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Friday, February 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

2019 Lexus GX 460: Three-row sport-ute transcends its truck roots

In a world teeming with car-based crossovers, Lexus’s GX460 takes a stand on the side of trucks.

Like the Toyota 4Runner it’s based on, the three-row GX is all truck. It rides on a rugged ladder-frame chassis and standard kit includes a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case and locking center differential.

And, though other rigs top its 6,500-pound tow capacity, the GX ($52,355) serves nicely as a well-equipped, well-appointed tow vehicle.

Its truck roots notwithstanding, the big ute is roomy, comfortable and stylish. It seats up to seven in a cabin stocked with creature comforts. Aside from an abundance of hard plastics, materials quality and fit-and-finish are first-rate.

User-friendly infotainment

Seating is a mixed bag. One sits lower to the floor than in most rigs but the front seats are large and supportive and it’s easy to find a good driving position. The second-row bench is also low, and it lacks the supportive bottom cushions found up front. Available second-row captain’s chairs offer a more comfortable alternative.

The kids-only third-row bench feels like an afterthought.

The GS’s infotainment system is unusually user-friendly, with logical menus and a mix of virtual and literal buttons and knobs. Details include an 8-inch touchscreen, a pair of USB ports, Bluetooth, and a nine-speaker sound system with a CD player and satellite and HD radio. 

Standard gear includes dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated-leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, driver-seat memory, a power-adjustable steering column, a 40/20/40-split second-row seat that slides, reclines and folds and a 50/50-split folding third-row seat. 

Excellent ride, so-so handling 

The Luxury trim ($63,755), which we tested, adds adaptive suspension damping, auto-leveling rear air springs, semi-aniline leather upholstery, a power-folding third-row bench, a heated wood-trimmed steering wheel and blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert. 

A Driver Support package ($2,340) brought a flurry of desirable features: dynamic cruise control, lane-departure alert, automatic high-beam headlights, a pre-collision system, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system and a crawl control feature for the 4WD system.

In the face of all this goodness, though, there’s no forgetting you’re driving a truck: the GX is tall and heavy and cumbersome in the corners. Still, its hard-working suspension produces a civilized ride while tamping down unwanted body motions.

Sophisticated 4WD system is standard

In town, the GX’s suspension absorbs garden-variety bumps and potholes and isolates occupants from the impact. On the open road, the GX feels settled and stable.

Its limits are most apparent on country two-lanes, where bends and undulating road surfaces can induce body lean and lateral sway. Still, it remains composed and steady.

Steering feel is well weighted but is neither precise nor communicative. It has a solid on-center groove, though, and the Lexus tracks well in its lane.

Under most conditions, the center differential distributes power 40 front/60 rear and the ratio changes as wheel slip occurs. The system has a low range for slow-speed off-roading, and the center diff can be electronically locked for maximum traction at low speeds. 

A slate of standard traction-assist features —  downhill and hill-start assist, active traction control and vehicle stability control — bolster off-road performance.

Smooth, silent and thirsty

Every GX is powered by a 4.6-liter V-8 that makes 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that makes smooth and quick shifts. The V-8 accelerates smoothly and silently but the 5,400-pound GX gives it all it can handle.

The GX runs the 0-60 sprint in 7-seconds-plus, which isn’t horrible, but neither is it quick. On the upside, a GX towing a 5,000-pound trailer can run the 0-60 sprint in a quick 16.2 seconds.

The eight needs premium fuel and delivers a meager 16 mpg combined fuel economy (15 city/18 highway). 

A niche vehicle like the GX serves buyers who have unique expectations. And though it can’t be all things to all people, this slick ute from Lexus covers expectations and then some.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2019 Lexus GX 460 Luxury
Vehicle base price: $52,355
Trim level base price: $63,555
As tested: $66,920 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Mark Levinson audio; pre-collision system with driver-attention monitor; dynamic radar cruise control; lane-departure alert; automatic high-beam headlights; wide-view front and side monitor; crawl control.
Tow rating: 6,500 pounds
EPA rating: 16 combined/15 city/18 highway
Premium fuel specified
 



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.