by Roger Biermann
Much like the big brother LX, the Lexus GX comes from humble Toyota origins. In this case, the GX is actually a re-shelled Toyota Prado in other markets and is closely related to the 4Runner. Originally offered with 2 engine choices, in 2013 Lexus dropped the V6 to leave one model remaining – the GX460. That lack of choice may be disconcerting to some buyers, but they can take solace in Toyota's penchant for reliability, and credible off-road capability which the Lexus has hopefully inherited. The ability to house 7 with its 3 row configuration is another plus – though not unique in this class.
Three trim levels are available, Base, Premium and Luxury. In Base trim, you'll find the interior clad in imitation leather upholstery. Getting comfortable up front is easy with eight-way power adjustable driver's seat with Lumbar adjustment and memory function. The sliding and reclining 2nd row with a 40/20/40 split is spacious, but the 50/50 split third row isn't. Head and leg room are cramped back there. Throughout the cabin you'll find decent quality soft touch materials – offset by cheap-looking silver painted plastics. Control interfaces are an awkward mix of analog and digital – like fan speed which can only be controlled via the touch screen, when all other climate controls utilize buttons and knobs.
Higher specified versions up the luxury with options like heated leather and wood steering, genuine leather upholstery, dual-screen rear entertainment, three zone climate control, and 2nd row captain's chairs that reduce seating numbers to 6. The GX may offer lots of interior comfort, but it lacks the quality of the Range Rover Sport.
Built on a body-on-frame chassis, ride comfort is always going to be compromised by the shuffling of the body out of sync with the frame underneath. This translates into the steering where there isn't much feel or feedback. As such the GX doesn't inspire you as a driver – and neither do the brakes with their mushy pedal feel, though they work well enough aside from that. The ride itself tends to absorb most bumps and blows from the road, though the lofty body tends to bob and sway an awful lot. Optional adaptive dampers can be had which offer 3 modes, Normal, Sport, and Comfort, which provide detectable differences in the ride comfort, albeit not by much. Off-road the Lexus GX fares much better, and is actually very capable – at least as capable as a Range Rover Sport, if not more so.
There used to be 2 engines available, but now we're just left with the GX460 – utilizing a 4.6-liter V8 with 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to a rather well-tuned 6-speed automatic gearbox and permanent 4WD, with a diff-lock and low range transfer case – though many buyers will seldom use that. The GX won't be winning any races, but it can safely tow up to 6500lbs. Unfortunately the big V8 is thirsty though, with EPA rated economy figures of 15mpg in the city and 18mpg on the highway.
There are loads of creature comforts that can be optioned on the GX, over and above those listed in the interior above. With 3rd row seating cramped, it's good to know the 3rd row folds flat into the floor. Towing is aided by trailer sway mitigation, whilst a rear-view camera and optional 360-degree camera add all-round visibility. As for safety, 10 airbags are your last resort, but there's blind spot assist, lane departure alert, radar cruise control, and frontal collision assistant with pedestrian detection. The GX hasn't yet been tested by the IIHS or NHTSA.
While it offers plenty capability both on and off-road, it feels as old as its 2010 original release date suggests. Poor fuel economy doesn't do any favors. Though not as rugged, options like a BMW X5 are more well rounded, and the Range Rover Sport does the 'go-anywhere' bit in more comfort.