2011 Lexus GX 460
Overcautious and underdone

WE LIKE: Comfortable ride, excellent new engine.
WE DON'T LIKE: Intrusive ESC, awkward third row.

When Lexus announced there would be a new GX coming, we wondered what that would mean. Would it get the company's new 4.6-liter V-8?

Would it become a crossover?

Yes, and no. The GX 460 returns with new LX 570-like styling on a highly revised version of the previous GX's body-on-frame architecture. As most of the sport/utility market has turned toward car-based models, the Lexus is one of the remaining few that promises off-road capability and backs it up with genuine trail cred.

This SUV has a solid rear axle, adjustable-height suspension, full-time four-wheel drive with low range and lockable Torsen center differential, hill-start assist, and downhill assist, plus available crawl control. And, unlike crossovers, this SUV can tow 6500 pounds.

That the name changed from GX 470 to 460 is not a demotion, by any means. It reflects use of the new 4.6-liter V-8, which weighs less than the outgoing 4.7 and offers 38 more horsepower, 6 pound-feet more torque, and better fuel economy. It brought the GX 460 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and through the quarter mile in 15.4 seconds at 89.7 mph.

It's backed by a six-speed automatic transmission, which has one more cog than in the previous generation. While the new GX weighs nearly 500 pounds more than it did the year before, the sole engine choice puts out plenty of power to move 5112 pounds' worth of metal.

As capable as the GX is, though, when it came to its luxury vehicle status, the judges' opinions were mixed. Its ride is comfortable in a straight line, but in sharp turns, the stability control gets nervous and intrusive. There's room for improvement in the cabin, too. The third row could use a little more room and easier access, and the bottom cushions in the second row were flat and lacked thigh support.

Even though there are plenty of creature comforts, as well as a full array of safety equipment, that wasn't enough to sway the judges into voting for the Lexus as the Sport/Utility of the Year. - Allyson Harwood

2011 Lexus GX 460
Base price $53,220
Price as tested $57,619
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 4.6L/301-hp/329-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 5112 lb (52/48%)
Wheelbase 109.8 in
Length x width x height 189.2 x 74.2 x 72.6 in
0-60 mph 6.9 sec
Quarter mile 15.4 sec @ 89.7 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 117 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.73 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.3 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 15/20 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.15 lb/mile
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
VALUE ****
Capable off-road, lacks polish on the highway.