The large luxury SUV segment in America is a fairly small one, with a handful of key competitors charging top dollar for the biggest and most well-appointed vehicles on the market, but in a group where prices nearing the six-figure mark have become very common – the Lexus GX460 Luxury comes loaded to the hilt for under $70,000.
To be exact, my 2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury test vehicle had a base MSRP of $61,515 and when you add the 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, the dual screen rear entertainment system and the destination fee, the price as tested sits at $65,570. For comparison, a similarly appointed Infiniti QX80 starts in the low 80s and the Cadillac Escalade 4WD starts just under $80k – so with a price around $65k, the GX460 Luxury is the least expensive of the big premium SUVs by some $10,000.
On the outside, the 2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury has everything that you could want from a premium vehicle, with the chrome-trimmed Lexus spindle grille design flanked by a pair of chromed-lined LED projection headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED projection fog lights. Along the sides, the chrome is less ample, with a thin strip around the windows and running atop the body molding but bright polished 18 inch wheels and the chrome door handles provide just enough sparkle. Finally, the rear end has big, bold LED taillights in chrome housings, a pair of thick chrome bars outlining the license plate and the bright Lexus logo to complete the light-handed luxury feel.
Really, the Lexus GX460 has less chrome than some luxury competitors, but the bright silver accents work nicely against the otherwise body-color design to create a vehicle that is unmistakably high end. Some people will criticize the entire Lexus lineup for their polarizing front end styling, but if you like the angular Lexus design language – the GX460 is one big, handsome luxury SUV.
The luxury feel of the exterior design can be debated, but when it comes to the cabin of the 2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury – there is no dispute. From top to bottom, the GX460 Luxury package embodies everything that is expected from the modern large luxury SUV segment, starting with the leather-and-wood treatment that starts on the doors and dash – continuing to the center console and the seats.
The front seats are heated and cooled, with 10-way power adjustment controls, allowing a very tall driver or a very short driver the ability to be positioned as comfortably a possible. These front seats have plush padding with a wide base that will accommodate everyone and a seatback bolster design that angles in just enough to cradle the driver – but not enough to squeeze larger folks.(More on the next page)
The second row of seats in the Lexus GX460 features a bench design with heated and reclining outboard positions and a center seat that is best suited for small children. You can fit three adults across the second row, but that will make the elbow and knee space a bit tight. On the other hand, the second row will comfortably seat two adults and a smaller child or smaller children – making this a great vehicle for a family with three small kids. The second row of seats are comfortable, but they are flatted design than the front seats, so those riding in the back don’t get the same cradling effect…but they will still be comfortable on a long ride. Next, we have the third row of seats, which allows room for two more people to sit in the very back of the Lexus GX460. You can seat two adults in these seats, but the leg room is tight for taller folks, so these seats are really best suited for two more kids or a pair of vertically-challenged adults. The main issue with the third row seats is that when they are in their upright and locked position, it greatly reduces rear cargo space. There is still a small cargo area with the rear-most seats in use, but if you are transporting 6 or 7 people in the Lexus GX – you will need to limit your cargo.
That being said, if you fold down the third row seats, the rear cargo area of the GX460 is as big as any of the competitors, with as much hauling ability as some smaller trucks. Also, if you fold down the second row seats, the GX460 will hold as much cargo as a half-ton truck and with a payload capacity over 1,400lbs – this plush luxury SUV will haul as much weight as many large trucks.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the long list of luxury amenities which are included as standard features in the Lexus GX460 Luxury. The centerpiece of the GX460 Luxury tech setup is the 8 inch touchscreen mounted high on the center stack, which allows control of the sound system, the navigation software, the hands-free phone system, the climate control system and all of the available apps in the Lexus AppSuite. Although you can adjust pretty much everything from that touchscreen, the GX460 also includes a small panel of traditional buttons and knobs further down the center stack and a collection of buttons on the steering wheel – all of which adjust the sound system – along with a voice control button on the heated steering wheel for the navigation system and the hands-free phone system.(More on the next page)
I found that the voice control system worked well to both make calls and to make adjustments to the navigation, allowing me to carry out these actions while safely operating the GX460 with my hands on the steering wheel. Really, once you are moving, any changes that you need to make to the sound system, the navigation or the driver information center can be made with voice commands or the steering wheel buttons. Also, if you want to make adjustments to the 3-zone climate control without messing with the touchscreen, the GX460 has an area of the center stack with controls for the HVAC system, front and rear.
Of course, the Lexus GX460 Luxury includes keyless entry, push button start, power adjustable exterior mirrors, auto dimming mirrors, rain sensing wipers, a backup camera, cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system as standard equipment, but one option that every GX460 buyer wants is the premium Mark Levinson sound system. This 17-speaker, 330-watt surround sound system is – like all Levinson systems – one of the best in the business. Whether you listen to opera, heavy metal or hip hop, the Mark Levinson 17-speaker system can be adjusted to offer incredible sound quality at remarkably high volume levels. This system booms and I love it, so I would tell anyone buying a Lexus to order the Levinson speaker system upgrade.
The 2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury is powered by a 4.6L V8 which delivers 301 horsepower and 329lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission and an advanced full-time four wheel drive system. The downside to this drivetrain is that it only offers fuel economy figures of 15mpg around town, 20 on the highway and 17 combined – all of which I found to be reasonably accurate. When cruising on the highway, the fuel economy number crept up over the 20mpg mark, but this is not a vehicle that you buy for its fuel economy. The 4.6L V8 makes the GX460 impressively quick from a stop while also being able to accelerate strong through the midrange – as when entering fast-moving highway traffic – but this big V8 also gives the GX460 a fair deal of working ability. Sadly, my test vehicle was not equipped with the optional towing package, but with a payload capacity of 1,470lbs, I was able to put it through one of the regular tests that I run in my working review.
While the GX460 has a few different features which make it a formidable machine in off-road conditions, I wasn’t looking to go mudding with a $65,000 luxury SUV. However, my area is riddled with rough dirt roads, and I used these roads to test the suspension of the big Lexus in the same way that I test many trucks. I was able to comfortably cruise across the rough ruts in the road and when I came to a section of road that had been flooded with thick mud, I had no problems pulling out of the slop from a stop.
In short, the Lexus GX460 Luxury handled the dirt roads and the impromptu mud pit nicely, although I can’t imagine that many Lexus owners take them offroading. I suppose that if nothing else, the ease with which the GX460 handles mud and dirt should lead to excellent capabilities in winter weather as well.(More on the next page)
After spending time on the dirt roads, I made a trip to the local feed store, where I loaded the GX460 Luxury with 700lbs of bagged horse feed and watched as the automatic load leveling suspension did its thing. I was curious to see how the suspension handled a rough road before and after the heavy load was added, and to my surprise, the ride quality on a rough, unpaved road was similar in both conditions. The GX460 does have a suspension setting where you can stiffen or soften the electronic dampers, along with manually selecting a different ride height when off-roading, but when leaving the suspension in the auto mode with the heavy load out back – the GX did a great job of muting the rough roads in a similar fashion to when there was no weight out back. I wish that I could have put it through the towing tests, but the GX460 handled the 700 pound payload without any issue, with the same level of ride quality, the same handling and the same sharp acceleration properties with the cargo area loaded up.
Of course, in addition to testing the Lexus GX460 on the rough roads, I spent plenty of time on smooth paved roads and as you might imagine, the big luxury SUV is whisper quiet on the highway. Very little road noise makes it through the suspension and almost no wind noise makes it into the cabin – making for a very quiet ride, even at highway speeds. Around town in normal situations, the GX460 feels like a big SUV, so it might be tough for some drivers to squeeze it through tight quarters, but in every other situation, the GX460 was a dream to drive.
If you want a big SUV with solid acceleration numbers and the ability to comfortably eclipse the posted highway speed limit – the V8-powered Lexus GX460 offers the power that you need to keep up with any traffic condition. This isn’t the most powerful vehicle in the large luxury SUV segment by a long shot, but it never feels underpowered – even when loaded with 700lbs of ballast. Most GX460 drivers will likely spend all of their time cruising paved roads without a heavy load in the back, and in normal driving conditions, this big Lexus is predictably smooth, but for those few drivers who will ask the GX460 to go off road or haul a heavy load – this big luxury SUV can answer the bell.
The Final Word
If you are looking for a large luxury SUV that will seat at least 6 people in the lap of luxury – and you want to keep the purchase price as low as possible – there is no model on the market that combines spaciousness, a long list of standard features and a low price like the Lexus GX460 Luxury. This big SUV offers the same level of interior comfort and technology for tens of thousands less than the competition and for those folks who need their large luxury SUV to do the work of a light duty pickup – the Lexus GX460 will do that, too.
The bottom line here is that the Lexus GX460 Luxury would match up well with the competition if they were all priced similarly, but with a price all loaded up under $70k – the GX460 offers all of this for far less than the competitors. The GX460 isn’t the biggest or the fastest or the most powerful, but it also doesn’t leave the buyer wanting for more in any area while helping buyers save thousands.
While some people might scoff at the idea of calling a $65,000 SUV a great bargain buy, the list of features and the price relative to the competition make it the best bargain in the segment.