by Jared Rosenholtz
Buyers clearly don't care how rugged their SUVs are, as evidenced by the number of front-wheel-drive, car-based crossovers being sold in 2019. Lexus wants to target this market with new products like the UX and NX as well as the recently refreshed 2020 RX, leaving larger SUVs like the GX and LX behind in the process. As crossovers continue to win over customers, old fashioned, body-on-frame SUVs like the GX fall to the wayside. Lexus last refreshed the GX back in 2013, giving it the new spindle grille. Now Lexus has finally updated the GX again for the 2020 model year and it appears not much has changed with the aging SUV. But is that necessarily a bad thing?
Lexus introduced the second generation GX back in 2009 (2010 model year) and the truck hasn't changed too drastically since then. A spindle grille and LED headlights were added back in the 2014 model year and the taillights have gone from red to clear. The big changes for 2020 are a revised spindle grille and new triple beam headlights. We think the new headlights look pretty futuristic but the large spindle grille looks out of place on a large vehicle like the GX.
There is also a Sport Design Package, which adds an exclusive lower grille surround, rear valence, side mirrors, matte black exhaust tip, red taillights, and 19-inch wheels with a Gunmetal finish. The changes are minimal overall and if you didn't like the truck-like styling of the GX before, this update won't do much to change your mind.
Most shoppers may only want decent fuel economy and a slightly higher ride height but some still care about off-road performance. Lexus still sold 26,000 of these in 2018, so there must be some old school SUV fans out there. The 2020 GX 460 is equipped with a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which can compress cylinders in the suspension to automatically keep all four wheels on the ground. The system is combined with Adaptive Variable Suspension to provide a smooth ride both on and off the public road.
The GX 460 comes with a full-time automatic four-wheel-drive system with a Torsen torque-sensing limited slip center differential, which can split power 40:60 front to the rear under most driving conditions and adjust the ratio as it detects slip. There is also a low range mode for off-road driving and the differential can be locked electronically. Drivers can select from a number of off-road features like crawl control to make even the toughest trail seem like a breeze.
As soon as you sit in the GX, it's clear that this was designed during a different era of Lexus styling. The GX has remained the same for so long, Lexus has experimented with two different infotainment controllers, then circled back to using a touchscreen. You won't find newer technologies like Apple CayPlay or Android Auto here but Lexus has added two new USB ports in the rear, bringing the total up to four. The infotainment can also be linked with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Lexus interior materials were still excellent when the GX's cabin was designed and there is seating for up to seven people.
A lot has changed in powertrain technology since the GX was introduced in 2009. For 2020, it soldiers on with a 4.6-liter V8 producing 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque going out through a six-speed automatic. To put it into perspective, a brand-new Lexus ES 350 produces 302 horsepower using two fewer cylinders and 1.1 fewer liters of displacement all while achieving far better than the GX's dismal fuel economy ratings of 15/18 mpg city/highway. The GX's V8 does sound nice and it provides smooth acceleration but it feels like a flip phone by 2019 standards.
Pricing for the 2020 GX 460 starts at $52,505. It comes very well-equipped with Lexus Safety System+ as standard, which includes a pre-collision avoidance system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, intelligent high beams, and radar cruise control. The GX is the second most expensive Lexus SUV, far behind the LX 570 at $86,230. Perhaps that's the cost of being rugged.
Even though the GX is highly out-of-date compared to other SUVs, it hasn't stopped people from buying it. Sales numbers for the GX have remained steady since it was refreshed in 2014 and are showing no signs of slowing down. Few SUVs in this price range offer a V8 engine and true off-road capability. Coupled with traditional Lexus reliability, the refreshed GX should continue to sell around 25,000 units per year.