2010 Lexus GX 460Posted on November 23rd, 2009
Second-generation model gets standard third-row seating
By Nina Russin
The GX is the mama bear of the Lexus sport-utility family, positioned between the compact RX and full-sized LX. Structurally, it’s closer to the LX: a body-on-frame truck designed to go off-road and tow heavy loads. While the unibody RX is engineered for optimum on-road performance, the GX has a two-speed transfer case for extreme off-road terrain.
The first-generation GX, that rolled out in 2002, gave active families a less expensive alternative to the high-luxury LX, with better fuel economy. The second-generation model that arrives in dealerships in January features a new V8 engine, similar to the base engine in the current Tundra pickup. A six-speed automatic transmission replaces a five-speed gearbox on the original model, for better fuel economy and launch characteristics.
EPA statistics for the new model show a two gallon-per-mile fuel economy improvement over the GX 470. On my 35 mile test drive, including surface streets, highway and dirt roads, the average gas mileage was 17.8 mpg: almost a gallon better than the EPA estimate.
Lexus’ kinetic dynamic suspension system gives the GX a surprisingly smooth ride. The system can electronically decouple the front and rear sway bars to maximize wheel travel on off-road trails. On paved roads, the technology prevents the chatter common to body-on-frame trucks with live rear axles.
A new available crawl control system replaces hill descent control on the outgoing model. The driver uses a toggle switch on the center console to vary the crawling speed between 1 and 3.7 miles-per-hour, according to the terrain.
Inside, the GX 460 comes with a standard third-row seat: in the original model, the rear seat was optional. Power switches next to the tailgate fold the rear seats into the cargo floor. Second-row seats also fold flat in a 60/40 pattern, to create a load floor long enough for a couple of bicycles.
Lexus is making its newest perimeter sensing and navigation technology available to GX 460 buyers. All models come with a standard rearview camera and audible obstacle detection. Buyers who opt for the navigation package can add the wide-view front and side monitor that debuted in the Lexus HS 250h.
Pre-collision and adaptive radar cruise control, technologies that came available in the middle of the original model’s cycle, are available on the new GX from rollout. The adaptive radar cruise control allows the driver to select a following distance from the vehicle in front, reducing fatigue and enhancing fuel economy on urban highways.
Test drive in San Diego
I had a chance to drive the new GX 460 at a recent media event in San Diego. The 2010 GX comes in two grades: a base model priced from $51,970, and the premium grade that starts at $56,765. I drove the premium grade, equipped with navigation and Lexus Enform: a telematics system.
The new model is slightly longer and wider than the original GX. It’s also lower by about three inches. The lower center of gravity improves on-road performance and fuel economy.
A recessed roof rail design allowed engineers to maintain good headroom, without hurting the truck’s coefficient of drag. Designers added a standard rear spoiler, which conceals the rear wiper and several antennas.
Intelligent high beam headlamps, available on the premium grade, dim automatically when a car approaches from the opposite direction. Standard LED tail lamps and brake lights on all models are brighter, and easier for driver in surrounding vehicles to see. Keyless entry and start are standard on all models, adding a measure of safety after dark.
Standard 18-inch wheels dress up the exterior and give the GX an ample footprint. Minimum ground clearance is 8.07 inches for the base model and 8.3 inches for the premium grade: plenty to clear obstacles on off-road trails. The GX 460 tows up to 6500 pounds: well above our ALV minimum standard.
Passenger car ride and handling
Engineers did a good job of tuning the new GX for on-road performance. As with all Lexus products, the GX interior is extremely quiet, with no obvious noise from the engine bay, tires, windshield or side mirrors.
The GX is a heavy truck: curb weight for the premium model is 5,340 pounds. Considering that, the new 4.6-liter engine provides remarkably good acceleration in the 20-to-60 mile-per-hour range. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is .3 seconds faster than for the previous model, which had a larger displacement engine.
There is plenty of power on the high end to pass slower vehicles at speed, even on an uphill grade. Standard four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.
The GX 460 has a high cowl, which obstructed my forward view. I also had to look up and over large outside mirror when I cornered to the left.
Thick rear pillars create large blind spots in the back. Fortunately, the standard rearview camera projects a wide angle image to the rear when the driver shifts into reverse. Thanks to the camera, the GX 460 is as easy to park as a passenger car.
Steering feedback is good at all speeds. The chassis stays flat while cornering, even at high speeds. Taking some wide sweeping turns on the 15 freeway north of San Diego, I felt well in control of the vehicle.
While our drive route didn’t include any extreme off-road trails, we were able to take the GX 460 onto some graded dirt roads. This was the best chance to experience Lexus’ kinetic dynamic suspension system. On bumpy roads, the system gives the truck better wheel travel to keep the chassis stable.
Standard third-row seats make the new GX more versatile than the model it replaces. A lever next to the second- row seat cushions tilts the seats forward for good access and egress to the back. While the rear seats don’t have a tremendous amount of head and legroom, a small adult can ride in them on short trips.
Second-row seats are wider in the outboard positions, with a narrow seat in the middle. I was surprised at how comfortable I found the middle seat. A relatively low floor tunnel provides the center passenger with a moderate amount of legroom. The second row seatback folds down to create an armrest with cupholders for the outboard passengers.
Four ceiling vents circulate air through the back of the cabin. Controls for the rear air conditioning system are located behind the center console. Screens for the rear seat entertainment system are in the front row seatbacks.
Up front, seat position memory controls allow multiple drivers to share the car. There is plenty of storage space around all rows of passengers, including bottle holders in all four doors. A large center console bin can easily accommodate a small pack. A locking glovebox provides secure storage at the trailhead.
All of the four-wheel drive controls are located on the center console, next to the shift lever. A twelve-volt power point, USB and auxiliary ports are located at the base of the center stack. Temperature, audio and navigation controls on the center stack are intuitive to operate.
Redundant volume, media and Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. The overhead console comes standard with a combination sunglass holder and conversation mirror, so parents can keep an eye on the kids in back. A power sunroof brings extra ambient light into the interior.
Both the second and third-row seats fold flat to create an expansive cargo floor that easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards. The rear gate opens to the side: a much easier configuration for smaller drivers to operate than a liftgate. The rear glass can open separately, to load in small cargo. A locking strut keeps the tailgate from swinging shut.
All models come standard with electronic stability control, four-channel antilock brakes, a rearview camera, active front headrests, ten airbags, and safety connect, which automatically notifies the police and emergency medical personnel in the event of an accident.
Lexus builds the GX 460 at its Tahara, Japan assembly plant.
Likes: A versatile, capable sport-utility vehicle with a cavernous cargo area, excellent on and off-road performance. Lexus has added important standard safety features, including ten airbags and a rearview camera, for the second-generation model.
Dislikes: High cowl limits forward visbility. Thick rear pillars create blind spots in the back corners.
Model: GX 460
Base price: $51,970
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 301 Hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 329 lbs.-ft. @ 3500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.8 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 15/20 mpg city/highway
Comments: The manufacturer recommends the use of 91 octane fuel.
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