We recently tested the all-new Mitsubishi Outlander, a great vehicle, and we noted that it’s probably a tough sell in the SUV segment to offer something that is not bristling with the latest and greatest.
The Lexus GX has been with us for a long time. So the question we asked – is the big Lexus ready for the mountains, or ready to be put out to pasture? Let’s look.
Big and Bold
The GX 460 is no shrinking wallflower, that’s for sure. The brand is well known for the large hourglass grille shape, and it in a vehicle of the GX’s dimensions it’s even more imposing. Adding to that, are evil looking triple-beam LED headlamps, with sharp arrow shaped signature lights underneath. Make no doubt, this is an imposing front end. Some will find it luxurious, some impressive, some audacious – but you know this vehicle when you see it.
The GX is also a tall vehicle which gives it an equally imposing profile. It breaks no ground in SUV design – it’s a logical tall box, but a handsome one. You know Lexus sweats the details, and even in something so big, the details are beautifully put together, and our tester’s 19-inch alloy wheels give it that extra edge in looking athletic and capable.
The rear is equally sculptured, but there are some unique features, including a swing-up rear window that’s accessible from a button on the rear door. Great feature if you are going to carry a surfboard, or hunk of wood from the Home Depot.
If you want to open the entire door, it swings out from the side, and it is a huge door, so it takes up a lot of room behind the vehicle when you open it – much more than a traditional swing up gate. If parking space is at a premium for you, it’s worth doing a little measuring before you buy.
Finishing off our tester was the available Sport Design Package, which serves up those handsome wheels, as well as a unique lower grille surround, front and rear bumper spoilers, scarlet taillights, a dark gray exhaust tip, and chrome detail side mirrors. It was all dressed in a lovely Atomic Silver finish, which has a gorgeous bronze tint to it. Tasteful, rich, and deep.
A Spacious Oasis
Inside, the GX woos you with room and luxury.
On our tester, the first thing that hits you is the rich dark red color to the equally rich semi-aniline leather seats. Up front the GX tall dimensions make loads of headroom for the first and 2nd rows, with plenty of space to stretch out as well. Access to the 3rd row is easy with convenient tilt and slide captain’s chairs. Who you’ll want to stuff in there is another question. While the 3rd row seats are power-folding – which is ritzy – they are tiny and best only for kids. And with the third row up, the cargo hold is small. So, it’s in-a-pinch at best.
Pop down the third row, and now you have loads of room, and folding flat the 2nd row serves up massive space that’s also quite tall as well. And as we noted, that flip up rear window helps with long items.
You might feel a bit guilty hauling stuff though, the GX is so luxurious. Along with that lovely leather is soft metallic trim and plush padding at all the touchpoints. Another sign that it’s an older design, there’s no full digital dashboard here – but the analog gauges are big, handsome, and easily legible.
There’s an 8-inch touchscreen that also looks smallish in these days of massive Lexus widescreens even on the diminutive UX 200, and no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is a bit of a downer. At least you do get some cool stuff like Smart Watch and Alexa Skill Integration. We also enjoyed the lush sounds of the optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson Sounds system, which is phenomenal.
Driving the GX 460 sets it apart from the competition. Under the hood is a 4.6-liter V8 that produces a generous 301 horsepower and 329 lb.-ft of torque. While many competitors are now offering 8-speed automatics or more, this is an older design with a 6-speed auto. While the GX is no slug, it is a bit slower than the competitors with more cogs to get things moving in a hurry. That V8 is butter smooth, though, and keeping it in Sport Mode helps to keep things on the boil. And if you’re towing, with a 6,500 lb. rating, you can bring the big toys as well.
The ride is equally smooth, and with the mission statement being towards serious off-roading, things like speed bumps and potholes don’t phase it in the least. Our tester’s Adaptive Variable Suspension featured settings for Normal, Sport and Comfort. Even in Sport, we were supremely comfortable.
Everything on the GX demands a certain amount of heft – the steering takes effort, braking and acceleration take a good push – things that make it easy to carve out a mountain trail, but if in the day to day, some buyers may find it more effort than they would want – especially in a Lexus.
That trade-off comes in capability – this is a vehicle that can keep up with the most off-road capable vehicles on the market, like Jeep and Range Rover. It starts with over 8 inches of ground clearance to keep you moving. The electronically controlled, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System helps to keep the vehicle level on-road and off.
Also helping you get around is a standard, full-time automatic 4-wheel-drive system, with such off-road bona fides as a TORSEN torque sensing limited slip differential, low range for slow speed off-roading, and a locking center differential. Add in Downhill and Hill Start Assists and you’ll probably never run out of grip.
If serious off-roading is in your plans, we’d recommend the optional Off-Road Package which was on our tester. You’re ready for adventure with Multi Terrain and Panoramic View monitors with driver and passenger cameras, a transmission cooler and fuel tank protector.
The Package also includes Multi-Terrain Select which lets you choose from surfaces including rocks, mud, sand and more for best traction, and Crawl Control allows the vehicle to move forward or in reverse at one of five driver-selectable low speed settings.
Well, the GX is one of Lexus top of the line SUV’s. And with it’s amazing available componentry for off-roading, it is a specialized vehicle. The cost of entry is $53,450. Our tester was the GX Luxury trim, and started at $64,385. Add in Mark Levinson Audio ($1,145), Off Road Package ($1,570), Sport Design Package ($2,020) and some towing accessories, plus $1,025 for Destination and we rang the bell at $71,690.
So, the biggest competition for our GX? Well, the recently announced 2022 GX of course! Basically, the same vehicle, but they have handled our few gripes with a new 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Features like Parking Assist navigation and power-folding heated mirrors are now standard across the board. Nice.
There’s also a new Black Line Special Edition, plus the gorgeous Lexus Nori Green Pearl is now offered on the GX for the first time. Stepping up to the ’22 GX Luxury adds $550 to the price. A no-brainer!
If you want more of a Bahnstormer than an off-road titan, the BMW X5 is a thrilling drive. A well-trimmed out X5 xDrive 40i M Sport comes in at $70,450. For equally commanding off-road performance, the Land Rover Defender X is a gorgeous vehicle, but at $86,000, it is a huge step up.
We loved our 2021 Lexus GX 460, with the capability of a mountain goat, the luxury you expect from the brand, and fantastic quality. Lexus never sleeps though, and with some needed added tech to keep it up to date, have made the 2022 GX the model to get.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.