Living Fossil: Lexus GX460

Body-on-frame SUVs are a dying breed; giant, inefficient dinosaurs of the open road. Unibody construction is in vogue. But we have a soft spot in our hears for the stalwarts of body-on-frame construction. This Lexus GX is one of them. Sharing many of its components with the Toyota 4Runner, the GX adds the expectedly upscale Lexus treatments. Body-on-frame construction might be going away, but Lexus opted to give it one more chance on this updated 2014 GX460.

Lexus GX460 2

The GX460 went under the knife for 2014 for the full Lexus treatment. When the bandages came off, the GX460 was wearing the company’s spindle grille face. Smaller updates came in the form of refreshed interior fitments. Other than that, not much changed. The platform essentially remains the same after almost a decade, but the ride is still quite comfortable. Handling, acceleration, and all sorts of driver inputs are rather dated. We called body-on-frame construction something of a dinosaur, and the GX handles as such. It can be somewhat scary when pushed beyond the limits of a family delivery vehicle. It’s not an SUV that is at home on a back road, but with the multiple chassis, differential, and suspension settings, it is at home off-road.

Lexus GX460 3

We did not get a chance to test any serious off-road capabilities, but all the equipment that the GX460 would need to be capable off-road is present. Adjustable ride height, a low-range 4×4 setting, and locking differentials begged for a bit of late-winter snow to fall. A high approach angle in the front and excellent ground clearance allow the GX460 to glide over harsh terrain changes. When not pretending to be offroading over curbs and snowbanks in an empty parking lot, the GX simply changes back into utility mode with the flip of a few switches. The one switch we flipped the most, with the least result, was the adjustable suspension. Other than a slight decrease in body roll, there wasn’t a discernible difference between Sport and Comfort. High above the blacktop in the well-padded bucket seats, it was primarily all comfort in the GX.

Lexus GX460 10

We’ve seen the 4.6L V8 under the hood of the GX460 before. It’s the same engine found in the LS460 F Sport sedan we tested last year, but without direct injection. In this application, mated to a with six speed automatic, it is geared for low-range torque. The GX makes due with 301hp and 329 lb-ft torque. The V8 still makes all the right noises when utilizing our favorite pedal, but acceleration is best described as adequate. After all, the GX460 weighs in at a hefty 5,179 lbs. Predictably, this has an impact on fuel economy. The EPA estimates a 17mpg average, a figure we nearly matched in our week of testing.

Lexus GX460 9

Inside, the GX460 is a typical Lexus. Most surfaces are bathed in leather; it even extends onto the dashboard. Everything on the inside of the GX460 felt strong, almost overbuilt for a luxury people carrier. That’s a good thing, as it reassures occupants that the attention to detail has been spent on the parts that you see and the parts that you don’t. The driving position is tall and upright in the front buckets. The second row bench is easily accessible, with the third row just a lever pull away. Put the third row up, however, and the trunk space shrinks to unacceptably small levels. Interestingly, Lexus has not updated its touchscreen-based Enform system for 2014. While we actually prefer this system to the newer interface, the display screen, software, and responsiveness felt dated.

Lexus GX460 4

The GX460 is a car that leaves you puzzled. Lexus continues to build an SUV on a dated platform with sufficient technology to traverse a number of off-road obstacles. But truth be told, the biggest obstacle the buyer of a GX460 might face would be the curbs at the local mall. The GX460 is a living fossil, one of the last of the giants. Interestingly, the updated styling has given the GX a boost in sales. Lexus has more than doubled their GX sales year-to-date in the US. Some customers continue to appreciate what Lexus has done here. It’s a dated platform, but it doesn’t quite feel out-of-date yet. Hopefully they realize that they’re probably buying one of the last body-on-frame SUV’s.  That, in itself, is something to appreciate.
-Scott Villeneuve

2014 Lexus GX460 Luxury
Wheel Locks $81
Destination Charges $910
As Tested MSRP $61,706

Mammoth: 2014 Lexus LX570
First Drive: 2015 Lexus NX200t

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