There's no other way to say it; the Lexus GX 460 is the most perplexing SUV on sale right now. Everything from its body-on-frame construction, V8 power source, and old-school luxury interior scream, "I was designed in a different decade." In fact, Lexus last gave the GX a ground-up redesign more than a decade ago, and only recently updated it in any meaningful way for the 2020 model with a complete carryover for 2021. Because of its age, the GX feels unlike any other SUV on the market today, luxury or otherwise. This SUV is flawed in countless ways such as fuel economy, passenger space, and technology, but its rustic charm keeps buyers coming back for more.
Nothing directly competes with the GX; it's a cushier version of the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado sold in foregin markets, so you can think of it as a softer, more luxurious 4Runner. The Land Rover Discovery and the new Defender offer similar size and off-road performance, but without the proven reliability and simplicity of the GX. Lexus says GX customers are drawn to its body-on-frame design, old-school interior, capable towing capacity, and off-road ability, which is why sales haven't trailed off much despite minimal updates. The GX is a tough sell for the majority of buyers, but for a certain type of customer, it's one-of-a-kind.
Although fundamentally unchanged, Lexus has made a couple of updates to the 2021 GX in an attempt to keep the SUV fresh. A new Premium Plus package can be ordered and contains features like a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system and a powered third row of seats. For both the Premium and Premium Plus packages, silver 18-inch wheels and a heated steering wheel with wood trim become available. Finally, acoustic front side glass and Amazon Alexa capability find their way onto every model.
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While it may have received some visual updates last year, the GX is still an unmistakable midsize SUV. The smallest wheels available are 18-inch alloys on the GX 460, while the GX 460 Luxury gets 19-inch alloys. Triple beam LED headlights come standard across the range, along with LED daytime running lights and taillights. The front fascia is extremely large and rugged, with an enormous hourglass-spindle grille. The Premium and Luxury trims get LED fog lights embedded within the bumper, while a power moonroof is standard fare on every trim.
The 2021 Lexus GX may not be a full-size SUV, but it's dimensions are still ample, measuring in at 192.1 inches long, although the 109.8-inch wheelbase is a bit short for the style of vehicle. It's surprisingly narrow, too, with a width of just 74.2 inches when the mirrors are folded. The height works out to 74.2 inches. The GX is a pretty capable off-roader, thanks to its 8.1-inch ground clearance and approach and departure angles of 21 and 23 degrees, respectively. This compares quite well against the Acura MDX, while falling short of what the Land Rover Discovery offers. Yet, the GX is heavier than either of these rivals - it weighs between 5,126 pounds and 5,192 lbs depending on the model.
For 2021, the Lexus GX SUV is offered to shoppers in several different hues. None of the available paints are restricted to a specific trim level. However, you will need to see if your favorite color matches your desired interior color scheme. That said, color options comprise Starfire Pearl, Atomic Silver, Nebula Gray Pearl, Black Onyx, Claret Mica, and Nightfall Mica. Only Starfire Pearl will cost anything extra, adding $425 to the overall bill. The GX looks rather ungainly no matter which color you choose but darker shades like Nightfall Mica and Black Onyx do go some way towards concealing its proportions.
With only a single powertrain available, performance across the range is pretty much the same. The naturally aspirated 4.6-liter V8 engine develops 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft for all four wheels, which allows the two-and-a-half-tonner to get from 0 to 60 in a modest 7.8 seconds from a standstill. This is almost a full second slower than either the Land Rover Discovery or the Acura MDX, despite the GX having quite a bit more power than the latter. That's mainly due to weight, as the GX tips the scales at almost 5,200 pounds. The midsize SUV is no speed demon with a limited top speed of just 110 mph.
The V8 has a decent amount of torque on hand, and with standard all-wheel-drive and a sturdy body mounted directly on the SUV's frame, the GX is capable of towing up to 6,500 lbs in its most capable configuration. This puts the Lexus somewhere in the middle between the Acura MDX's 5,000 lbs and the Discovery's 8,201 lbs.
The GX range is powered by a prehistoric 4.6-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine that develops only 301 hp and 329 lb-ft. Yes, there are modern four-cylinders that put these numbers to shame, and even Toyota's own Camry with its 3.5-liter V6 produces the same power output, but the GX is all about smoothness and durability. The GX's power lags behind leading rivals like the Land Rover Discovery, which gets up to 355 hp and 369 lb-ft, but it's more capable than the Acura MDX's 290 hp and 267 lb-ft. This engine may not be a modern rival, but it is proven to be reliable and hum around silently without disturbing occupants.
Unfortunately, while the engine may be capable of towing and off-roading, it certainly can't do so quickly. Getting around town isn't too much of a chore, assuming you aren't in a rush, because the upright shape makes getting up to speed feel like a chore. Passing on the highway can be a challenge as well, with mild speed increases requiring a huge amount of throttle input. An additional 50 hp would be welcomed. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly in the background, and feels decently responsive with fewer gears to hunt through than rivals.
Remember when SUVs, even luxury-branded ones, drove like softened trucks? Well, prepare for a reminder. The GX transports you back to a time when the terms such as "car-like handling" didn't apply to SUVs. It wanders around the road with spongy and floaty handling, much like other old-school off-roaders like the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner. Unlike a Wrangler or 4Runner though, the GX soaks up road imperfections like a marshmallow, only moderately alerting the driver and their passengers. As with most body-on-frame vehicles, the GX tips into corners long after you've turned the steering wheel, creating a somewhat disconcerting disconnect between you and the controls. When it's time to stop, the GX's brakes feel worryingly weak, perhaps due to the truck's massive bulk.
Lexus includes Normal, Comfort, and Sport modes for the adjustable suspension, but we found all three of them to feel virtually the same with regards to ride comfort. The GX features surprisingly heavy steering at slow speeds, but it lightens up a bit once you get up to speed. It feels more stable and connected than the aforementioned Wrangler and 4Runner on the highway, though modern rivals like the Discovery and MDX peg it on wind noise and overall refinement. Buyers who prefer an old-school driving experience should find joy in the GX, but as a commuter or family hauler, there are better options.
Once the tarmac runs out, the GX shines as a capable off-roader, but with a few hindrances. The limited-slip differential can be locked and along with a low-range 4WD mode, the GX crawls up hills with ease. The V8's torque provides excellent climbing power, and we wish Toyota offered this engine in the 4Runner. Just be sure to set the air suspension to its highest ride height because that spindle grille ruins the ground clearance and approach angles. We wish Lexus offered a package similar to Toyota's TRD Pro models, with more front-end cladding and no low-hanging running boards in the perfect position to be scraped.
According to the EPA, the 2021 Lexus GX will return gas mileage figures of 15/19/16 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles in all configurations. It is still one of the worst gas-guzzlers on the market, and the fact that it relies on premium gasoline doesn't help its case either. We averaged just over 16 mpg during our test drive period which spanned one week. By comparison, the luxurious powerhouse that is the Land Rover Discovery gets as much as 21 mpg combined whether you opt for its smaller 2.0-liter turbo-four or the 3.0-liter six-cylinder mild-hybrid version. The latest 2022 model Acura MDX in FWD guise manages 19/26/22 mpg, with the AWD variant not far behind on 19/25/21 mpg. With a 23-gallon gas tank, the Lexus GX will be able to cover approximately 368 miles between visits to the pumps.
When you step into a Lexus, you expect to be wowed, but the GX's advanced age leaves a lot to be desired. The build quality is top-notch, and the choice of materials around the cabin are nice, but it's far from a modern space. Although the cabin is massive, passenger space dwindles quite quickly as you move back through the rows. The front seats are soft, but lack high levels of adjustment, and the body-on-frame design severely limits second and third row legroom. The infotainment suite feels like it came straight out of the last decade, adding to the GX's dated feel. There is a limited amount of standard cargo space, which can be enlarged by folding down the third- or second-row seats. However, power-folding third-row seats are only standard on the top trim.
As we've found in previous reviews, the GX's cabin is by no means small, but with three rows of seats squeezed in, there isn't as much passenger room as you'd expect. The cabin can accommodate seven as standard, reduced to six if you get the optional second-row captain's chairs. Those up front won't be complaining, though, with plenty of head- and legroom to spare. But, move back a row, and you will already notice a significant decrease in legroom, while the third-row seats can accommodate only smaller children comfortably. Getting in and out is pretty par for the course for a three-row SUV; the first two rows are quite accessible, but gaining access to the third row requires some finagling. Across every trim level, ten-way power front seats come standard, although they only gain heating and ventilation from the Premium upwards. At this level, the rear outboard seats gain heating, too. Forward visibility is excellent, thanks to a high driving position and a large windshield, but the length of the SUV and the many seating appointments can create rear and side blind spots, so you will be thankful for the standard blind-spot alert and parking sensors.
Upscale materials come standard regardless of the trim you choose, but the GX 460 and Premium each get NuLuxe synthetic leather upholstery instead of the real deal. The entry-level 460's interior can be dressed in colors like Ecru, Black, Sepia, or Rioja Red NuLuxe, paired with Linear Espresso wood trim. Upgrading to the Premium doesn't change the color or material of the upholstery, but it does see the trim change to Gray Sapele wood with aluminum. The top-of-the-range model comes upholstered in semi-aniline leather, but the color palette and trim carry over from the Premium. However, the Luxury also boasts a wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel, a feature that's optional on the Premium. Build quality is excellent across the board, resulting in a well-insulated cabin that won't rattle even as you brave the rough terrain of the great outdoors.
Despite its size, the Lexus GX doesn't boast a particularly spacious trunk, at least, not with all the seats in place. Behind the third-row seats, only 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space is provided. While you could technically make do with this for standard errands around town, you will often be wishing you had extra space. Luckily, the third row of seats folds down in a 50/50 split to open up 46.7 cubic feet. This is more than enough space for daily use and could easily swallow up the luggage of the remaining five passengers without too much fuss. The second-row seats can be folded down, too, in a 40/20/40-split if you need even more space. With all the seats down, the rear of the GX creates a 64.7-cubic-foot cargo hold capable of stowing some small items of furniture.
Small-item storage around the cabin isn't lacking, with a standard glove compartment supplemented by a moderately sized cubby beneath the center console armrest. Each of the four door pockets is deep and spacious, easily accommodating water battles and more. A pair of cupholders are provided for each of the three rows of seats.
Every Lexus GX comes equipped with a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and Lexus Safety System+, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and pre-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection. The base model gets dual-zone climate control, while the upper trims get tri-zone climate control. Ten-way power front seats with memory are the standard, but they are heated and ventilated from the Premium upwards, while the rear outboard seats gain heating, too. The second-tier trim also adds front and rear parking assist. The standard NuLuxe upholstery is upgraded to semi-aniline leather upholstery on the Luxury, which also adds power-folding third-row seats and a cargo area tonneau cover. Keyless entry and ignition, along with a power moonroof are standard across the range. The top-tier model can also be outfitted with a panoramic view monitor, a passenger camera, and a multi-terrain monitor.
The infotainment suite centers around an eight-inch touchscreen, which looks nearly identical to the system from over a decade ago. While other Lexus models switch to touchpad controls and later back to touchscreen, the GX's system has remained virtually unchanged. This makes the GX's touchscreen simple and easy to navigate, but modern features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are absent. However, Amazon Alexa capability has been added this year. Navigation functions are added from the Premium trim, while both the Premium and Luxury can be optioned with a more premium 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. The standard sound system makes use of nine speakers. Four USB ports are provided as standard to help keep your smart devices connected and charged.
Unsurprisingly for a Lexus, the 2021 GX has a superb J.D. Power rating of 84 out of 100. Its specific reliability and quality rating is even better at 87/100. However, some 2018 and 2019 models were recalled for a fuel pump that could fail. Lexus offers a standard 50,000-mile/four-year basic warranty on new purchases, while the powertrain warranty is valid for a period of 70,000 miles/six years. Complimentary maintenance is available for the first year, or the first 10,000 miles.
A comprehensive has yet to be published by both the NHTSA and the IIHS. This isn't an entirely unusual scenario for an expensive luxury model. However, a number of standard safety and driver-assistance features work to keep your family safe.
Every Lexus GX comes equipped with the basics - ABS, EBD, traction and stability control, and an impressive ten airbags: dual front, front knee, front side, rear side, and side curtain. Lexus Safety System+ is now standard and comprises pre-collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, automatic high beam assist, lane departure alert, and adaptive cruise control, along with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a rearview camera. The Premium expands this offering by adding rain-sensing wipers, and front and rear park assist. The top-tier Luxury can also be outfitted with a surround-view camera, as well as a multi-terrain monitor.
The vast majority of luxury SUV buyers won't look twice at the Lexus GX. It's an automotive oddity built for buyers who value reliability, ruggedness, and old-school feel over all other attributes. These buyers are loyal, which is why Lexus continues to sell the GX in surprisingly high volumes without making any significant updates to it. We see potential buyers as Wrangler or 4Runner owners who are now aging out of the extreme off-road phase of their life, and now want a vehicle that feels cushier on the road without stepping down to a car-based crossover with limited capability. For this specific buyer, the GX is perfect.
The GX is vastly different from its competitors like the Acura MDX, Land Rover Discovery and Defender, and even its own sibling, the Lexus RX. Very few vehicles, especially luxury branded ones, offer a body-on-frame chassis, a V8 engine, and impressive towing capabilities. So long as you can restrain yourself on options and trim levels, the GX represents a remarkable bargain in the $50,000 range, where its competition from Land Rover will feel spartan. Toss in one of the most proven track records amongst the reliable Lexus brand, and the GX is the type of vehicle you buy in preparation for retirement to hand down to your children or grandchildren. As you'd expect of a Lexus, the GX feels built to last forever.
Take a premium nameplate like Lexus, stick it on a midsize SUV, and you can expect pricing to start at quite a high point. One look at the GX proves that assumption, with the GX 460 starting bidding off at an MSRP of $53,450. It's a modest increase to $56,540 for the GX 460 Premium with extra comfort features. But if you want the top-tier GX 460 Luxury, you have to be willing to foot a pretty hefty $64,715 bill. But for this increase, you get some exterior enhancements to go along with the top-tier tech and comfort features. Every Lexus GX price listed here excludes tax, registration, licensing, or the company's $1,025 destination charge.
The new Lexus GX is available in three trim levels, namely, the standard GX 460, the Premium, and the Luxury. Every model gets the same 4.6-liter V8 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission to send 301 hp and 329 lb-ft to all four wheels.
The base price for the entry-level GX 460 includes 18-inch alloy wheels, triple beam LED headlights, and LED taillights. The cabin is upholstered in NuLuxe synthetic leather, while the front seats offer ten directions of power adjustability. Standard features include dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, and keyless start. An eight-inch touchscreen interface grants access to Bluetooth functions, SiriusXM, HD Radio, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant, while a nine-speaker sound system channels the audio. Lexus Safety System+ comes standard, comprising pre-collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, automatic high beam assist, and lane departure warning, along with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Premium adds LED fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, and front and rear parking sensors to the standard equipment, while additional interior features include heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, tri-zone climate control, and navigation.
Larger 19-inch alloy wheels give the Luxury an even more imposing appearance, while an adaptive suspension improves ride quality to make up for this. Inside, the upholstery is upgraded to semi-aniline leather paired with wood and aluminum trim, which extends to the steering wheel. Power-reclining and -folding third-row seats, headlamp washers, and a cargo area tonneau cover round out the standard features.
Each GX in the USA comes quite well-appointed right off the production line, but there are still a number of ways to customize your SUV to your taste. However, the entry-level GX 460 isn't quite so generous in this regard, offering only the Navigation Package ($1,555), which adds navigation, the Lexus Enform App Suite, Lexus Enform Destination Assist, and Fuel, Sport, and Stocks. The base model can be equipped with some standalone options, though, such as intuitive parking assist ($500), heated and ventilated front seats ($640), or headlamp washers ($100).
The GX Premium gets many more packages: the Sport Design Package with captain's chairs ($5,810) equips 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport design front fascia and lower grille, a sport design rear valance, second-row captain's chairs, and more. The Premium Package with captain's chairs ($3,415) adds everything in the inclusive Premium Package ($3,090) as well as those captain chairs. The top-of-the-range Luxury can be outfitted with the Off-road Package ($1,570), which adds a surround-view camera and a multi-terrain monitor as well as multi-terrain select, and a fuel-tank protector. For $1,145, the Luxury can be had with the 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system.
With a pretty enormous price hike of over $10k between the base-level GX 460 and the Luxury trim, getting the best value for your money is pretty important. For this reason, we suggest opting for either the GX 460 or the Premium, if you're willing to tack on the extra $3,090. Both these models perform just as well as the top-tier Luxury, with the same engine and maximum towing capacity. The Premium is a little cushier, with heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats, but these are features you can pass up on depending on how much you want to spend. True off-road warriors will be drawn to the expensive Luxury trim for its panoramic camera and multi-terrain monitor, though we didn't find either feature to be particularly helpful in-use.
When it comes to large, luxurious off-road SUVs in the US, look no further than the Lexus LX. As the bigger brother, the LX does everything the GX does, only better. In its standard configuration, the large SUV accommodates five passengers, but it can seat up to eight. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same cramped third row as the smaller Lexus. However, the LX has quite a bit more standard cargo space, with 16.3 cubic feet presented behind the rear seats. It also gets a highly capable V8 engine that develops 383 hp and 403 lb-ft to move the three-ton SUV, but it's not much quicker than the GX, with a 0-60 mph time of 7.3 seconds. The LX also doesn't tow much more than the GX, maxing out at 7,000 lbs. Inside, the LX is far plusher than the GX, and it doesn't suffer from the same uncomfortable seats. It also gets most of the same tech but the LX lacks both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Despite its strengths, the LX delivers subpar fuel economy and comes with an enormous starting price of $86,830. If you're going off-road and don't need all the luxuries of the larger LX, then the Lexus GX should suffice. But if you're looking for a well-balanced SUV that can do it all, then you should probably be looking elsewhere altogether.
The Toyota 4Runner certainly looks as rugged as it claims to be. It doesn't try to look city-chic while playing in the mud. This is owing to the Toyota's more truck-based design philosophy. Unfortunately, this translates to less refined handling dynamics, too. However, since the GX handles much like a truck itself, this isn't a point against the 4Runner. Where the Toyota does fall short, though, is in terms of its power specs. With only a naturally aspirated V6 under the hood, the 4Runner develops 270 hp and 278 lb-ft. This also limits its towing capacity to 5,000 lbs. What really sets the two SUVs apart, though, is their base offering and relative price. The Toyota costs a lot less at $36,765, but for that price, you get a very mediocre interior with only the bare minimum of features. With comparable fuel economy figures, the Lexus GX may be the better buy here, if you can afford the initial capital outlay.
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