The luxury sport utility market is small, and the exclusive club of offroad-ready vehicles in it consists of only a handful of models. Of those, Lexus offers three strong contenders, including the well-established GX 460. After a week in this SUV, we learned the good and the bad.
Those who are buying in the capable luxury SUV market are looking for solid credentials off the road and a luxurious on-road experience. The 2016 Lexus GX 460 offers both in a contemporary three-row sport utility package that gains its offroad credibility from underpinnings shared with the legendary Land Cruiser. Like its larger LX 570 sibling, the GX 460 has plenty of trail-ready gear on board and a lot of interior luxury to match, but unlike the LX, the GX features a more compact interior and smaller body with a much more urban appeal.
For strengths, the Lexus GX 460 has an excellent front row, smart handling, a smooth highway drive, and more capability on the trail than most will ever need. For weaknesses, it has an uncomfortable second row, outdated infotainment, a sometimes sluggish feel, and negligible fuel economy. We'll address all of these and more.
Under the hood, powering the 2016 GX 460 is a 4.6-liter V8 engine that outputs 301 horsepower (224 kW) and 329 pound-feet (446 Nm) of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. So is full-time four-wheel drive, which includes a two-speed transfer case for low-range off-road gearing. Also standard is a towing package which allows the GX 460 to pull up to 6,500 lb (2,948 kg).
Fuel economy in the 2016 GX 460 is rated at 17 mpg combined (13.8 l/100km), with 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway (15.7 and 11.8 l/100km). In the real world, we saw nearly 15 mpg on average in a highway-centric mix of driving during a week with the GX.
The 2016 GX 460 can feel sluggish on acceleration, especially when already at highway speeds, such as in a passing maneuver. The 4.6L engine seems a little underpowered, though the transmission does work hard to overcome that when required. By contrast, the competing Range Rover Sport showed much more get-up by comparison. Outside of that, though, the GX 460's drivetrain is very well-mannered in most driving conditions both on and off the pavement.
On the highway, the 2016 Lexus GX 460 is a good drive, though not exactly fuel efficient compared to your average sedan or crossover. The same can be said of the GX when driving around town. It is well-mannered and cushions the road nicely. The available three-mode adaptive suspension aids the highway ride immensely, something those who drive at speed regularly might want to note during purchase. If sedan or crossover driving is your norm, however, you'll quickly note the dampened steering, braking, and acceleration that the GX 460 has. This is common to very off-road-ready vehicles, which must compromise some responsiveness to allow for easier control in bumpy and variable conditions.
The exterior has a more contemporary look than some of the other SUV options from Toyota/Lexus have had before. The GX 460 seems to have lead the way for other utilities in the line to catch up, with the LX 570 taking on more of the GX's rounded features and contemporary design to replace its previous boxiness. The smaller size and this more urban-contemporary exterior look are what made the GX 460 more appealing to many, though its slightly shorter price point might also be a draw. The GX 460 has a base price of US$50,780, roughly two thirds of the LX 570's beginning price.
Inside, the smaller size translates to a less roomy back seat and a kids-only third row. The design and build quality are excellent, and material quality is top shelf. That said, it is well worth the upgrade to add the leather upholstery to the interior.
Yet the materials do not make for a better experience with the second row in the GX 460, which is hard and uncomfortable. The third row is barely habitable by all but those in boosters and child safety seats.
The experience is a little different for the driver and front passenger, with plenty of adjustment options, well-chosen materials, and thoughtfully padded seating all very welcome.
The layout of the driver's cockpit is typical Lexus, meaning it's done well, but has its quirks. The offroad controls are placed immediately below the shift knob, making them easy to bump, and we found ourselves inadvertently lowering the airbags on the suspension when shifting into Drive. We did note that despite its bulky dimensions, the GX 460 provides good visibility to the driver, aided in no small part by the large side mirrors it employs.
In most driving situations, on or off the road, the Lexus GX 460 is as maneuverable as its bulk will allow. That said, there are some other daily-use failures that should be noted. The cargo area, for example, expands to up to 64.7 cubic feet (1,832 liters) when the second and third rows are folded. It is accessed, however, by a throwback of a tailgate that opens to the right, into the curb. This makes loading more difficult than it needs to be. Like many Toyota products, though, the GX does have a separately-opening rear glass to allow items to be loaded without opening the gate. That helps make up for the tailgate's ergonomic faux pas.
Another disappointment on the 2016 Lexus GX 460 is its outdated, old-generation infotainment system. At only 8 inches, the screen is small for the vehicle and for the segment, offering lower-resolution graphics and less functionality. Lexus introduced a new Enform system last year and has been proliferating it through the lineup for 2016, but it didn't make it into the GX 460.
Functionality is basic, but solid in the infotainment system that the GX 460 does have. Basic connectivity options like Bluetooth are there. The upgrade to navigation with the Enform mouse-like controller can help with ease of use, but we consider this to be the worst infotainment offered in the luxury market, no matter the upgrade. Other advanced options such as adaptive cruise control are also below par in functionality, feeling more like last-minute bolt-on additions than smooth-running integrated tech.
Pulling all of this together, after a week of driving, we found the 2016 Lexus GX 460 to be a montage of ups and downs. It's a well-conceived SUV with proper manners on and off the road, despite a tendency to occasionally feel a bit sluggish. It offers a solid interior experience for the driver and front passenger, but not for the rear seat occupants. Cargo loading is also hit-and-miss, depending on the situation; but mostly a miss.
On the up side, though, buyers will be hard pressed to find a more capable offroad utility than the 2016 GX 460 that also features such a smooth highway ride. Its price point is also compelling when compared to some of the competition, including other Lexus SUVs. So in our opinion, there are plenty of reasons to consider a GX as your next luxury sport utility, but also plenty of reasons to make sure you've done due diligence when shopping around.Product Page:
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