- Capable off-road performer
- Top-notch interior with plenty of luxury features
- Uncomfortable second-row seats
- Inconvenient side-swinging cargo door
Being tough and well-mannered at the same time isn't an easy feat to pull off for most SUVs. But the 2012 Lexus GX 460 is one sport-utility that is, in fact, talented in both areas. Whether providing a smooth, quiet highway ride on a long road trip or skillfully negotiating a rock- and root-strewn trail, the GX 460 performs its duties without breaking a sweat. That's because this Lexus has proven on- and off-road DNA, as seen in Toyota relatives that include the 4Runner, the FJ Cruiser and the Land Cruiser. In other words, this Lexus SUV is kind of like a Land Rover, just minus the questionable reliability.
Underneath the high-grade leather, polished wood and thick carpeting is an off-road-ready machine. Yet there is also plenty of pavement-oriented hardware aimed at providing a smooth ride and competent handling. For example, the GX boasts an adaptive suspension (with three driver-selectable modes) as well as adaptive stabilizer bars. The latter help minimize body lean when rounding corners and can be disengaged off-road to allow maximum suspension travel. Added off-road chops come courtesy of Crawl Control. This feature automatically modulates throttle and braking to maintain a selectable speed whether climbing or descending a hill, thus allowing the driver to maintain control in dicey situations.
Of course, all that hardware contributes to the GX 460's considerable heft; it weighs north of 5,000 pounds. But it's all ably handled by a smooth 4.6-liter V8 that provides ample performance and enough towing capacity to pull up to 6,500 pounds when properly equipped.
If you don't need a vehicle with the GX 460's considerable off-road talents, there are likely better choices. Luxury crossovers such as the Acura MDX, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class offer more passenger comfort or greater fuel efficiency. And it may be worth looking at the Land Rover LR4, given its similar roster of on- and off-road talents. But for an all-purpose family mover that's as comfortable taking the boss to lunch in the city as it is schlepping your mountain-biking buddies to the trailhead, the 2012 Lexus GX 460 is an excellent choice.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2012
Other than new chrome-accented body-side moldings for the base trim and high-gloss wheels for the Premium trim, the 2012 Lexus GX 460 is unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2012 Lexus GX 460 is a seven-passenger luxury SUV offered in base and Premium trim levels.
Standard features on the base GX 460 include 18-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, running boards, a sunroof, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power-adjustable heated/ventilated front seats (with power lumbar), driver memory settings, power-folding third-row seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also standard are a back-up camera and a nine-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer, Bluetooth audio and phone, satellite radio, iPod connectivity and an auxiliary audio jack.
The GX 460 Premium adds adaptive variable suspension (with rear adjustable height control), auto-dimming sideview mirrors, adaptive xenon headlights, upgraded leather upholstery, a heated wood-trimmed steering wheel, heated second-row seats and rear air-conditioning. Most of these features are available as options on the base model.
Other options include front and rear parking sensors, wide front and sideview cameras, power-folding exterior mirrors, a hard-drive-based navigation system, a rear-seat entertainment system with twin screens and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system. The Premium trim is also eligible for adaptive cruise control, the Crawl Control off-road system, a lane-departure warning system and a driver-attention monitor.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The interior of the GX 460 is upscale and assembled with precision, though the overall opulence factor isn't quite as high as we've come to expect from other Lexus products. The lengthy features list translates into a somewhat busy-looking control panel, but these controls are easy to use thanks to intuitive placement. The gauges are easily read, as is the optional navigation system.
The 60/40-split-folding rear seats and power-folding third-row seats help add convenience for most everyday suburban affairs, though we've found the second-row seats are hard, flat and hence not particularly comfortable. Cargo space with both rear rows lowered measures a useful 92 cubic feet. Rather than having a typical liftgate, the GX 460 comes with a swinging rear cargo door hinged on the passenger side. The design complicates curbside loading, though a flip-up rear window allows for the stowing of smaller and lighter packages.
The 2012 Lexus GX 460 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, hill descent control, hill start assist, front- and rear-seat side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags and roll-sensing side curtain airbags spanning all three rows. A collision mitigation system is included with the optional adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure and distracted-driver alerts are also optional features.
In brake testing, the GX 460 slowed from 60 mph to zero in 127 feet, average for its class.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2012 Lexus GX 460 is powered by a 4.6-liter V8 producing 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission -- the only available gearbox -- routes power to all four wheels via a dual-range transfer case. Properly equipped, the GX 460 can tow up to 6,500 pounds.
In Edmunds testing, the GX 460 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, an average time for a V8-equipped luxury SUV. EPA fuel ratings come in at 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg in combined driving.
Because the 2012 Lexus GX 460 is a body-on-frame SUV, it drives more like a truck than car-based crossovers. Still, the GX manages to impress with a refined, smooth ride and respectable handling. Those who like to take corners more aggressively, however, will notice ample body roll and intervention from the stability control system.
The Premium trim's adaptive variable suspension and rear adjustable height control enhance versatility and convenience by allowing the driver to select a stiffer or softer suspension tuning for various conditions. These features also adjust the rear height by more than an inch for added off-road ground clearance and for easier cargo loading.
Acceleration from the V8 is fine around town, but with about 5,300 pounds to lug around, the GX 460 can feel winded during highway passing maneuvers. The transmission shifts smoothly, though it can occasionally be hesitant to downshift.
The 2012 Lexus GX 460 is not only very capable off-road, but also manages to coddle its occupants on pavement. Still, most crossover SUVs offer better on-road performance and passenger comfort.