Big-nosed, 3-row SUV feels old school, but remains a fun drive …
I’m beginning to feel a smidge like Little Red Riding Hood when it comes to new car and truck designs. My, what big grilles you have!
Lexus’ full-size SUV, the GX 460 was one of the first to glom onto the giant schnoz styling and it doesn’t get any more handsome with age. Some folks like that big honker though as Lexus sells more than 25,000 GX models annually. So it makes sense Lexus is sticking with the look it launched for the 2010 model year. Yes, that big grille (slightly modified) has been around 13 years.
Even so, I was expecting a more updated version for 2023 after driving the improved LX 600 last summer. That’s the supersized version of the former Toyota Land Cruiser, while the GX is 8 inches shorter and 550 pounds lighter, a luxury version of Toyota’s 4Runner.
That means even though it has a third-row seat the legroom is miniscule back there, and the GX still has the dreaded touchpad on its console, but no wireless phone charger. Interior updates are needed.
To Lexus credit it did sharpen up the cabin a bit recently, adding the 10.3-inch touchscreen that makes that silly touchpad redundant, mostly.
Certainly the GX looks muscular still, and its interior feels luxurious even with its fake leather NuLuxe seats, part of the test model’s Black Line Special Edition package, which adds $4,735 to the sticker. Beyond the black leather-like seats and a 360-degree camera system, Black Line mainly is an appearance package, including the handsome dark metallic green (Nori Green Pearl). Blackline also adds special black alloy wheels, black window trim and open-pore black ash trim. Adding black crossbars to the roof rack, however, adds another $405.
Ironically too the test SUV replaced the presumably special Black Line wheels with $1,550 F Sport wheels. Not sure I’d spend that much extra to have an F Sport logo on the wheel cap, but it’s your money!
I know I’m sounding a bit cynical (some might say snotty) about the GX, but I actually enjoyed driving it.
First, it had running boards so us vertically challenged folks could easily climb aboard, plus there are plenty of grab handles for additional leverage.
Watch Mark’s video: Having fun reviewing the 23 Lexus GX 460 – YouTube
The giant 4.6-liter V8, a rare commodity these days, is strong and sounds like it means business while creating 301 horsepower and enough torque to help it pull 6,500 pounds of trailer and gear. Sadly it drinks gas like a teen snarfing pizza. I got 15.2 mpg in about 60% city driving while the EPA rates the GX at just 15 mpg city and 19 highway.
By comparison, the larger and heavier LX 600 delivers 19 mpg city and 23 highway with its more efficient 3.5-liter turbo V6 that cranks 409 horsepower. Seems GX might benefit from that turbo powerplant.
The LX also touts a 10-speed automatic while the GX sticks with the older 6-speed.
Handling is quite nice for a big ute, with an easy feel and light touch. There’s play in the wheel to be sure, but GX is easy to handle on the highway and steady winds didn’t push it about too much.
Ride for this body-on-frame truck is trucky though, meaning there’s more than a bit of bounce especially on crumbling Midwest roadways. The good news is that the GX, like the 4Runner, is designed for serious off-roading, so its AWD system is capable of handling muck, mud, and ruts. Controls for that are mid center stack on the dash. Ground clearance is a respectable 8.1 inches.
The GX’s kinetic dynamic suspension is aimed at helping handle that off-road bump and thump too, but the live rear axle is better for slopping about than handling cracked and rutted city streets.
The black interior seems awfully dark and the black wood trim only adds to that. Only satin silver air vents, door pulls, steering wheel spokes and top of the shifter lightening the look. Maybe some brighter seat stitching would help, but then this was a Black Line, so black is the preferred color for this model.
Seats are comfortable and easy to adjust with heated and cooled front seats including three levels of each adjusted by dials on the console. The steering wheel also is heated with the button to the left of the wheel.
GX features plenty of buttons for the climate controls, plus toggles for temperature adjustment, and push buttons and tuning and volume knobs for the 9-speaker stereo system. The touchscreen itself is easy to use and adjust, but a bit smaller than most new vehicles now offer, yet 10 inches seems enough.
Second row seats are comfy and roomy too, but the third row is only for short hauls and wee ones. With the seats up the cargo room is quite small behind the third row, but fine with it folded, and that is done manually. Those rear seats are pretty heavy.
Over the front seat is a small sunroof, again, most are larger or come in pairs these days.
A plus though are the headlight washers. I haven’t seen these in ages, but if you’re going off-roading in your GX you’ll love being able to squirt the lights to clean off muck.
Toyota/Lexus also continues to make standard most of the safety equipment one might want or need. Here that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitor and cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control, lane departure alert, parking assist, and smart high beams. There’s also a trailer sway control for those who plan to tow.
One thing the larger and pricier LX 600 offers is a power hatch. Not even a hatch on GX, just a split tailgate, meaning the glass will fold upward and the tailgate swings out like a door. The vehicle is so tall that anyone shorter than about 6 feet won’t be able to put groceries in the tail by just opening the glass. And the tailgate, as with other SUVs and pickups, is so large that you’ll need to be careful in parking lots with that open, but then loading is simple.
All that said, the GX is considerably less expensive than the bigger LX, starting at $57,575, with delivery. This was that base model, but with the Black Line package and a few other options to push it to $64,550.
A Premium trim GX starts at $58,910 and the Luxury model at $68,230. An LX can run $100 grand.
Competitors are many and include the likes of the GMC Yukon, Jeep Grand Cherokee (newly revamped for 2023), Genesis GV80, Lincoln Aviator (which gets much better gas mileage), Honda Pilot, Ford’s rough-riding Bronco, Infiniti’s Q50, and the recently tested here Volvo XC90.
For the record, a Toyota 4Runner 4WD SR5 starts at $41,855 with delivery and through 8 trim levels jumps up to $54,445 for the TRD Pro, so nearly the Lexus starting price.
FAST STATS: 2023 Lexus GX 460
Hits: Distinctive grille, V8 power, true off-road ability, easy handling for big truck, AWD, luxury old-school interior, touchscreen, 3-level heated/cooled front seats, heated wheel, comfy seats, sunroof, third-row seat, good safety equipment, and headlight washers.
Misses: Poor mpg, massive grille, moderate sunroof, bouncy truck ride, third row has little legroom, still had console touchpad but no wireless charger, and split rear tailgate opens like door, not hatch.
Made in: Japan
Engine: 4.6-liter V8, 301 hp/329 torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 5,130 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
Length: 192.1 in.
Cargo: 11.6/46.7/64.7 cu.ft.
MPG: 15.2 (tested)
Base Price: $57,575 (includes delivery)
Black Line Special Edition (18-in. split six-spoke black alloy wheels, open-poor black ash trim, Boulder gray NuLuxe seats, black window trim, black roof rails, and 360-view monitor), $4,735
Door edge guards, $155
Chrome exhaust tip, $130
Black Line crossbars, $405
F Sport 18-inch alloy wheels, $1,550
Test vehicle: $64,550
Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage