by Ian Wright
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 and 301-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 to its 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 year. Although the 2022 model gets a few useful changes, it's still a very old car. 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 and passenger space, but its rustic charm keeps buyers coming back for more.
Nothing directly competes with the GX; it's a cushier, more luxurious Toyota 4Runner in terms of size, and the Land Rover Discovery and new Defender provide similar off-road performance with a luxurious angle. 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.
The changes to the 2022 Lexus GX are small but important. The center stack has been refined; atop it sits an infotainment system that has finally received a much-needed update, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included at last, along with a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen, up from last year's eight inches. This is the same new system as seen in the Toyota Tundra and Lexus NX. Other new standard features are also added, notably navigation, power-folding and heated exterior mirrors, a rear-seat reminder system, and an Intuitive Parking Assist feature with front and rear parking sensors. Lexus is also making the Nori Green paint available on the GX for the first time this year on a new trim. That's the Black Line Special Edition, which comes with model-specific black 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as blacked-out exterior trim elements to complement Nori Green, Starfire Pearl, and Black Onyx as paint options. Inside, it gets black leatherette upholstery and a black headliner.
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 $55,425. It's a modest increase to $56,750 for the GX 460 Premium with extra comfort features. The new Black Line Special Edition is based on the Premium trim and costs $59,260 with its special appearance package added. But if you want the top-tier GX 460 Luxury, you have to be willing to foot a pretty hefty $64,935 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 $1,075 destination charge.
See trim levels and configurations:
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 Toyota 4Runner, except that doesn't have a $55,000-plus price tag. Unlike a 4Runner though, the GX starts justifying the price tag by soaking uproad imperfections like a marshmallow, only moderately alerting the driver and their passengers to the existence of said blemishes. As with most body-on-frame vehicles, the GX tips into corners with all the precision of a boat. 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. 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 than the aforementioned 4Runner on the highway, though modern rivals like the Discovery have it beaten 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. Much 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's low chin and long front overhang ruin 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. However, if you're mostly going to be traversing fields and dirt tracks, maintained or otherwise, wet or dry, steep or flat, rutted or smooth, then you have all the powertrain you could need, plus suspension that smooths out the bumps and takes the sting out of the lumps.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
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 but also demand some luxury. 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 other midsize 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 $60,000 range, where its competition from Land Rover will feel spartan. Toss in one of the most proven track records amongst the fabled 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.
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 $1,335. 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. To be frank, we wouldn't base our buying decisions on those.
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 5.7-liter 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 has more comfortable seats. It only gets some of the GX's tech but goes without the GX's new infotainment system, so it lacks both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Despite its strengths, the LX delivers subpar fuel economy and comes with an enormous starting price of $86,930. 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. Or wait for the brand-new redesigned LX due to launch in 2022.
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 $37,305, 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.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Lexus GX: