While there are a lot of SUVs out there, it’s a sad fact that most of them aren’t really capable off-road vehicles. Soft Roaders – more likely bound for a trip to the mall than the mountains. And yet, there are still buyers who want that rugged capability. And a few more that want a full load of luxury as well.
Range Rover may be the most common choice, but we think the Lexus 460 has always filled that bill. And with some nice updates, it’s become even more desirable. So, strap on your mountain boots, and let’s go for a ride!
Make Mine Black Line
While the GX exterior hasn’t changed much in the last couple of years, the new Black Line Edition really breathes some life into the design.
From the front you immediately know this is a Lexus thanks to the supersized hourglass grille. It’s a design trend that’s growing on us, and when it’s blacked-out and color-keyed like our test vehicle, it makes a powerful visual statement. The monotone looks also help the triple-beam LED headlamps pop, and the checkmark-shaped signature lights give the front and unmistakable identity.
The profile shows off the height, but it looks good in a big and tough way, with pronounced fender flares giving off an athletic stance, while tight front and rear overhangs hint at off road capability. With no bling and everything being color-keyed or blacked out, it looks even more rugged, and the 18-inch Split six-spoke alloys with gloss black finish round out the look.
At the rear are a couple of unique things you might not notice. The rear window flips up independently – perfect for grabbing small items, or if you’rein going to be tossing a surfboard. The door itself is interesting, instead of swinging up like you might expect, it swings out to the right.
OK, that’s a plus if you have a lower garage. The access to the rear is great, and it’s nice not to hit your head on the hatch. But it’s also a minus if you are parked with another car behind you – that swung out door extends the length of the vehicle.
Looks-wise it continues the off-roady vibe, and we like the cut-ins in the lower fascia below the bumper. Finally, we must mention the Nori Green Pearl paint. We got so many compliments on it – the rich green is a gorgeous hue, and the Lexus paint quality is outstanding. Everyone – including us – loved this color!
Tech Gets an Upgrade
Inside, Lexus shows continues dedication to improvement as well. Last year’s model got a nice makeover, trading the older info-tainment system that was built into the dash for a newer 10.3-inch tablet model that’s high up on the dash.
This is a major step forward in several ways. First, you get all the modern tech, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration. All good stuff. More importantly, you now have an easily accessible touchscreen, and that takes a lot of the pain away from the finicky touchpad that’s next to the shift lever.
That was really our only complaint – the rest of the interior remains Lexus-delightful with high quality materials, beautifully executed. Large analog gauges, a fat leather-wrapped wheel, simple climate, audio and 4WD controls are all within easy reach. Although some might want fully digital everything like Mercedes and Audi, we like the honesty of these displays.
You definitely know you’re in premium territory – the Black Line model serves up contrasting Bolder Gray Nuluxe (faux leather) seats, and handsome open pore black wood trim, topped of with a black headliner. It’s that wonderful feeling of Japanese elegance and attention to design.
The tall design means loads of headroom and excellent visibility. The front seats are excellent, and the 2ndrow is comfortable for adults. We didn’t realize that we had third row seats at first – the carpeted cargo area cover completely conceals them, and they fold flat into the floor when not in use. It’s probably better that way, with the third row up, they’d be useful for little ones only.
Serving up the Lexus Experience
Capability meets luxury when you hit the road.
With all the movement towards smaller turbo motors, the GX stays old-school with a normally aspirated 4.6-liter, V8. It’s an oldie, but a goodie though, with 301 horsepower and 329 lb.-ft. of torque. This is an exceptionally smooth engine, very Lexus-like, and with the standard 6-speed automatic it wafts you along quickly with regal bearing. It’s not the fastest in the class, but it is the smoothest.
Fuel economy is about what you’d expect. A combined 16 mpg is not best in class, but those going for the capability and power should find it doable. A bonus for the stout build is an impressive 6,500 lb. tow rating.
We noted the ride was better in this tester than our previous model – we think the slightly smaller 18-inch wheels of the Black Line along with over 8 inches of ground clearance might team up for a quieter, comfier ride.
We also noticed that for a tall vehicle, the GX does not lean much in turns, thanks to the electronically controlled, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System which firms things up when it detects leaning.
When going gets slippery, the GX features 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.
The final piece of the confidence puzzle comes with the standard Lexus Safety System+ suite, including Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Intuitive Parking Assist. It adds up to the feeling you’re in a leather-lined tank. And that’s a good thing!
Tall Price Too?
For what you get, we don’t think so. The GX starts at $56,425. For a premium 3-row SUV with real capability, and Lexi-goodness, that’s an impressive value. Our tester added the Black Line Special Edition Package ($4735), and a Tonneau Cover ($150). Add in $1,150 for destination and we rang the bell at $62,460.
Competition? We think the BMW X5 is a great on-roader, comparably-equipped at $66,725. If off-road capability is not important, we’d give it a look. If Off-road is your jam, the Land Rover Defender X is the hotness, but at $87,925 you’re paying a lot of cash for that extra flash.
And if you’re thinking about moving up to the larger Lexus LX model, it starts at $89,160 and rang in at over $100,00 in our recent test. Yikes!
With gorgeous looks, Lexus quality, and serious off-road capability, the Lexus GX 460 is a standout in the luxury SUV segment.
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.