- Capable off-road performance requires little effort from the driver
- Plenty of luxury features and cabin amenities
- Poor acceleration and fuel economy from the V8 engine
- Uncomfortable standard second-row bench seats
- Inconvenient side-swinging rear cargo door
- Relatively ponderous handling around turns
Do you live in an area so snowy that it makes Siberia seem like Tucson? Is your house so remote that your driveway resembles the Rubicon Trail? Maybe you have an ambitious plan to cross the biggest deserts on every continent. Oh, and while you're at it, let's say you also want to be driving a luxurious vehicle in these situations that has room for your family, too. (Because why not?) Well, given this specific list of requirements, only a few options are available, and one of them is the 2017 Lexus GX 460.
The Lexus GX 460 SUV gives you three rows of seating, rugged body-on-frame construction, a capable four-wheel-drive system and standard V8 power. If you're driving one, chances are you'll be able to tackle just about any terrain you encounter with ease. It's also pretty luxurious in the Luxury trim level, which comes standard with features such as an adaptive suspension, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, and a navigation system. Unfortunately, the GX 460 also comes with some significant downsides. It gets poor fuel economy, isn't very fast and is behind the times on the latest advanced driver safety aids.
A better option might be the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, which is also capable off-road and comes with a nicer interior and more capable engine options. There's also the older Land Rover LR4, though it has some drawbacks similar to those of the GX 460. As a niche vehicle, the Lexus GX 460 certainly has appeal. Ultimately, though, we think most shoppers will be happier with a luxury crossover SUV given these vehicles' typically greater cargo capacity, fuel economy, practicality and passenger comfort. Top choices include the Acura MDX, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class or even Lexus' own RX 350.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
Lexus has added the Sport Design package to the 2017 GX 460, which includes some different wheels, a different front grille and additional exterior chrome trim pieces. Second-row captain's chairs are a new feature for the GX 460.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Lexus GX 460 is a seven-passenger luxury SUV that you can buy in one of two trim levels: Base or Luxury.
Standard features on the base model include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED (low-beam) headlights, a sunroof, roof-rack side rails, rear privacy glass and a rear spoiler. Inside you'll find dual-zone automatic climate control, imitation-leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power front seats (with two-way power lumbar), driver memory settings, a sliding and reclining 40/20/40-split second-row seat, and a 50/50-split third-row seat. Tech features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, and a nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, Siri Eyes Free, satellite radio, HD radio and two USB ports.
On the base model you can opt for the Premium package that adds different LED foglights, automatic wipers, a windshield de-icer, front and rear parking sensors, upgraded interior trim, perforated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated (outboard) second-row seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, a navigation system and Lexus' Enform smartphone app system. The navigation system is also available as a stand-alone extra. A Sport Design package adds unique 18-inch wheels, a different front grille and chrome exhaust tips. The Premium package can also be combined with second-row captain's chairs (a three-person bench seat is standard). The Sport Design package comes with the captain's seats as standard.
Stepping up to the Luxury trim gets you most of the above equipment plus an adaptive suspension with rear auto-leveling air springs, headlight washers, auto-dimming side mirrors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert (available separately on lesser models), a heated steering wheel, mahogany wood trim on the steering wheel and shift knob, upgraded leather upholstery, a cargo cover and power-folding third-row seats.
Options on the Luxury model include a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, a rear-seat video entertainment system and the Driver Support package, which includes the off-road-oriented Crawl Control feature, automatic high-beam headlight control, adaptive cruise control (includes a pre-collision warning system), a lane departure warning system, additional front and side parking cameras, and the Mark Levinson audio system.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
Although it isn't a bad place to be, the interior of a 2017 Lexus GX 460 is certainly less impressive than some of its competitors. There's a traditional and somewhat dated vibe that comes through when you spot the array of large, square buttons that flank the center screen. This old-school feeling doesn't detract entirely from the GX's comfortable and luxurious cabin, though. On the upper trim levels, many interior surfaces are covered in authentic wood trim or soft leather, making for an upscale environment. On the base trim, items such as imitation-leather upholstery (a nice way of saying vinyl) detract a bit from the experience, especially for a vehicle in this price range. Front seats are plenty comfortable, but the hard and flat second-row bench is noticeably less so. Opting for this year's available second-row captain's chairs should help a little. The dinky third-row seats are suitable for small children only.
Folding the second- and third-row seats down creates a cargo hold with 64.7 cubic feet of space, which is a bit underwhelming given the GX's bulk. For comparison, the Land Rover LR4 has 90 cubic feet of space with the seats folded. And in the GX, accessing the rear cargo space is complicated by the fact that the tailgate is hinged on the passenger side, so you open it sideways instead of up and down, which makes it difficult to load the GX from the curb. However, the tailgate does have a convenient lift-up rear glass window that makes it easier to carry long items such as surfboards or lumber.
The 2017 Lexus GX 460 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, a rearview camera, front knee airbags, front- and rear-seat side airbags, and side curtain airbags that cover all three rows. Also standard is Lexus Enform Safety Connect emergency communications (with automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and emergency assistance).
Additional safety features are either optional or come bundled in higher trim levels, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a lane departure warning system, and a forward collision warning and preparation system (which determines if a crash is imminent and automatically tightens the seat belts and primes the braking system for a quicker response).
During Edmunds performance testing, in a simulated panic stop, the GX 460 came to a stop from 60 mph in 127 feet, which is a bit longer than average distance for this segment.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2017 Lexus GX 460 has a 4.6-liter V8 engine that produces 301 hp and 329 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a dual-range transfer case. A tow prep package with a trailer wiring harness is standard, and the GX 460 can tow up to 6,500 pounds. This is more than the typical luxury crossover SUV can pull, though the Land Rover LR4 and Range Rover Sport top out at around 7,700 pounds.
In Edmunds testing, the GX 460 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, a below-average time for a luxury SUV. EPA-estimated fuel economy is underwhelming too, at just 16 mpg combined (15 city/18 highway).
Whether you enjoy driving the 2017 Lexus GX 460 depends entirely on what you're expecting from it. The GX is built on a trucklike body-on-frame architecture to allow for better off-road performance. But, as with trucks, this negatively affects handling and ride quality. Overall, the GX's handling is secure, and the optional adaptive suspension helps smooth out the ride, but crossover-based SUVs such as the Acura MDX will feel much better on the road. In particular, its steering and brakes on the GX are a bit slow to respond, likely a result of Lexus' attempt to tune them for both on- and off-road use.
Don't expect much in the way of straight-line speed. The GX 460's 301 hp is respectable, but in a vehicle that weighs nearly 5,200 pounds, it's outmatched when hitting a freeway on-ramp or going to pass on the highway (especially while towing). The six-speed automatic transmission is smooth, though occasionally it can be hesitant to downshift.
All seems right with the world when you leave the pavement behind, though. The Lexus GX 460's four-wheel drive and available Crawl Control feature could very well make you feel invincible. Select one of Crawl Control's three speed presets, and the computer takes over both the accelerator and brake pedal, leaving you to concentrate on steering with a minimum of fuss.
A traditional midsize luxury SUV with three rows of seating, the 2017 Lexus GX 460 is one of just a few off-road-capable vehicles in its segment. You'll like the way it can navigate tough off-road routes and yet coddle its occupants on pavement. Still, most luxury crossover SUVs offer better on-road performance and more passenger comfort.