The first generation, go-anywhere GX 460 Sport Utility debuted in 2002 with a Generation Two redesign bowing in December 2009 as a 2010 model year product. Our 2020 tester marches forward with this long-standing second-generation platform, with several notable and welcome updates from 2019.
Marketing wise, GX 460 falls between Lexus' most popular product, the mid-size RX 350 crossover, and the super-sized-size LX 570 Sport Utility Vehicle. A world of difference exists between these two. The RX 350 is created from the ground up as a uni-body, a design shared by traditional sedans and coupes with primary operations intended for smoothed paved roads. The LX 570 borrows a durable truck platform with a full complement of off-road assistance (hill decent control, four-wheel low gearing, etc).
Our GX 460 three-row tester, as with the LX 570, starts from a body-on-frame platform with a go-anywhere on-or-off road mindset. Full-time four-wheel drive comes standard in all three trims: Base, Premium and Luxury. With 192-inches of length, GX qualifies as a roomy mid-sizer, or diminutive full sizer.
As a quick revisit of Lexus name-ology; vehicles identify by a duo-lettered prefix teamed with a numerical suffix. An X appearing in the second letter slot signifies a five-door crossover or Sport Utility body style. The numerical suffix reflects engine displacement. For example, the sole engine powering GX during the past decade is a potent, naturally-aspirated (non-turbocharged) 4.6-liter V-8 cranking out 301 horsepower. The 4.6 displacement figure (minus the decimal point) turns up in the 460 tail.
Fuel economy registers at a paltry 15 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway and the engine connects up to a dependable six-speed automatic transmission. The fuel tank holds a generous 23 gallons of required premium grade (91 Octane) fuel. During the past decade, many rival powertrains have incorporated engine start-stop technology to beef up fuel numbers by temporarily quieting the engine at prolonged stops. When its next redesign rolls around, GX could improve fuel numbers utilizing this benefit.
The GX 460 shares its truck-based platform with Toyota's 4Runner SUV. However, one notable difference is found under hood. Toyota's 4Runner motivates from a 4.0-liter, 24-valve six-cylinder creating 270 horsepower while the GX promotes more potent V-8 grunt delivering a workman-like 6,500 pounds of towing capacity compared with 4Runner's 5,000.
The 2020 GX 460 remains largely a carryover from 2019 with a couple notable exceptions. Most prominent is the addition of Lexus Safety Systems Plus, a suite of proactive radar-based technologies designed to mitigate and reduce chances of a vehicle-to-vehicle encounter. Included is pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, high-speed dynamic cruise control (for speeds above 25 miles per hour) and automatic high beams. With GX on board, all Lexus products now come standard with this impressive suite of safety nuances.
While Safety System Plus greatly aids on-road adventures, a newly available off-road package makes off-the-beaten path adventures worth the ride. The package includes a multiple, surround-view camera feed beamed into the in-dash screen, additional under-body protection benefitting the fuel tank, a crawl control setting and a multi-terrain select dial. Only top 'Luxury' trims offer this optional package.
While it's been a minute since the last redesign, the protracted evolution may have worked in GX's favor in one regard; its in-dash multifunction screen.
Many recent Lexus next-generation redesigns (the mid-size V-6 motivated RX 350 crossover for example) have fallen under the spell of the Lexus mind-numbing 'remote touch interface.' This concept needlessly complicates audio and HVAC interactions by employing a square, slightly elevated wiggle-pad between front buckets activating an in-screen curser. The GX wisely passes up this head ache, opting instead for and old-school touch screen interacting with large, well-marked buttons framing a nicely-sized eight-inch screen. While some HVAC functions monitor from dashboard buttons (dual front zone temperature settings) fan direction gets set through the touch screen. Noticeably absent, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allowing optimal Smartphone interaction with the in-dash screen.
Another notable time-honored benefit GX retains; sturdy, molded-into-the-frame grab handles and lots of them. All four side doors offer patrons two; one ceiling bound and one stationed on the inside A/B pillar. Not everyone uses both simultaneously, but it's sure nice to offer a choice...especially as the number of candles planted into the birthday cake adds up. Some rivals have axed one, or sometimes both.
Exterior wise, static running boards run horizontally between wheel wells and below side doors. Retractable running boards adorn some competitors which add a cleaner, smoother look, but stationary versions provide a constant reminder of the vehicle's off-road chops. Boards help when maneuvering up into the cabin and 8.1-inches of ground clearance. For 2020, Lexus also tweaks its huge spindle grille which extends out creating a three-dimensional effect. The design mimics that of a truncated hour glass sans the sand.
Seating for seven comes standard with a three-seat second-row bench. Our tester included a $3,115 Premium Package with two second row captain's chairs, reducing head count to six. Row tres accommodates two with a 50/50 back rest split. Both manually fold flat into the seat cushion when prioritizing cargo space. The rather thin, uniquely designed cushion inches forward when manually lifting up the 50/50 backrests. As with most third rows, preteens find these irresistible, but few others will.
Our Base tester started at an even $53,000. The small cadre of extras included $100 for headlamp washers, the aforementioned Premium Package, a $300 wood-trimmed steering wheel, $105 carpeted floor mat, $140 door edge guards and $70 cargo net brought the bottom line to $58,835 with $1,025 destination charge. Premium trims start at $55,790 with Luxury trims slotting in at $64,265.
The stately upright stance reinforces with a traditional, brawny 90-degree angle where the back roof intersects with the hatch door, rather than a curved crossover experience. The rear hatch, hinged at the right, swings out not up a-la a refrigerator side door. New triple-beam, bejeweled, LED headlight housing upfront angles downward towards the spindled grille's synched 'waist' while underlined by 'L' shaped daytime running lights.
The boxy silhouette creates an abundance of head room in all rows, including number three which all too often fails to deliver such comforts due to too curvy of a back-end swoop found in crossover-type competitors.
High seating positions and four side windows provide good visibility. Expect a truck-like bounce when encountering City-slicker-type speed bumps. Steering feel remains quite light despite its heavy weight.
When comparing annual sales of Lexus' two off-road capable sport utilities, the GX 460 leads by more than a country mile. Calendar year sales of GX 460 in 2019 reached 25,945, far outpacing numbers generated from the aspirational LX 570's 4,718.
However, the mid-size, car-based RX 350 bests both with results surpassing the 100,000 mark landing at 111,641. Total Lexus vehicle U.S. sales in 2019 reached 298,114, impressive but not quite enough to surpass BMW's 324,826. Thus for 2019, BMW resides as Top Dog of luxury vehicle sales in the U.S. In keeping with industry trends, a majority of Lexus 2019 sales derived from crossover and SUV's (73 percent) vs sedans and coupes (27 percent).
At a glance
Price as tested: $57,880
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
Length: 192.1 inches
Height: 73.8 inches
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8
Zero-to-60 mph acceleration: 7.8 seconds
Curb weight: 5,198 pounds
City/Highway economy: 15/19 mpg