2017 Lexus GX Review

2017 Lexus GX - Lexus looms large with GX 460 SUV


Lexus combines two seemingly unlikely automotive lifestyles together with the sizeable 2017 GX 460; a lavishly elegant side and a side willing to get 'down and dirty' playing in the muck.

The first generation GX 460 sport utility broke out in the fall of 2002 with a Gen Two complete redesign bowing in December 2009 as a 2010 model year product.  Our 2017 tester continues sporting this long-standing second-generation platform, with minimal changes from 2016.

Marketing wise, GX 460 falls between the popular, mid-size RX 350 crossover and the super-sized-size LX 570 SUV.  As a three-row seven seater, GX's expanses qualify it as a full-size product.

Lexus targets GX 460 at a specific audience rather than casting a wide net. Those appreciating pampered touches with three rows of seating and old-school off-road capabilities will appreciate GX. Eight-cylinder fuel economy coupled with full-size SUV pricing may prune away a swath of admirers.

As a quick review, Lexus vehicles identify by a two-letter prefix teamed with a numerical suffix.  An X in the prefix designates a crossover or Sport Utility body style. The numerical suffix reflects engine displacement.

Sales of GX 460 in 2016 registered a steady 25,148 units, relatively unchanged from the year prior and far outpacing the larger LX 570 at 5,707, but nowhere near the mid-sized, car-based RX 350 crossover, Lexus' best-selling vehicle.

The GX qualifies as a candidate to haul weekend toys to beaches and shores (in style of course) with an impressive 6,500 pound towing capacity thanks to sturdy, truck-based underpinnings.  Full-time, four-wheel drive (no driver input needed) comes standard.  A torque-sensing limited slip differential distributes power, front-to-rear, with a 40/60 percent split and changes the ratio, as need, based on wheel slippage.

A two-speed transfer case with low range and a bevy of off-road technologies help GX 460 traverse unpaved trails and steep inclines.  Downhill Assist Control, Hill-Start Assist Control, Active Traction Control, and Vehicle Stability Control come standard.  Optional Crawl Control allows five distinctive settings when engaged in low range, helping reduce tire slippage in mud, sand or snow. 

Assisting ingress into this sizeable transport; narrow running boards below side doors and between front and rear tires easing the step up.  Climbing into GX's front captain's seats is not as tedious as some full-size trucks or SUVs, and running boards are especially welcome when contorting into third-row seating.

Expect interior A-pillar grab handles on both driver and passenger sides.  Some Sport Utility Vehicles and pickup trucks eliminate the driver side handle, making the step up more problematic.   Drivers enjoy good road perception ahead because of GX 460's commanding stance.

 The sole engine powering a trio of trims (Base, Premium and Limited); a 4.6-liter (thus, the 460 numerical suffix) V-8, jamming out 301 horsepower and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.  Toyota's full-size Tundra pickup truck also offers this powertrain.

Those shelling out $69,000 for a sport utility vehicle probably fret little about V-8 gas mileage.  For those who do fret, GX 460 delivers 15 mpg city and 18 mpg highway.  Some automakers utilize cylinder deactivation in larger engines, electronically shutting down half when cruising at highway speeds to tweak up fuel numbers. GX 460 is an ideal candidate when its next-generation redesign comes along.

Large dimensions match up with the sizeable fuel tank size checking in at 23 gallons. Premium-grade 91 octane unleaded is required.

Like all Lexus-branded vehicles, expect a whisper-quiet interior with GX's V-8 powertrain feedback a melodic, low-decibel hum.  Unlike most Lexus stablemates, expect more body sway compliments of the truck-based underpinnings.  Duchess, the 20-pound grey Schnauzer, found herself unplanted in second-row captain's chairs during quick slalom type maneuvers; an oversight as her pet parent should have all occupants safely buckled.

The Luxury trim comes standard with two independent captain's chairs in row two (optional in Premium) capable of handling six riders.  Base and Premium trims come standard with 40/20/40 split-fold-recline second row accommodating seven. All trims include 50/50-split third-row seating.

Our second-row captain's chairs manually slid forward once backrests tilted forward, allowing access to the two-seat third row. Captain's chair's seat backs also fold flat onto cushions allowing additional cargo-carrying opportunities.  Those six-feet, two-inches and taller will find tight headroom in row three.  Tweens and pre-teens should delight in 'third-row exclusivity' and extra personal space away from Mom and Dad up front. 

Row three seatbacks power fold down and up via buttons on cargo area's left side (power-folding third row is a Luxury-trim exclusive). Cargo space behind row three when prone is minimal, accommodating a row of grocery bags if food shopping. 

Push-button start comes standard. A drop-down interior rear-view concaved mirror brings back row activities into the captain's view.  One notable absence is a traditional, analog clock found in many luxury nameplates signifying a touch of elegance.

Base models check in at $51,680. Our top-line Luxury trim raises the starting ante to $62,980. Two option packages included a new-for-2017 sport design package ($1,625) and a driver support package ($4,340) bringing the bottom line to $69,920 with $975 destination charge.

The new-for-2017 sport design package includes attractive split six-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome exhaust tips, deep red tail light graphics and contoured side mirrors.

Radar cruise control, automatically accelerating and decelerating the vehicle based on the distance to the vehicle ahead, is available when ordering the driver support option package, but should be standard in a vehicle of this stature. 

Up front, one can't miss Lexus' distinctive 'spindle' grille, now the face of the luxury automaker. While polarizing to some, this truncated hourglass design makes a bold statement, helping promote Lexus as the top-selling Asian luxury brand, outpacing Acura (Honda's upscale offering), Infiniti (Nissan's luxury division) and the newly christened Genesis (Hyundai's foray into the executive club).  

The rear door, hinged on the right, swings open a-la a refrigerator door.  For quick trips into the cargo region, the glass door lifts up independently.  A narrow, lightweight, spring-loaded privacy cover stretches across the cargo area's width and removes easily if handling larger loads, but must get stowed. 

The upright, vertical rear door design borrows heavily from traditional sport utility designs, rather than a curvier roof arch popular in car-based five-door crossovers. Large, square, side view mirrors bring a bigger picture to driver's eyes.  A small concaved insert, to better pinpoint blind-spot mischief, would be welcome.

At a glance

Price as tested:  69,920

Wheelbase:  109.8 inches

Length:   192.1 inches

Width:   74.2inches

Height:   73.8 inches

Engine:  4.6-liter V-8

Zero-to-60 mph acceleration:  7.8 seconds

Horsepower: 301

Curb weight:   5,198 pounds

Powertrain   warranty:  72 months/70,000 miles

City/Highway economy:   15/18 mpg

Assembly:  Japan

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.