2016 Lexus GX 460: 4WD Shelter in a Storm

By Frank A. Aukofer, April 30th, 2016

In the big snowstorms of 2016, some motorists were fortunate enough to be driving something like the Lexus GX 460. This is exactly the sort of vehicle everyone would want in the foulest of weather. It's big, powerful, and brutish with full-time four-wheel drive, fat tires on 19-inch wheels, and more than 8 inches of ground clearance.

Where other auto manufacturers have moved increasingly toward car-based unibody SUVs -- widely know as "crossovers" -- Lexus has stuck with a truck-based body-on-frame design for its larger model, although its smaller RX is a car-based crossover.

Since it first appeared in 2002, the GX 460 has changed little -- immediately recognized by its boxy, tall, and narrow appearance going and coming. Despite its utilitarian orientation, GX 460 is infused with the tasteful interior luxury that characterizes Lexus sedans. That's particularly true of the 2016 GX 460 Luxury model tested for this report.

The interior features perforated leather upholstery with heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, leather and wood trim, a mahogany and leather steering wheel, a big motorized glass sunroof and, most of all, quality workmanship.

A big touchscreen controls the navigation and audio systems, and a set of toggle switches on the console control ride height, sport or comfort ride, and low and high ranges for the all-wheel drive. It also boasts power-folding outside mirrors, windshield de-icer, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, and a garage door opener.

A long list of safety equipment includes automatic collision warning, brake force distribution, brake assist, and trailer sway mitigation. The GX 460 can tow up to 6,500 pounds.

Unfortunately, with a base price of $62,455 and a delivered price of $68,765 with options, this is not a vehicle for the masses. Fortunately, Toyota also sells the truck-based 4Runner, which is built off the same platform as the GX 460. It's Spartan compared to the GX 460, but has a starting price of $39,995 for the Premium version.

The GX 460 is a seven-passenger SUV, though it's more useful and comfortable as a five-passenger vehicle. There are two vestigial third-row seats that can accommodate munchkins and small children. They are power operated, so it's easy to raise them from the cargo floor, although you must first detach a heavy and clunky cargo cover and stash it somewhere.

The downside of using the third row is that it takes up all but a small sliver of cargo space, so if you plan on transporting seven people you'd better figure on carrying the luggage on the roof. Lexus lists the cargo space behind the third row at an optimistic 12 cubic feet, but if you fold both the second and third rows, it expands to 65 cubic feet.

On earlier GX 460 models, the third row seats folded up to the sides of the interior, which provided a bit more cargo space than the current seats. Depending on your preferences, you might like or dislike the rear door, which swings open from the left side instead of raising up like typical SUV hatchback.

On the road, the GX 460 combines decent handling with a good ride, thanks mainly to a suspension system that adapts to street and highway surfaces, and a rear air suspension with automatic load leveling.

The mighty 301-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 engine with 329 lb.-ft. of torque never feels shortchanged; power is delivered to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly with no hiccups.

Overall, no matter what the outside conditions, the GX 460 is every bit a Lexus. Passengers ride in a cocoon of capability and relaxed comfort with little intrusion of unwanted noise

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