The landscape has certainly changed in the SUV landscape over the past 30 years. Once known for being rugged functional workhorses that preferred to let their capability and off-road credentials do the talking, the priorities have flipped completely on their heads for buyers with comfort and technology taking center stage. But amid standout entries like the Lincoln Aviator, Acura MDX, and the Cadillac XT6, there are still some old school centric entries remaining that aim to win buyers over with a taste of what SUVs used to be defined by. One of these is the Lexus GX 460 which is also know as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado in international markets. The Lexus is big, brash, and capable but it is aging, and its shades of grey has caused it to lose ground to some of its younger rivals. But can the grizzled veteran still hold its own against its revamped rivals? Or is it time for the old warrior to finally hang up its boots and give way to a next generation successor?
Brash Exterior Styling Shows Its Age:
As mentioned, the GX 460 is starting to show its age, with the exterior styling serving as a potent example of this. Arriving at the same time as the Jaguar F-Pace SVR, having the two together revealed just how much of a contrast exists in the design. Wheras the Jaguar is a sensuous supermodel that does its best Kate Upton impression while donning its leather lined boxing gloves, the GX 460 can instead be thought of as a construction foreman when he kicks back after a long day out on the job site. The front fascia features a tweaked version of the brand’s spindle style grille, but the roots of the design can still be traced to a refresh that the GX 460 received back in 2013, with Lexus designers choosing to play it safe for the most part ever since. The Land Cruiser DNA is quite apparent when you look at the side profile, with the high boxy look being a stark contrast to the sleeker designs that currently dot the marketplace.
The rear of the GX 460 features a barn style rear door, but curiously, our tester ditched the trademark clear taillights for more traditional red hued units. We actually liked this move since they actually matched better with the blue hue that came with it. That barn door is also an oddity in the segment with countless others embracing traditional liftgates, however, it allows the GX to be a better tenant in garages with low roof heights where the rear gate has a lower risk of being damaged. For those that prefer the latter option, Lexus engineers did equip a flip up rear window for larger items. While the body-on frame charms of the GX 460 still make it one of the most intimidating SUV offerings on the market, it is an aesthetic that is rapidly falling by the way side, and we hope that some much needed polish will help the big GX rediscover its groove.
Luxurious Cabin Cannot Hide Its Flaws:
The cabin of our Luxury grade tester certainly scores high marks for detail, with features such as walnut wood accents, supple leather seats, real aluminum trim, and a three spoke steering wheel that accents a revised gauge cluster. A commanding view of the road ahead greets you when you slip into the high mounted driving position, but once you have a glance around the rest of the cabin both its age and flaws begin to seep into the picture. With the bulk of the freshening being dedicated to the front fascia, the interior still makes do with a number of dated characteristics. This includes an ancient infotainment system that has low quality graphics, clunky inputs, and buries essential functions in a sea of steps and windows. For instance, accessing the fan controls requires digging through a sea of menus, though the rest of the climate controls have physical buttons. As a bonus, since the GX’s technology predates Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it comes as no surprise to learn that neither of these functions are available.
The leather thrones are comfortable places to spend time in on long journeys, but just like how the infotainment system pre-dates a lot of innovations in the mobile world, it appears that these seats haven’t gotten the memo about adding bolstering, with low amounts of side and lower back support being evident during our time with it. The second row has good amounts of room, and the seats can easily be slid forward and back. The third row can be a bit difficult to access, but make the effort, and you will be rewarded with accommodations that are actually tolerable for adults. With the Lexus RX 350L showing the world just how unusable this space can be when it is treated as an afterthought, it’s very refreshing to see that the GX have slightly higher measurements than the RX in this regard (34.1 and 29.3 inches respectively) while also offering even more headroom to boot. Buyers looking for even more room will have to move up to the bigger LX model which is based on the standard Land Cruiser.
Lastly the Mark Levinson stereo system is a very potent distraction from the flaws that dot the GX, with sound quality being tailor made for the massive cocoon that the luxury laden interior creates for its occupants. We particularly enjoyed the strong amounts of bass that the system provides, and the generous speaker count ensures that no one is left out in the cold when it comes to catching up on their favorite tunes.
Rugged Capability and Pitiful Manners At The Pump Define Driving Experience:
Unlike many of its rivals which offer a host of engine options, the 2019 Lexus GX 460 (as well as its minimally changed counterpart the LX) prefers to keep things simple and straightforward, with a naturally aspirated 4.6 liter V8 being the sole engine choice available. Good for 301 horsepower, it is mated to a six speed automatic, and is a smooth operator when tasked with slinking through bustling downtown avenues or long freeway jaunts. The fuel economy however is something the powertrain prefers to keep behind closed doors, with the GX achieving a pitiful 15 mpg in the city and an equally lousy 16 mpg in the freeway. For comparison, the smaller RX gets 25 mpg on the freeway and a higher 21 mpg combined. Many of the GX’s other rivals also have figures that are in the 20 range, and they even offer secondary engine choices.
Many SUVs moved to unibody construction to help give them more car like handling traits, the GX on the other hand, didn’t, and is one of the few soldiers left still sporting a body on frame layout. As mentioned, it does ride very smoothly, and the Off-Road package on our rig made short work of the light trails that we threw at it. Things however promptly fall part when the GX 460 is tasked with other aspects of driving, like turning. Handling in the GX460 is supposedly enhanced by the addition of adaptive suspension dampers, load-leveling rear springs, and an all new Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that in theory is supposed to mitigate excessive amounts of body lean. In practice, all three of these features don’t do a really good job at this, with our tester eagerly exhibiting high amounts of lean in turns on a fairly regular basis. There is also ample nose dive when braking, and even rear end squat when the V8 digs in during hard acceleration. This boat like feel also translates into the light steering which hides a lot of road feel and tire placement from the driver.
Pricing for the 2020 Lexus GX 460 is roughly on par with others in its segment, with base GX models starting at $53,000. Step up to range topping Luxury models like our tester, and you will be asked to part with $64,265 with our tester not straying too far from this figure. The GX does not have a direct rival so to speak in regards to its off-road capability and size, but its pricing puts it within firing range of large rivals like the Infiniti QX80, The GMC Yukon Denali, as well as the BMW X5. The Acura MDX is another opponent for the GX, and while it prefers to share its talents on paved roads, it has a better third row, and lower pricing.
In addition to these rivals, there is also the matter of the bigger albeit pricier LX SUV. It has an even bigger third row, and manages to be a less compromised SUV offering. As a bonus, it can also be equipped as a two row offering versus the three row only arraignment for the GX. This can make choosing between the two hard for some luxury SUV buyers and Lexus loyalists which could in turn lead the bigger LX to cannibalize some sales from its smaller GX badged cousin.
In short, the 2020 Lexus GX 460 is a classic example of split personality syndrome. It has its fair share of quirks and flaws when tasked with the rigors of being a typical luxury SUV, yet it offers outstanding off-road capability, a rugged platform configuration from a bygone breed of SUVs, and a 6,500 lb towing capability. But if you are willing to live with these quirks, and want an SUV that can take three rows of people beyond the shopping scene, the GX 460 is a very potent offering to consider. We look forward to seeing the GX 460 finally recieve a much needed overhaul though, since there is still some potential struggling to make itself known.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.