First Drive: 2010 Lexus GX 460
For those who feared that the Lexus GX would go soft and join the ranks of the unibody RX, you can rest easy. At a time when the crossover seems to have taken over the SUV world, the 2010 Lexus GX 460 didn't give in to the trend. Undergoing its first major redesign since it was introduced in 2002, the GX continues on as a body-on-frame vehicle, sharing its highly revised platform with the new-for-2010 4Runner.
While the new GX's dimensions have changed slightly, its wheelbase remains identical to what it has been since the 2003 model year. Overall length is up one inch due to a longer front overhang, it's also 0.2 inch wider, and, even though ground clearance remains unchanged (on Premium models), overall height is down 2.5 to 2.9 inches depending on model. And despite the fact that the GX's wheelbase is the same as that of the 4Runner, the Toyota is longer, about an inch and a half wider and lower, and its track is nearly an inch wider.
Even though a lot is shared underneath, you can't tell from looking at them that the Toyota and Lexus are related. The new GX looks significantly different from the earlier GX as well, with its most noticeable new styling cue being the exaggerated rear fender flares which look as if they were pulled from the LX 570. The front fascia has been cleaned up, the roof rack made smoother and more aerodynamic (cross rails are now a dealer option), and the rear end is cleaner and less cluttered. Both the door handle and window button for the rear cargo door are hidden (even the rear wiper is now out of sight), tucked neatly under the rear spoiler. Overall, the GX looks more sculpted, more muscular.
The GX's cargo door still opens with the handle on the left side, opening to the right; the problem with this style of door is that when the vehicle is parked by a curb and someone is unloading gear, they have to walk all the way around the open door (and closer to traffic). If it opened right to left instead, anyone who got something out of the cargo area would be better shielded from other vehicles on the road. You can, however, stow gear in back through the rear glass, which can be opened with a push of the button near the bottom left corner of the glass or via the key fob.
A big difference for 2010 -- and the reason why the vehicle's name changed -- is under the hood. The GX 460's sole motivator is a V-8, a version of the 4.6-liter engine first introduced in the 2010 Toyota Tundra. (The new 4Runner comes with a choice of either an inline-four or V-6 with no V-8 option.) Intake and exhaust routing are different from the Tundra's, as is lubrication, and in the GX it puts out 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque (310/327 in the Tundra). And, just as the swap from the 4.7-liter to the 4.6 in the Tundra netted more power and torque plus improved fuel economy, in the GX, horsepower is up 38, torque is up by six, and fuel economy has gone from 14 city/18 highway to 15/20 mpg. The new engine is backed by a six-speed automatic, as opposed to the first-gen GX's five-speed, and Lexus estimates 0-60 times at 7.8 seconds, 0.3-sec faster than the outgoing model. The new powertrain is excellent; although base curb weight has gone up about 450 pounds because of the addition of several standard features. Acceleration is quick, and there is no trouble getting up to speed or climbing steep hills. Shifts are smooth, and there is no hunting on grades. Even with the added power, though, there is no question this is a substantial vehicle, and the 4.7's 263 horses would have been taxed lugging around the added weight that comes with the new model. The added power will most certainly also be welcomed when owners use this vehicle to tow. Maximum towing capacity for the GX remains at 6500 pounds.
The GX's off-road pedigree remains intact for 2010, with some notable changes. It's still touting an independent coil-spring suspension in front and a live-axle rear, and its Torsen center differential continues to distribute torque front and rear (typically 40/60 in a straight line). Standard rear suspension is a four-link with coil springs, and premium models have pneumatic cylinders (air suspension) in place of the coils. However, new for 2010 is an electronically controlled transfer case, operated through a toggle button near the transmission gear selector; the shift lever is gone.
The driver can choose high or low range, plus there's a diff lock button. Crawl Control is available for the first time in the GX; you can set it to keep the vehicle at ultra low crawling speeds (five settings between one and 3.7 mph) while off-road. In addition, the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which was optional last year, is now standard equipment. Off-road, it disconnects the anti-roll bars, increasing wheel travel and articulation; on the road, the bars are connected hydraulically, improving handling. It's said to reduce body roll by as much as 50 percent. During our mild off-roading, we found the vehicle to be confident in the dirt. On the highway, the GX's ride is comfortable, and it handles well in the turns. It doesn't have the same level of ride comfort as a crossover, (but it's closer than you might think), and you will feel some bumps here and there. Another cool feature for off-roaders: the optional wide-view front and side monitor, which displays in the 8.0-inch touchscreen nav, uses cameras in the grille and under the passenger-side mirror to aid parking. However, you can set it to automatically stay on at speeds below six mph, especially useful if you're trying to get around rocks and debris while on the trail.
Lexus has redesigned the GX's interior, using new colors throughout plus a new wood color on the door and dash. The overall look of the center stack and center console area is cleaner and more elegant than before. All of the controls are easy to use, and liberal use of sound deadening material makes the cabin pleasantly quiet. The standard audio has nine speakers and an in-dash six-disc CD changer, USB/iPod port, and XM satellite radio; a 17-speaker, 7.1 channel Mark Levinson system is available, as is a rear entertainment system. Navigation is optional, and Lexus offers three-zone climate control. Front seats come standard with heat and ventilation, and both are 10-way power adjustable. The second row can manually slide to make it easier to get into or out of the third row; it also reclines and folds and heated seats are optional. The third row is now standard equipment, and for the first time, is a power-fold row. Most interior dimensions have gone down slightly, but legroom has improved in the second row. In the third row, despite the fact that you're sitting over the rear axle (which keeps your knees high), legroom has gotten a lot better. Cargo volume is lower than last year, but that's mainly because you can no longer remove the fold-flat third row. Folding the seventh and eighth seats is a snap; just push the buttons on the D-pillar to lower both, or you can lower them independently.
The GX boasts several standard safety features: 10 airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control, traction control, hill-start assist, downhill assist, a backup camera, and tire-pressure monitoring. Intelligent high beams come with the premium model, and other available safety options include dynamic radar cruise control and lane departure alert.
The demand for body-on-frame SUVs has gone down dramatically. With that change in the market, Lexus' sales goals for the new model are about 25 percent of the market segment, or about 14,000 models for 2010. There are still buyers out there who want the comfort of a midsize luxury SUV, plus off-road capability, towing capacity, and three-row seating. This is a vehicle that caters to that group, and does so better than ever before.
|2010 Lexus GX 460|
|Base price range||$52,845-$57,640|
|Price as tested||$60,000 (Premium, est)|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, 4WD, 8-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||4.6L/301-hp/329-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|Curb weight||5300-5350 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||189.2 x 74.2 x 72.6 in|
|0-60 mph||7.8 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||15/20 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||1.13 lb/mile|
|On sale in U.S.||December 2009|