Nothing in Lexus' range wears the spindle grille with particular grace or confidence. The 2014 Lexus GX 460 Luxury is no exception, but it doesn't look terrible.
Where this vehicle excels is its smoothness. Starting, stopping, cruising over bumps while sitting on comfy seats -- the GX 460 is a package designed for those who want to cover a lot of territory, some of it potentially semi-rugged, without actually having to feel any of it beneath them.
On paper, it's quite comparable to the 2015 GMC Yukon we recently tested. Though down 54 hp, it's also more than 500 hp lighter. The powertrain in the Yukon wasn't bad, but the easy acceleration and buttery shifting was on another level in this GX. It was noticeable for its lack of notice-ability. That's certainly one way to do luxury.
Crossing potholes was a similarly drama-free affair. Its truck-like roots do sneak up on you at times, though. Crank the wheel too much while angling into a parking spot (helpful instrument-cluster wheel angle indicators will let you see what's going on) and the car dramatically cuts power to the wheels, all four of which are driven at all times. Electric stability control in action! A life-saver at speed, I'm sure, but necessary while crawling along?
Another low point, for me, was the interior. Fit and finish was excellent. Soft-touch points were about as soft as they could be without being, I don't know, terrycloth or something. But material selection leaves something to be desired; where most luxury brands deploy woods and metals, Lexus is using a sort of metallic-flecked plastic. Sony put it to good use on their Walkman cassette players in the mid-1990s. Though we could commend Lexus for reducing, reusing and recycling here, I suspect buyers would be happier with more upscale materials.
For the money, I think the Yukon did a better job providing an old-school SUV experience with a premium edge. True, Lexus may mean more than GMC to those who chase luxury badges. But by virtue of being an SUV rather than a crossover, the GX is only going to appeal to a certain sort of buyer these days -- for everyone else, there's the RX and its cohort.
The 2014 Lexus GX 460 Luxury is equipped with a 4.6-liter V8.
2014 Lexus GX 460 Luxury
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: One of my favorite vehicles is the Toyota 4Runner. I know, that's kind of odd coming from a guy who has a garage made up of a couple of sports cars and a front-wheel drive sporty coupe. My admiration for the 4Runner has a little to do with my stepfather who owned a 1997 model that he put through hell on a daily basis. Even as the odometer climbed past 300K, it ran like a top and showed no signs of giving up. Unfortunately, it was involved in a bad accident, and thus totaled, ending its impressive run. If it wasn't for that accident, there is no doubt in my mind that he would still be driving it now.
On top of that personal connection, I like how Toyota has let the 4Runner be the 4Runner. It's a simple, rugged and off-road-worthy SUV. It isn't trying to cater to a wide demographic, and its overall DNA hasn't changed like the Nissan Pathfinder's did.
So what does this have to do with the GX 460? Well, it is based off the 4Runner after all, and it doesn't take much to realize that. A quick look at the center stack and the rest of the dashboard will have you thinking “4Runner,” except that the Lexus gets the sparkly plastics which Graham mentions above, some wood trim inserts and some stitched soft-touch panels. There are still some hard plastic panels scattered about that don't look like they belong in a Lexus vehicle, either. No complaints about the leathers that cover the seats and armrests, though. They are supremely soft and feel top-notch.
And, gosh, this thing rides softly no matter what mode you have the adjustable suspension set to. Comfort has the body jiggling and rolling like a boat around curves, which I'll admit is great for the pothole-ravaged roads we have around here in Michigan, but the lazy response to steering inputs and dive under braking border on comical. The suspension in normal mode is a little better and makes the GX not feel as sloppy, but sport was about right in being still really comfortable but not as doughy feel when taking corners.
The 4.6-liter V8 is silky in operation with enough power to easily move the GX along. It's quiet, and the six-speed automatic transmission performs shifts that are equally smooth. Brakes take a little getting used to as there isn't much bite until midway through the pedal stroke, which is very truck-like.
So in terms of ride quality and powertrain refinement, the GX 460 lives up to its Lexus badge. I'm not sold on the interior, though. It's quiet, but still looks like a 4Runner that Lexus dazzled up a bit. And if there's one thing I don't like, it's anyone trying to make any part of a 4Runner be something that it is clearly not.
Base Price: $61,625
As-Tested Price: $62,770
Drivetrain: 4.6-liter V8; 4WD, six-speed automatic
Output: 301 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 329 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 5,340 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 15/20/17 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 18.0 mpg
Options: Mark Levinson premium audio including 17 speakers, 300-watt system, 7.1-channel architecture, automatic sound levelizer, single-disc, DVD/CD player ($1,145)
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