This SUV does many things just right.
The Lexus GX 460 would make Goldilocks happy: the mama bear of the Lexus luxury SUV family is bigger than baby bears RX350 and NX 200T, but not as big as the papa bear LX 570. It seats up to 7 comfortably (with a second row bench; it seats 6 with center row captains chairs) and has 64 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, meaning you can have extra passengers or substantial cargo space, or split het third row seat for a little of both.
It’s also a true 4-wheel-drive, so it can go places and do things that the average crossover can’t: Gravely grades, sandy beaches and snowy slopes are not out of reach.
And, it’s the last of the Lexus family to get a significant makeover, so its been a bit of a wallflower in the luxury SUV world: overlooked but definitely worth taking for a spin.
Who this car is for:
- Singles, couples or families who need an SUV
- Drivers who need to go places with snowy, icy, steep or uneven road surfaces
- Drivers who need 4WD, not just all wheel drive
- Drivers who regularly need space for 4
- Drivers who sometimes need room for 6 or 7 passengers
- Buyers with dogs or pets
- Buyers who want luxury
- Buyers who value the service and reliability Lexus is known for
What it Costs:
- GX 460 Base model: $51,680
- Premium: $56,125, which adds leather trimmed seats and 3rd row climate control
- Luxury: $63,380 which adds leather trimmed interior, power folding third row and top safety and entertainment features
- Driver’s support package: $4,340, which adds Mark Levinson audio system, adaptive cruise control, enhanced all wheel drive “crawl” control, adaptive high beam headlights and lane departure alert
- Price of the model we drove: $68,295
Could this be the best priced 4WD luxury SUV on the road?
OK, it’s not cheap, but the Lexus GX 460 is very well priced (and sized) for what it is: An off road capable luxury SUV. Most comparable SUVs are larger and pricer; consider that the LX 570 is priced about $26,000 more (and offers more space and seating capacity). Also consider that price-wise, it’s more comparable to luxury AWD crossovers, so for the price you get full time 4WD.
Perhaps adding to the value is the fact that it hasn’t had a makeover in some time. While the GX460’s exterior has been updated to look like its siblings with the bold Lexus front grille and refined exterior lines, inside the ‘old school’ feel of the interior (which still boasts a lot of luxury mind you) may entice dealers to be a bit more flexible on price.
Yes this is a truck. And here’s why you might want one
Your winter weekends are spent climbing icy roads to ski slopes. Your summer travel includes remote vistas in the National Parks. Your off-the-grid getaway is beyond the end of the road on Padre Island or a rental house in North Carolina’s Outer Banks only reachable by 4WD. If so, you’ll need 4WD to make it up and down steep hills, snowy slopes and across sand and tide pools. Very often, all wheel drive won’t do it.
4WD vs AWD: What’s the difference and why does it matter?
Most 6, 7 and 8 passenger SUVs or crossovers have AWD capability and a higher ground clearance, providing a nice ‘hip point’ or height of the seats, making getting in and out easy. They are full time front wheel drive with traction and power sent to rear wheels when it senses the need. They can handle most snowstorms, hills and loose gravel, but don’t put them to the test in sand, heavily rutted hillsides or off-road trails. You need 4WD for that.
The GX 460 Luxury edition takes the 4WD ability up a notch with “crawl control,” which not only gives more power to each wheel, but also regulates a steady speed, letting the car do all the work of getting through a sticky spot. I had a chance to test this out in the LX 570 last year on off-road trails; as we descended down a rocky, rutted hillside, we put it in 4WD low and let the LX do the driving for us; all I had to do was steer (a tough job on it’s own!).
Passenger and cargo space that is just right, no matter how you slice it
The week we drove the GX460 we headed to North Carolina to visit my family. We packed up the cargo space with four suitcases, golf clubs, two tote bags, two back packs and our dog Eli’s gear and could still see out the rear window with the third row folded flat.
When we reached North Carolina my parents announced they wanted to take us on history tour in the north part of the county. With the luggage unloaded, we popped up the third row—with the push of a button, naturally— and the kids climbed into the back. They accessed the seats by walking through the center of the second row between the captains chairs. We could have also pulled the lever at the base of the second row seats (which is what you do if the second row is a bench) to slide the seat forward.
Once seated, my tall teen daughters found the third row to be comfortable with just enough room. The size of the cabin was intimate enough for us to have a conversation as we toured around but not feel as if we were crammed into a tight space.
The rear side-open gate makes cargo easy to load and reach
When we picked up the Lexus GX 460 for our trip we assembled all our gear on the driveway behind the car and then tried to open the rear gate. I poked around under the chrome bar over the license plate looking for a gate release. Nothing.
I pushed the button on the key fob. The rear window popped open, but not the gate. I searched the buttons on the dash. No luck. We scratched our heads trying to figure out how to open the gate.
Then it hit me: it’s not a lift gate, its a rear door. It opens outward, and the release is under the panel to the left of the license plate. I slid my hand under the panel and voila, the door swung open. I appreciated several things about this:
- The gate would not scrape the ceiling in my garage
- Shorter people in our group wouldn’t have trouble closing it
- Taller people in our group wouldn’t hit their heads on it
- The window made it easy to grab something out of the cargo area without everything spilling out
- The side opening door allowed me to catch a few things and push them back into the cargo space if they shifted while we were driving
Most Lexus models have a mouse-controlled infotainment system and a display-only screen; not the GX 460—yet. The infotainment center has a touch screen and functions that are accessible via buttons on either side of the screen. It’s easy to reach and use, and climate and radio controls are available via handy buttons below the screen. While I look forward to the next generation of tech, the current model feels comfortable and familiar; everything was easy to figure out.
What I didn’t love about the old school feel of the technology was there weren’t enough USB and power ports. There are not any in the second row, and only a few up front; there is a household plug in the cargo area, but that wasn’t convenient for plugging in our devices on the road.
The two USB ports and one 12V power port in the front seat are under the center stack—under the climate and infotainment system. We have a bulky adaptor with a household plug and 2 USB ports and it easily fit into the 12V port. Instantly we were all connected.
Despite the old school tech, top safety features kept us safe and alert
While the Lexus GX 460’s tech may feel old school, it’s as current as all other Lexus models; the company has long been a leader in active safety features—features that actively keep you safe on the road. The GX 460 has lane departure warning and assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitors and a nice surround view camera that made it easy to see what was around when backing.
Lexus Enform means there’s help at the push of a button
We found the radio and Bluetooth worked nicely, but I often struggle with voice-controlled navigation, including in the GX. If you’ve ever had that “I wonder what this button does?” moment, imagine it paired with “I don’t have time to pull over and search Google Maps for my destination.”
So I decided to find out what that button on the ceiling near the rear view mirror did (not the red emergency button, of course). I pushed it and a nice Lexus Enform advisor came on the speaker and asked how she could help. We asked for directions and she sent them to the navigation system. Lexus Enform also has emergency response and can help with restaurant reservations as well as a few other things. A subscription is $265 a year.
Second row captains chairs are perfect for a family of four—and my purse
I found the second row to be plenty comfortable. It’s not super roomy, but not tight either; it’s also easy to reach second row passengers from the front seat, a good thing when you have kids in car seats. I had plenty of space to pull out my laptop, plug it in and work while my husband drove; the kids could stream video on their phones (the model we test drove didn’t have an entertainment system, though that is an option for $1,970).
Due to the GX 460’s high ground clearance, it has a wide, flat center space on the floor of the second row behind the center console (often there’s a hump here that houses the rear wheel drive system); this is where I put my handbag. Without a center seat in the second row, no one had to kick, knock or climb over my handbag, which I appreciated. It sat nicely nestled right behind the center console and didn’t spill once. I appreciated that.
The car seat and stroller story: getting your gear in and out is easy
I love having an SUV or crossover when hauling kids in car seats. The hip height makes the whole job, installing the car seat and lifting a toddler— easier on your back.
I installed our car seat in the captain’s chair behind the passenger’s seat; it was super easy to install for several reasons:
- The hip height and wide opening doors made it easy to get the car seat in and out
- The captains chair made buckling the seat in easy
- The close proximity of the second row to the first made it easy to reach the car seat from the front seat
- Our stroller, which has a squarish shape when folded, fit best in the back with one of the third row seats down, which created an ideal space for it and still left plenty of room for groceries or other things. It also fit easily with the third row up or down.
For this mama bear, a drive experience that was just right
Probably the thing I like most about driving an SUV is the feeling of muscle: the capability to handle the challenges of the road, to pass 18-wheel rigs with ease, to haul or tow, and that puts me in a position up high and in command.
Often that comes in an outsized package that is also a challenge to drive. The GX 460, however, was easy to drive from the start. Its smaller size made it easy to maneuver in traffic and I never felt as if we hogged the whole lane; we had plenty of room on both sides. It was easy to park and to get in and out of, even in tight spaces. And the swing open gate was easy to manage.
I’m only sorry this one had to go back to Lexus at the end of our test drive; I can see why people keep these cars for 10 years or more.
What we loved
- True 4WD capability with crawl control
- Premium Mark Levinson sound system
Rear gate with a window that opens
- Flexible seating space with plenty of room for us and our gear
- Lexus Enform to assist with directions and reservations (1 year subscription included)
- Lots of luxury touches, such as heated and cooled front leather seats, a heated steering wheel and heated second row seats
- High ground clearance, and a running board to help getting in and out
- Smart keyless remote and start: doors open when you approach with the key in your pocket
- Center row captains chairs tilt and slide forward to access the third row, and recline to accommodate a child car seat
- Rain sensing wipers and intelligent high beam headlights that dim automatically when oncoming traffic is sensed
What you need to know
- Seats 7 or 6, but most comfortable for 4 or 5
- No USB or power ports in second or third row
- 4WD compromises fuel economy; it’s rated for 15 MPG city/20MPG highway; we averaged about 18 PMG
- Warranty: 4 years/50,000 mile basic warranty; 6 year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty
- Premium fuel recommended
- This model is due for a makeover
Our Lexus GX 460 Road Trip playlist
One of the best parts of a family road trip is the family play list; here’s what we listened to on our time in the Lexus:
Disclosure: Lexus loaned us the GX 460 for our review; all opinions expressed are my own.