The Lexus GX has long been known as a more refined 4Runner, an upscale counterpart to Toyota’s rugged and traditional midsize SUV. Both share many of the same strengths and weaknesses, most of which have to do with their body-on-frame construction and advanced age (the current-gen GX is from 2010).
There are significant differences between the two though, and they extend beyond their exterior styling and interior design. Mechanically, the biggest upgrade the GX gets over the 4Runner is a V-8 engine in place of Toyota’s V-6. The Lexus’ 4.6-liter V8 revs with a creamy smoothness that the 4Runner’s V6 can only look upon with envy, its handling exactly matching the standard six-speed automatic (one speed faster than the five-speed automatic). Toyota’s gears) that offers almost imperceptible changes.
With 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque, this V-8 also offers significant extra grunt over the Toyota’s 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet. This is reflected in its 60mph time of 7.2 seconds, half a second better than the 4Runner TRD Pro can manage. And yet, you still wouldn’t call the GX fast. The V-8’s peak torque only comes at 3,500 rpm and it takes a good stab of the throttle to get there. It’s the rare vehicle that, when you look at the speedometer, you often find yourself going slower than expected.
Look past these two cousins, and you can see the advantage of competitors’ turbocharged engines. A four-door turbocharged four-cylinder Ford Bronco sprints to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, a similarly configured Jeep Wrangler does it in 5.8 and a six-cylinder Land Rover Defender 110 manages 6.3. All three also beat the GX460’s quarter-mile time of 15.7 seconds at 89 mph.
The big V-8, an automatic with only six forward gears, and body-on-frame construction (our test car weighed 5264 pounds) all impact the GX’s fuel economy. The GX460’s EPA estimates of 15/19 mpg city/highway are only marginally worse than the six-cylinder 4Runner (16/19), but you’d spend less to fill up a larger Ford Expedition (16/22 mpg) or Chevy Tahoe 5.3 L (15/20 mpg). We averaged 18 mpg in our highway fuel economy test.
The V-8 does, however, offer a hefty 6,500 pounds of towing capacity, which exceeds the 4Runner’s 5,000 pounds and far exceeds that of most crossovers. Don’t look for trailer reversing assist technology, it’s not here.
Four-wheel drive is standard and includes a two-speed transfer case with low range and a locking center differential, providing a solid foundation for off-road exploration. An available Multi-Terrain Monitor ($800) brings a full suite of cameras, and the optional All-Terrain Package adds skid plates, various terrain modes, and Crawl Control. The net result is considerably more off-road capability than the typical three-row crossover.
For pavement driving, there’s adaptive cruise control (but no lane-keeping assist), forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring and automated parking. The Luxury version has adaptive dampers, which allow the driver to switch between Normal, Comfort and Sport modes. The latter is definitely a misnomer, but it slightly constricts body movements. All GX models come standard with what Lexus calls a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension system, which connects two-piece front and rear anti-roll bars and helps smother the GX460’s list in corners, although there’s still have plenty of brake dive. Plush suspension tuning and high tire sidewalls complement sharp-edged potholes, but the solid rear axle will bounce over bumpy sections. We recorded a modest 0.74g lateral grip in a GX460 Black Line, as well as a 180-foot stop from 70 mph, which is on the long side.
The interior environment and materials of the GX460 are clearly a cut – or two – above those of the 4Runner. Upper Luxury trim is semi-aniline leather while Premium and newer Black Line models use the brand’s NuLuxe synthetic skins, and all trims get real wood accents. It’s a bit of a climb to get inside, but running boards are standard. The accommodations in the first two rows should cause no complaints, but the solid rear axle raises the floor of the cramped rear seat, placing the knees of taller occupants at chest level.
The console-mounted Lexus remote touchpad allows imprecise operation of the infotainment display screen, but there’s not much reason to use the touchpad. The screen is handy and has a touch screen. The screen has been enlarged to 10.3 inches this year and navigation is now standard, although the graphics still pale next to most smartphones. One old-school element we’re happy to see is the audio system’s volume and adjustment knobs. However, they are easily confused with two similarly sized buttons which are directly above them on the center console and therefore easier reach – these operate the DAC (Downhill Assist Control) and select high and low ranges. low four-wheel drive. At the very least, their positions should be swapped. The GX’s audio system also still accommodates CDs, although Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now also supported, along with Amazon Alexa.
While its Toyota relative has a traditional tailgate, access to the GX460’s cargo bay is through a side-hinged door. This arrangement precludes having the convenience of power opening/closing and is less than ideal for curbside loading (it hinges on the right), although the rear window can open independently. It’s difficult to slide large items into the cargo area because the cargo floor rises several inches. The cargo hold is also smaller than most three-row crossovers, with a maximum of 26 carry-ons with the rear seats folded flat (a Land Rover Defender in row 32 and a Ford Explorer holds 31). And with the third-row seat in use, luggage space disappears, leaving barely enough room for a few school backpacks.
Families who regularly use the third row or make heavy use of cargo space would likely be best served by a three-row midsize crossover, most of which would also get better fuel economy. The GX, like the 4Runner, is aimed more at those looking for the ruggedness and off-road capabilities of traditional SUVs. The GX and 4Runner are close enough that the GX enjoys the same reputation for longevity that helps the 4Runner achieve impressive resale value. And yet, the GX has something to differentiate itself from its Toyota cousin: not only its own exterior styling and a premium interior, but also an improved powertrain. These differences help justify the GX – with base prices ranging from $56,700 to $66,210 – and its extra expense over the Toyota.
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