The GX 460 is the oldest product in Lexus' lineup, but it found its way back into the spotlight. With overlanding gaining popularity in recent years, the GX is enjoying newfound stardom thanks to its easy-to-modify architecture, legit four-wheel-drive chops and high-quality interior. There are lifted examples all over Car Twitter. Lexus' ancient SUV is once again cool.
It seems like Lexus is finally leaning into the GX's old-school nature, too. Last year, the company created the GXOR Concept as a nod to owners who, according to Lexus, "discovered and embraced the SUV's perfect combination of ultimate luxury and unrivaled off-road capability." And for 2020, there's a new Off-Road Package which adds specific drive modes for different types of terrain, panoramic-view and under-the-car cameras, a transmission cooler, fuel tank protector and Crawl Control, which is like cruise control for super-slow off-road stuff. It's a $1,570 option that's only available on the top-tier Luxury trim, but if you're planning to venture off the beaten path in your GX -- and you really, really should -- it's a must-have.
Aside from that, the most obvious update for 2020 is, uh, that face. Lexus' oversized spindle grille is almost blown out of proportion on the GX. It's pretty bad, you guys. Thankfully, the rest of the SUV is pretty handsome, with its upright design and high-mounted taillights. My tester wears the $2,020 Sport Design Package, which adds dark-finish 19-inch wheels and some other gray body work, as well as second-row captain's chairs, which don't exactly convey "sporty," but whatever, they're nice.
Actually, the whole dang interior is nice, with soft leather surfaces and excellent fit and finish -- the kind of stuff you expect in a Lexus. The red-and-black color scheme is a bit much for my tastes, and it doesn't exactly scream "please throw all of your muddy camping gear in here," but it adds some visual flair to the otherwise straightforward cabin design. It brings the GX's cabin closer to modern times, too, especially with a redesigned three-spoke steering wheel, aluminum trim and a new backlit gauge cluster.
Headroom is ample for front and rear passengers alike, and there's even a third row of seats, though they're best left unused. The GX offers a maximum of 64.7 cubic feet of space, though it's worth noting you access the way-back through a side-hinged tailgate, so take special note before backing into a garage or squeezing into a tight parallel parking space. Old SUVs, am I right?
Speaking of old, get a load of the GX's multimedia tech. This outdated touchscreen infotainment system uses low-res graphics, it's pretty slow to respond to inputs, kind of confusing to navigate and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are nowhere to be found (Amazon Alexa integration, on the other hand, is standard). But it's not all terrible. In fact, the just-touch-what-you-want interface is far easier to use than any of Lexus' more recent setups -- you know, the stupid mouse-like joystick or, worse, the Remote Touch trackpad.
There's at least an impressive roster of driver-assistance tech, with Lexus' Safety System Plus suite fitted to every GX. This incorporates pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, automatic high-beams and adaptive cruise control, though the latter system doesn't cover a full range of speed, so don't rely on it for stop-and-go situations.
Perhaps the most important driver-assistance technologies are the ones that help the GX off-road, since this is where this SUV can really strut its stuff. The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) keeps the GX level and steady both on- and off-road, stiffening or relaxing the front and rear stabilizer bars as needed. Stiffer is better for controlled body motions on smooth pavement, while softer settings give the wheels a greater range of motion on rough terrain.
Interestingly, the majority of the GX's off-road features don't work unless you select the four-wheel-drive system's low-range, at which point you can also lock the center differential. The GX 460 has respectable off-road geometry, with approach, breakover and departure angles of 21, 21 and 23 degrees, respectively, as well as 8.1 inches of ground clearance. The GX has air suspension tech, too, but only for the rear wheels.
The moral of the story is, the GX is far more capable than you might think. Playing around at California's Hungry Valley off-road park, the Lexus happily bounds along dusty trails and scales steep grades with confident power. I wouldn't press it into service as a rock crawler -- that's what a Jeep Wrangler is for, or even a Toyota 4Runner -- but for the sort of get-off-the-map overlanding that's caused this whole resurgence in GX popularity, it's got every tool for the job.
The GX is plenty nice for commuting through civilization, too. Normal, Sport and Comfort drive modes adjust the adaptive dampers, though to be honest I can barely tell a difference. Leave it in Comfort. Go plush or go home. Besides, the relatively light steering and somewhat sluggish transmission prove the GX doesn't really want to be hustled. Instead, it's smooth, just powerful enough and the interior is nicely insulated to keep the outside world where it belongs.
Motive force comes from a 4.6-liter naturally aspirated V8, pushing out 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque, sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The GX isn't exactly quick, but a manufacturer-estimated 0-to-60-mph time of 7.8 seconds isn't pokey, either. Unfortunately, this old powerplant is pretty thirsty, with the EPA estimating you'll see 15 miles per gallon in the city, 20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined.
The 2020 GX 460 starts at $54,025 including $1,025 for destination, which positions it well below its primary large-ish luxury off-road competitor, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport ($69,945). Upper-crust versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee pose a bit of a threat, too, with the range-topping Summit coming in at $53,990. Fully loaded, the GX 460 Luxury pictured here costs $73,090.
If you don't plan to take your luxury SUV off road, the Lexus GX probably isn't for you. Car-based crossovers like the Audi Q7, BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class offer more power, better fuel economy, fresher style and significantly better tech, with more relaxed on-road manners.
But there's something oddly compelling about the archaic GX. Those who appreciate its rugged charm will find a lot to like. And hey, if one doesn't make sense right now, Lexus' proven reliability will make this GX a sweet secondhand buy when it's time to build an overlanding rig of your own.