Let’s get the important part out of the way: There is virtually no good reason to buy the Lexus GX 460 over any other luxury SUV. Lexus still sells the body-on-frame monster as a brand new car, even though the model has soldiered on largely unchanged since 2009. That’s the same year President Obama took office – in his first term. The car we drove for this review costs over $71,000, and your money does not go very far.
But with all that huffing and puffing, there’s no denying that this big bruiser has some allure to its name, despite its age (Lexus has refreshed it twice, in 2014 and now for 2020, since its debut). Most new SUVs look and drive like total spaceships compared to the GX. For customers who just want a comfortable luxury SUV that will last for years and years and is capable as all get out, this is a vehicle worth considering. Beyond that small faction of buyers, however, simple and charming don’t outweigh stupid.
Modern vehicles leave the factory packed to the brim with technology because the majority of customers demand it . As the average cost of a new vehicle climbs upward, the expectation is that more comes in return, and rightfully so.
In the three-row luxury SUV segment, each of the establishment offerings like the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and Audi Q7 fill out the wish lists of shoppers with the latest in tech and hardware. Multiple, large information displays? Yep. Several engine choices, including turbocharged or mild-hybrid options? Of course. Not to mention the growing list of desirable active safety features like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control with stop and go. If you’re willing to pay for it, these cars will provide… unless we’re talking about the Lexus GX.
The whole tech setup looks dated as hell, but there is zero learning curve.
A friend described the interior best when she threw open the door and exclaimed “Whoa, throwback!” Sitting atop the uncluttered center stack is an 8.0-inch touchscreen display. Normally this is where we’d mention a digital instrument cluster to work with it or a smaller screen that features the HVAC controls. Nope, not here.
To its credit, the Lexus has big, easy-to-use buttons and knobs for controlling things like the temperature or turning up the volume. The whole setup looks dated as hell, but there is zero learning curve. That’s not something said too often when reviewing modern vehicles.
As for the touchscreen navigation system itself, it actually takes time to fire up and work, just like your PC in 2005. The navigation layout is slow when responding to touch inputs, and it offers grainy, almost cartoonish graphics. Worst of all, the system doesn’t accommodate Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, so you’re stuck with the native content, and it’s rough.
The simple mantra extends under the hood, too, with a good-ol’ naturally aspirated 4.6-liter V8. Even with the company’s emphasis on hybrid tech elsewhere in the lineup, this is the GX’s only engine, and it works with an equally old-school six-speed automatic. In practice, the burly V8 is actually quite nice. It’s smooth and strong, with a fun engine note that comes alive when your foot demands it. Power is linear but not abundant; 306 horsepower and 321 pound-feet are just enough to get the 5,100-pound behemoth on the move.
Bad news, though. The massive weight from the body-on-frame setup results in truly appalling gas mileage: 15 city, 19 highway, and 16 combined. Each of the aforementioned German rivals achieve 21 mpg combined or better. The Lexus’s V8 is built strong and works well, but its lack of electric assist or downsized forced induction punishes you at the pump.
Overlook the obvious flaws, and the GX 460 knows how to turn on the charm. There are some excellent character traits that we just can’t take away from this car, chief among which is comfort. The folks at Lexus have always known how to design a relaxing cabin and the GX is no exception. Every major touchpoint is covered in soft leather or super high-gloss wood, including the dash, center console, and door panels. Complete with heating and ventilation, the front seats are wonderful, with extra surface area for bigger passengers and plenty of support.
The same goes for the second and third rows, although legroom becomes more scarce the further back you go. Press a button and the power-folding third row vanishes into the floor, leaving 46.7 cubic feet of cargo space, which is much better than the 11.6 cubes with all three rows up. Nothing about the cabin feels new or innovative, but it’s an undeniably comfortable place to be, that might surprise some considering the GX’s tank-like exterior.
Even with off-road chops that mirror those of its 4Runner cousin, the GX is leaps and bounds more comfortable on the road.
Let’s not forget that this car is sold as the Land Cruiser Prado abroad, and it includes high-travel shocks and a rear air suspension that self-levels. The GX also features full-time four-wheel drive with a low-range gearbox and crawl control. This vehicle is arguably more capable off-road than even a Range Rover Sport, and if we’re being honest, it’s probably way more durable too.
Even with off-road chops that mirror those of its 4Runner cousin (despite the Lexus' lower ground clearance), the GX is leaps and bounds more comfortable on the road. With the adjustable dampers set to Comfort, the GX soaks up just about every protest that the pavement has to offer. Road and wind noise management is among the best of any SUV on the road today, with the only major sound intrusion coming from the growling V8.
Take the GX460 off-road, or even on road surfaces that feel like they should be off-road, and it makes sense. The Lexus’s pleasant, controlled driving character and luxurious cabin trimmings are the most charming things about it. But that doesn’t equate to a good value.
Using such a word is obviously not kind in evaluating a vehicle, but that’s exactly what we’re left with. The Lexus GX 460 is not worth the money, period. Starting at $53,100, the GX is within only a few grand of all of its closest competition but has only a fraction of the offerings.
There’s a tangible likability to the GX, filled with its retro cues and buttery-soft interior. But everything that we like about this car now we will still like in 10 years, when it commands half the price on the pre-owned market. Take your $60,000 and go buy something – literally anything – else for the role of daily-driver crossover. And then down the road, if a capable weekend warrior SUV is calling your name, there will be plenty of GXs ripe for the taking.
Gallery: 2020 Lexus GX460: Review
2020 Lexus GX460 Luxury