Words and photos by Kevin C. Limjoco
There is no doubt that Lexus builds outstanding premium products with whisper-quiet supreme luxury, technology, and versatility, but just like every volume manufacturer on earth, not every product is a segment benchmark. I got to thoroughly test the new facelifted Lexus GX460 recently under realistic conditions, though I do concur that it is essentially a very high quality and prestigious mid-size SUV, it does have its vulnerabilities. Now on its 2nd generation with its mid-model life upgrades, it is a victim of its own success. As a 5-seater SUV, it is opulent and ultra-comfortable, but so is its smaller brother the RX350, which is even more comfortable and dynamic on tarmac. The two little seats in the third row are ridiculous; they take up 90 % of the valuable trunk space when used while offering the satisfactory capacity to seat two up to 7-year-old kids only. So in my book, it is not a viable candidate for a genuine 7-adult capacity premium SUV, clearly its bigger brother the LX570 has that crown. So why would a buyer take the GX over an RX? Presence? Looks? Off-road capability? The answer is all three. If you do need a robust premium SUV with authentic off-road capability that seats 5 adults in comfort along with their luggage, the GX460 is your solution. I love its new corporate identity spindle front treatment. The new grill along with the new LED lights make for a very handsome, usable, and purposeful front
end, which I think looks better than the LX570. I can’t say the same for the rear end, though, nor its side, which still resembles the Toyota Prado, which it is essentially based on.
Consistently, the new GX460’s interior appointments are its strongest asset. Like almost every current Lexus product, there is little to complain about the interiors, which have been painstakingly attended to in the GX. The rich carpeting, the crisp instruments, abundant butter smooth leather surfaces, intuitive straight forward switchgear, the crackingly awesome Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 330-watt Premium Surround Sound Audio System with Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL), 7.1-channel architecture and in-dash DVD/CD player, meaty well-designed steering wheel and the general choice of materials used are exemplary.
Climbing aboard the GX460, however, the amount of idle body sway was a bit concerning, I know I’m on the light side of 200 pounds but the way the mighty SUV tilted on entry, and how it shimmied as I settled in the pilot seat made me feel like a baleen whale. Naturally, once the potent V8 came alive, the suspension tightened up accordingly. The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) with automatic, electronically adjustable front and rear stabilizer bars, Electronically Modulated Rear Air Suspension with air springs, automatic load-leveling and three-position manual height control all engaged as they should, but I have to be honest, even with the Sport mode toggled, the GX460 would still flop around and wallow clumsily on the road. On a more affordable mid-size SUV, I would be more forgiving, but with all the sophistication and technology used in the GX460’s suspension and chassis, my expectations are appropriately stricter.
The next concern is the transmission. I had hoped that Lexus applied its excellent 8-speed automatic gearbox to the throaty 301 bhp V8 to increase its f lexibility and extend its fuel range. Instead, they carried over last year’s 6-speed, which in fairness does work fairly well, but not exceptionally, and I expect the very best from Lexus always. Since the GX460 uses a fulltime 4WD system, it would have needed the additional gearing to compensate for the weight and drag. Keep in mind that it’s more lithe direct competition, the BMW X5 xDrive35d uses an 8-speed and the Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec uses a 7-speed while being more powerful, more fuel efficient, less expensive, more dynamic, and considerably more agile.
My last gripe is with the side-hinged rear door, which can become an inconvenience when loading in tight parking spots and can, in fact, be inconvenient for pedestrians and passersby. This is the Lexus that needs the most attention now if they plan to keep a mid-range SUV in its roster. The idea is still sound but the execution could certainly be much better.
Engine: V8, 4604 cc, dohc 32V, VVT-I, 6-Speed AT
Max power: 301 bhp @ 5500 rpm
Max torque: 329 lb ft @ 3500 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 7.9 sec.
Top speed (MPH ): 176 km/h (110 mph) Governed
Fuel milage: 15 mpg City & 20 mpg Highway
Price as tested : US$ 62,770.00
+: At its best interior and exterior treatment, outstanding off-road ability, potent powertrain.
-: Feels a touch clumsy and rough, very thirsty, should have been packaged with an 8-speed gearbox, pointless 3rd row seats.
Editor’s rating: 9.0/10