's something to be said about real buttons that are easy to locate. 

The second-row seat has lots of space, and slides on a track to expand its own leg room, or to grant more to the third-row seat.

The rearmost row desperately needs that extra space. It’s tough to climb in, and doesn’t have realistic head and knee room for moderately sized humans. The third-row seat can’t be removed, and the power-fold feature means the bench sits high above the cargo floor. It also doesn’t fold quite flat, which makes the GX and its side-hinged tailgate even less useful for regular cargo hauling.

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2018 Lexus GX

Safety

You’ll have to spend extra to get what should be standard safety equipment, at the Lexus GX’s price point.

Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has crash-tested the Lexus GX 460, so we don’t assign it a rating here. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

All models have 10 airbags, active head restraints, and a rearview camera, as well as Bluetooth for handsfree calling.

Other Lexus models now come with the bundle standard, but the GX SUV still leaves the most advanced safety features on its options list. For another $4,000, the package adds forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, attention assist, lane-departure warnings, and automatic high beams. Blind-spot monitors are also sold as an option, as are surround-view cameras.

If you’ve settled on a GX, make sure you tick all those boxes. Its wide roof pillars make rearward vision a challenge.

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7

2018 Lexus GX

Features

Lexus goes light with the features in the GX 460, and it’s still saddled with bad infotainment.

There’s room for improvement on the Lexus GX’s standard-equipment list, but lots of custom touches and dealer pampering makes up for the lack of gear.

We give it a 7 for its options and for the Lexus kid-glove treatment. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Lexus sells the GX 460 in base, Premium, and Luxury trims. All of them come with power features, cruise control, and four-wheel drive, as well as a moonroof, 18-inch wheels, a rearview camera, power front seats, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen. Base models don’t have leather or navigation, despite the GX’s high sticker and its relative age on the market.

Options on the base model include heated and ventilated front seats, navigation, blind-spot monitors, and smartphone-app connectivity. The infotainment system has a relatively large display, but it’s still awful to navigate, and Lexus does not offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as useful, streamlined bypasses.

The GX 460 Premium gets navigation, heated and cooled seats, and mahogany trim, while Luxury models add an adaptive suspension, a nicer grade of leather, a rear air suspension, and a heated steering wheel. Its options include 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio and dual-screen rear-seat DVD entertainment.

Another option bundles off-road crawl control, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beams. All but the first are standard on many Lexus models this year, and we’re not sure why they’re still an option on one of the oldest vehicles in its lineup.

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5

2018 Lexus GX

Fuel Economy

The Lexus GX is one thirsty sport-utility vehicle, with combined EPA ratings of just 16 mpg.

There are vehicles with a bigger appetite for gas than the Lexus GX, but not many.

The GX 460 posted ratings this year of 15 mpg city, 18 highway, 16 combined. On top of that, it requires premium fuel. Those ratings could easily come from 1998, not 2018.

Those figures make it a 5 on our green rating scale of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

To be fair, we've seen slightly better economy in the real world.

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September 12, 2018
2018 Lexus GX GX 460 Premium 4WD

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$52,155
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6.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 5
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety N/A
Features 7
Fuel Economy 5
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