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13 July 2017

2017 Lexus GX 460 First Test: Posh (and Aging) Off-Roader

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On sale since the 2010 model year, the current-generation Lexus GX 460 is old, but you wouldn’t know it from a look at the controversial spindle grille it’s had since a 2014 model year facelift. As one of the few body-on-frame luxury SUVs left, we drove the GX 460 to see if it’s still worthy of consideration. In addition to driving on pavement, we went off the beaten path to see if the GX 460’s bones give it the same off-road chops as its platform mates, the Toyota 4Runner and the global market Land Cruiser Prado.

Powered by a 4.6-liter V-8 with 301 hp and 329 lb-ft of torque, the 5,211-pound GX 460 to hit 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15.8 seconds at 88.6 mph. The standard six-speed automatic transmission, however, tends to shift too early when left to its own devices. Stopping from 60 mph took 133 feet, but associate road test editor Erick Ayapana observed a lot of dive during hard braking and an overly aggressive seat belt pretensioner, both of which we also experienced driving on the streets during emergency and panic stops.

During handling tests, the GX 460 produced a lateral acceleration of 0.72 g and completed the figure eight in 28.6 seconds with a 0.60 g average. Testing director Kim Reynolds was surprised that you can throw the GX 460 around with quite a bit of enthusiasm and that it has a nonintrusive stability control system. However, he did remark that its huge body motions indicate that the GX 460 is tuned more for comfort and off-road capability.

Because it shares its platform with some of the best off-roaders available, the 2017 Lexus GX 460 has the right underpinnings for tackling all types of terrain. However, it also has to work as a luxury car, which means it needs to have a great ride and a high-quality interior. Out on the highway, the GX 460 has a comfortable ride regardless of the selected suspension mode. There’s minimal road, tire, and wind noise, making this rig a great choice for long drives. Even with its standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that helps minimize body motions, the GX 460 isn’t suited for sudden maneuvers or taking corners quickly. The 4.6-liter V-8 hauls the GX 460 around acceptably, but it could use a little more power and torque, especially considering its EPA fuel economy figures of 15/18 mpg city/highway.

When the pavement ends, the GX 460 shines as an off-roader. We took the luxurious Lexus out to an off-road park near Azusa, California, where it handled sand, rocks, and a small creek that flowed through the area without any issues. Off the beaten path, the GX 460 can easily tackle challenging terrain thanks to its standard full time four-wheel-drive system with a four-low setting, a locking limited-slip differential, and Crawl Control. However, do keep in mind that the GX 460’s departure angles and ground clearance isn’t as generous as more serious off-roaders such as the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota’s TRD Pro models, so for those few customers venturing off road, choose your trail wisely or risk losing your side steps and/or bumpers.

Jump inside the 2017 GX 460’s interior, and comfortable seats with heating and ventilation greet you up front. The second row in our test car featured the optional captain’s chairs that heat, recline, and slide forward and back. The GX 460 does have a two-seat third row, but there’s not much legroom there, especially for anyone over 5’8”. Material quality is typical Lexus with lots of soft touch materials everywhere you look. Everything inside the GX 460 is solid and substantial except for the center armrest that feels unusually light and cheap. The glossy wood trim, on the other hand, amplifies the interior’s age, especially compared to newer luxury crossovers and SUVs, some of which offer the more modern-looking matte finish. The GX 460’s boxy, upright exterior design gives it great sightlines, thanks to wide windows, low beltlines, and an expansive windshield, making the interior feel less claustrophobic.

Fold both the second and third rows and you have a maximum cargo capacity of 64.7 cubic feet, which is small considering the GX 460’s massive size. The GX 460 also features a side-hinged door instead of a hatch, which can be hard to work with in tight spaces because it takes up a lot of space when it’s open. Thanks to its boxy shape, however, the available space you do have is very usable and capable of handling large shopping trips.

Lexus’ infotainment system, at least in this application, is easy to use because the GX 460 has an 8.0-inch touchscreen instead of the mouselike or touchpad controls found in newer Lexus models. The Mark Levinson premium audio system is an excellent unit that delivers crisp sound and plenty of adjustability to tailor everything to your tastes. There’s also a small multi-information display between the gauges, but the graphics of that display and the center-stack screen amplify the interior’s age. There’s no Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, which means you can’t integrate your smartphone with the car’s infotainment system.

Even in its current iteration, the GX 460’s mix of off-road capability, comfort, and refinement is hard to match. Additionally, it comes with Lexus’ reputation for bulletproof reliability. The poor fuel economy ratings, on the other hand, mean you’ll be seeing the gas station often even with the 23-gallon fuel tank,  and the surprisingly small cargo area makes it less practical than its exterior size would suggest. A significant update to the GX 460’s interior design and a newer powertrain would help give it more viability in its segment with only a handful of entries that can go off-road without issue.

2017 Lexus GX 460 Luxury
BASE PRICE $63,975
PRICE AS TESTED $70,285
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 4.6L/301-hp/329-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5,211 lb (52/48%)
WHEELBASE 109.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 192.1 x 74.2 x 73.8 in
0-60 MPH 7.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.8 sec @ 88.6 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 133 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.72 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.6 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 00.0/00.0/00.0 mpg
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 15/18/16 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 225/187 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.20 lb/mile

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