What's New for 2011
After a major redesign last year, the 2011 Lexus GX 460 carries on unchanged.
Building a luxury SUV with considerable off-road chops has to be an automotive engineer's nightmare assignment. You're tasked with crafting metal, fluids, wires and hoses into something soft and pliable on-road, but unbreakable in the wild. The 2011 Lexus GX 460 is one of a handful of vehicles that excel within that considerable compromise. Like Land Rover vehicles, the Lexus benefits from proven existing DNA, notably the Toyota Land Cruiser, FJ and 4Runner legacies.
Beneath its luxury veneer, the GX 460 is still a top-class off-road truck, which is either an asset or a liability depending on your wants. Lexus engineers have taken great pains to soften the ride quality on pavement. Large adaptive stabilizer bars help minimize body roll when rounding corners and can be disengaged off-road to allow maximum suspension travel. Likewise, an adaptive suspension features three driver-selectable modes of suspension firmness.
The GX 460 offers additional off-highway composure with Crawl Control, which automatically modulates throttle and braking at one of five selectable low-speed settings, whether climbing or descending, allowing the driver to concentrate on staying on-trail. Think of it as auto-pilot for dicey situations.
The heft of hardware contributes to the GX 460 topping the scale at more than 2.5 tons. Good thing, then, that Lexus chose to outfit the vehicle with a 4.6-liter V8 generating 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque. Although not a paragon of efficiency at just 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, the GX 460 is capable of pulling a 6,500-pound load of boats, bikes, jet-skis or horses.
The reality, though, is that if you don't need the GX 460's off-road ability, a host of luxury crossover SUVs will likely suit you better. The Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class all offer equal or better luxury passage and fuel economy. For classy dirt-worthiness, the Land Rover LR4 and Mercedes-Benz G-Class are also worth consideration. But for an all-purpose family mover that can also ferry the boss and partners to lunch or the hunting lodge, the 2011 Lexus GX 460 doesn't miss.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Lexus GX 460 is a seven-passenger luxury SUV offered in base and Premium trim levels. Standard features on the base GX 460 include 18-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, running boards, a sunroof, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power-adjustable heated/ventilated front seats (with power lumbar), driver memory settings, power-folding third-row seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also standard are a back-up camera and a nine-speaker audio system with six-CD changer, Bluetooth (audio and phone), satellite radio, iPod connectivity and an auxiliary audio jack.
The GX 460 Premium adds adaptive variable suspension (with rear adjustable height control), additional chrome trim, auto-dimming sideview mirrors, adaptive xenon headlights, upgraded leather upholstery, a heated wood-trimmed steering wheel, heated second-row seats and rear air-conditioning.
Options for both models include front and rear parking sensors, wide-front and side view cameras, power-folding exterior mirrors, adaptive cruise control, Crawl Control, a hard-drive-based navigation system and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system with DVD changer. The Premium trim is also eligible for a lane-departure warning system and a driver attention monitor.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Lexus GX 460 is powered by a 4.6-liter V8 producing 301 hp and 329 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission -- the only available gearbox -- routes power to all four wheels via a dual-range transfer case. Properly equipped, the GX 460 can tow up to 6,500 pounds.
In Edmunds testing, the GX 460 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, a bit on the slow side for a V8-equipped luxury SUV. EPA fuel ratings come in at 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg in combined driving.
The 2011 Lexus GX 460 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, hill descent control, hill start assist, front- and rear-seat side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags and roll-sensing side curtain airbags spanning all three rows. A collision mitigation system is included with the optional adaptive cruise control, and lane departure and distracted driver alerts are also optional features.
In brake testing, the GX 460 slowed from 60 mph to zero in 127 feet, average for its class.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the GX 460 is upscale and assembled with precision, though the overall opulence factor isn't quite as high as we've come to expect from other Lexus vehicles. The lengthy features list translates into a somewhat busy-looking control panel, but these controls are easy to use, thanks to intuitive placement. The gauges are easily read, as is the optional navigation system.
The 60/40-split-folding rear seats and power-folding third-row seats help add convenience for most everyday suburban affairs, though we've found the second-row seats are hard, flat and not particularly comfortable. Cargo space with both rear rows lowered measures a useful 92 cubic feet. Rather than having a typical liftgate, the GX 460 comes with a swinging rear cargo door hinged on the passenger side. The design complicates curbside loading, though a flip-up rear window allows for stowing of smaller and lighter packages.
Because the 2011 Lexus GX 460 carries on as a body-on-frame SUV, it drives more like a truck than car-based crossovers. Still, the GX manages to impress with a refined, smooth ride and respectable handling. Those who take their corners with spirit will notice ample body roll and intervention from the stability control system.
The Premium trim's adaptive variable suspension and rear adjustable height control enhance versatility and convenience by allowing the driver to select a stiffer or softer suspension tuning for various conditions. These features also adjust the rear height by more than an inch for added off-road ground clearance for easier cargo loading.
Acceleration from the V8 is fine around town, but with about 5,300 pounds to lug around, the GX 460 can feel winded during highway passing maneuvers. The transmission shifts smoothly, though it can occasionally be hesitant to downshift.