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2018 Lexus GX
New Car Test Drive

Introduction

The Lexus GX 460 might look like a luxury SUV, but behind its big spindle grille and under its fancy wrap it’s built for heavy duty. Sharing its basic structure with the Toyota 4Runner, the Lexus GX is built body on frame. Clues to its mission can be found in the tailgate that opens horizontally and the many offroad controls in the cabin, sprinkled into the leather and wood.

Highly capable off road, every model is all-wheel drive. It’s powered by a smooth 4.6-liter V8 mated to a sweet six-speed automatic. The steering is dull and the ride smothered, but after all it’s a tank, not a crossover. It’s a relatively durable vehicle, able to withstand a fair amount of pounding over rugged terrain.

And being a tank, it’s safe and thirsty. At least we assume it’s safe, because it’s big and well-built. It hasn’t been crash-tested by the NHTSA or IIHS, but all models have 10 airbags, active head restraints, and a rearview camera. As for the thirst, the EPA rates it at 16 Combined miles per gallon, on Premium gasoline.

For its price, the base GX 460, should have more standard equipment, that is, some of the features that are optional. Other Lexus models do. Leather seats and navigation, to name two things. A safety package adds forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, attention assist, lane-departure warnings, and automatic high beams. Blind-spot monitors are also sold as an option, as are surround-view cameras.

Model Lineup

The 2018 Lexus GX 460 ($51,855) comes with four-wheel drive, moonroof, 18-inch wheels, rearview camera, power front seats, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen. Options include heated and ventilated front seats, navigation, blind-spot monitors, and smartphone-app connectivity.

GX 460 Premium ($57,855) adds navigation, heated and ventilated seats, and mahogany trim. GX 460 Luxury ($63,230) includes an adaptive suspension, upgraded leather, rear air suspension, heated steering wheel. Options include 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio and dual-screen rear-seat DVD entertainment. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)

Walkaround

The Lexus GX tries to make up for its slab-sided styling with its big awkward nose but only draws attention to it. A big spindle grille was slapped onto a boxy front end, a design mismatch that gives the SUV a split personality.

Interior

Being an old-school SUV, it’s tall, a bit narrow, and has a high floor. So the front occupants ride way up there. On plush cushions. With lots of room. Commanding view for the driver. Big step to get in, though.

The trim is luxury soft, wrapped around chunky shapes, bulky door handles. The dash panel is upright, with controls over horizontal bands of wood. The controls are neither overwhelming nor complex, a relief, because so many rivals are. Real buttons in the right places. Legible gauges. The center stack for audio, climate and navigation is clean. Good steering-wheel controls.

Too bad it’s saddled with bad infotainment. The system has a large display but is difficult to navigate. Lexus doesn’t offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as useful, streamlined bypasses.

Layers of rich materials belie its roots. The shape inside is dated, but details give it elegance. Its functional shortcomings are covered by leather, real or synthetic on the base GX460.

The sliding second-row seat yields great legroom and much space, as long as no one is in the third row. Which is difficult to reach, cramped, and with the power-fold feature doesn’t fold flat, making the cargo space high and narrow. The side-hinged tailgate makes it quite awkward. And the seat can’t be removed.

Driving Impressions

The Lexus GX does its best to handle more like a crossover, but still feels a bit wobbly. A lot of suspension travel, soft ride, spongy brakes, slow steering, artificial feel.

The 4.6-liter V8 makes 301 horsepower, giving the GX a zero to sixty time of 7.8 seconds; both the horsepower and 0-60 time can be matched by many V6s. The six-speed automatic is quick and smooth.

Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is standard equipment, same as the Land Cruiser. It uses air springs at the rear, and enables one rear wheel to push down for traction, when the other rear wheel gets light.

It makes the ride smoother, even on winding two-lanes, despite top-heavy dynamics. However the system hides body lean, and steals something from the seat of the driver’s pants.

The ride gets even smoother with available adaptive dampers (standard on the Luxury).

All-wheel drive comes standard. The power is split 40/60 front/rear, with a Torsen differential to transmitting more to the rear when needed. It’s a full-on offroad system, with a low range, center diff lock, and crawl control, which takes over at settable speeds between 1.0 and 3.7 mph.

Summary

Like the Toyota 4Runner, the Lexus GX is a capable vehicle off road, for the right price. Styling, fuel cost, spacey handling, spongy brakes, and inconvenient cargo carrying are its downsides.

Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.


J.D. Power Rating
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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

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