2011 Lexus GX460 Review
While General Motors has been ridiculed for creating numerous versions of one model, Toyota has been able to get away with it for years. For example, the Toyota Camry has a big brother, the Lexus ES350, as the two are one in the same, just with a few more leather bits sprinkled on.
The Lexus GX460, a gilded up version of the Toyota 4Runner, has been accused on doing the same crime and in all tense and purposes, should be convicted. Both of these models have been redesigned for 2010 and both use the same underpinnings, but just like ES to the Camry, Lexus has softened things up in the attempt to hide the Toyota’s tough man exterior with wood, leather and more toys than one could ever imagine.
Back in 2003, the GX was loved for its versatility and that typical Lexus refinement, but this is 2011. The question now becomes; have things changed for the big sort off-road Lexus?
In today’s America, the truck-based SUV is a rare side, almost as much as a jogger on a warm summers day. Those that once horded these vehicles have turned to crossovers, leaving these off-road beasts in the dust. Lexus, apparently aware of this, only expects to sell around 14,000 of these machines a year. Is this a feasible goal for the Japanese automaker, or are they blowing hot air?
Well, from an exterior design standpoint, the GX460 could very well be five years old. That being said, it still looks rather good. Those massive rear-arches give the GX460 a large, butch look that helps it stand out in a crowd and makes the RX whimper. Yet, those bulbous additions have barely made a dent in the overall dimensions of the GX. The wheelbase has stayed the same and the overall length has only extended outward by 0.2 inches.
It’s inside that the Lexus GX460 gets it’s largest overhaul. The cabin is bathed in leather and wood that helps it give off a luxury look that is unmatched in the truck-based SUV segment. As one would expect, the fit and finish is stunning and there are more toys for one to play with than a Best Buy. There are 10 airbags plus driver aids such as lane-departure warning, a driver-attention monitor, adaptive cruise control, intelligent high beams, active front lighting, pre-collision braking, and multifunction cameras, if equipped.
If one wants to join the big leagues, Lexus offers up an optional navigation system with an eight-inch touch screen and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. The cabin is very quiet and the speakers give off a beautiful sound, although there is a tiny rattle coming from the rear speaker.
The front seats, which are heated and cooled, caress the body like no other. One can easily sit in them on a 12-hour road trip and be perfectly comfortable. The same goes for the back seats and if it gets cold, those are heated as well. Overall interior volume is rated at 130 cubic feet, down from the 154 in the GX470, not that anybody is going to notice the reduction, in the first two rows at least. The third row, sadly, is best left for tiny children, as getting in and out could damage ones spine. The seats in the rear are raised by the press of a button in the cargo area, which is opened by a massive sideways opening door. The rear-glass can be opened separately, but it won’t pop open with the press of a button, so loading on groceries might be tricky if the hands are full.
New for the GX460 is a 4.6-liter V8 that has been connected to a silky smooth six-speed automatic transmission with sport shift option. The engine pumps out 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque, which is higher than the old 4.7-liter V8, but still not industry leading. Considering the GX460 tips the scales at 5300 pounds, acceleration is decent, and actually quite good. Lexus claims the SUV will hit 60 miles per hour in 7.8 seconds and it’s hard to doubt them on this, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it at times. Towing capacity remains at 6500 pounds and over a weeks driving, the Lexus managed 15.1 miles per gallon.
What makes the Lexus GX460 worth buying is its off-road ability, something that, to be honest, most buyers won’t ever use. Still, it is neat and it works rather well. Lexus has given the GX standard electronic stability control, hill-hold assist, and the ability to raise and lower the vehicle and hill-descent control. It also comes with low range that will allow one to climb the green hills of California. The GX does have full-time four-wheel drive that gives stunning grip off the line. Snow and ice have been coming down for ages now and going up steep hills is never a problem.
On normal roads, ride quality is fairly good, but not great. The GX comes with “Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System” that can adjust the stiffness of the anti-roll bars for better cornering and more wheel articulation off-road. The Premium model comes with adjustable dampers with comfort, normal, and sport settings. Each setting works well and only normal is worth anything. Sport is too jittery and comfort makes the GX feel like a leather-laden boat.
After spending a week in the Lexus GX460, it’s clear that they attempted to separate the model from the 4Runner. The GX has its own unique design and is packed full of enough luxury to make the Toyota blush. Yet, despite its separation, the GX lags behind the competition in numerous areas.
The driving experience is a bit disconnected and the power just isn’t there at times when one really needs it. Lexus has done everything that they do well in the GX, such as build quality and fit and finish, but they have also forgotten how to make a vehicle interesting. As an everyday driver, the 2011 GX460 is decent, but it will never excite owners and that is why it would hard to recommend this over the BMW X5 and Audi Q7.
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