Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: February 9, 2020
The GX is the body-on-frame dinosaur that refuses to die, and still manages to sell despite its poor fuel economy, aging V8 engine that produces barely 300 horsepower, and dated interior with infotainment graphics from the early 2000s. Yet, the same could be said for other fermenting SUVs like the Lexus LX, Toyota 4Runner, and Infiniti QX80, and all three are equally as attractive to consumers shopping in 2020. It’s not like the entrance fee for this gargantuan GX 460 comes cheap either. Starting at $75,950, the GX 460 only comes with one available package, the $6,000 Executive option that adds a transmission fluid cooler, rear seat entertainment system, five-stage crawl control, selectable multi-terrain off-road modes, 19-inch wheels, and a cooler box located in the front center console. So what gives these fossilized gems such an overwhelming fanbase?
We spent a week with the 2020 Lexus GX 460 to try and understand just that. First let’s go over what Lexus has done to try and modernize it for 2020. The GX receives Lexus’s signature spindle grill flanked by new LED head- and tail-lights, finally giving this large SUV a somewhat modern aesthetic, from the front end at least. The back doesn’t even try, and the lack of a night and day difference can make it difficult to spot the changes in the wild.
The interior takes on a larger update with a new leather and wood-trimmed steering wheel borrowed from the RX, a new leather-wrapped shift knob, a 4.2-inch digital screen in the instrument cluster, and an additional USB port up front. These upgrades join the semi-aniline leather surfaces, heated and ventilated seats, power-folding second and third row seats, seven-seater capability, and every safety feature in the book for no extra charge.
But the largest addition to the GX is what lies under the skin, now with standard off-roading equipment such as Multi-Terrain Monitor with Underfloor View and Bird’s Eye View Monitor, essentially allowing drivers to see a full view around the GX via the center display, useful when navigating over rough terrain or simply into a tight parking spot. Our bets are on the latter situation. Good thing then, that the camera views can be quickly summoned by a simple push of a button to the left of the instrument binnacle.
Opting for the Executive package will add a new five-stage crawl control system, replacing the outgoing three-stage. Think of it like a low-speed cruise control. Crawl Control essentially takes over the throttle and brakes to maintain the optimum speed and pace over challenging terrain, letting drivers pay more attention to the steering and utilize the new camera systems. A two-speed transfer case with low range is also equipped, as is a lockable center differential for sticky situations.
The powertrain remains largely unchanged, so the -460 suffix that comes after GX actually makes sense. That means it's powered by a 4.6-litre V8, and punches out 301 hp and 329 lb-ft through a 6-speed automatic transmission and a full-time 4WD system. The V8 emits a stereotypically heavy puff on ignition, and offers good low-range power but it’s painfully slow if you ask anything more of it. 300 horses is barely sufficient for the weight the GX has to manage. We did not have a chance to take the GX through an off-road area, so we can’t attest to its new Crawl Control and all-terrain capabilities - they might be a bit of overkill for the concrete jungle anyways, but there’s nothing that sells better than an overwhelming safety net for traction. We can however, report back on its on-road mannerisms, which should apply to the majority of GX owners.
The high seating position is a big seller, allowing drivers to feel isolated from the road with a clear view of what’s ahead. The GX rides exactly like every other body-on-frame SUV, quivering with large pavement disturbances but are ironed out nicely to not disturb the fluidity of the drive. You still get those occasional chassis wiggles as the large wheels sort out the loads, but it’s otherwise a calm and collected high-seated ride. The adaptive air suspension offers a floaty feeling too, and users can tailor that by selecting via Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes. Given its body-on-frame foundation and aging architecture, it still handles wonderfully with grounded road manners. Body lean is as apparent as ever, and is nowhere near as stable on the road as a Land Rover Discovery. Though, heavy braking and hard acceleration does not pitch the nose as much as we would have thought.
With the 2020 revisions, the GX now offers an impeccably soft and tranquil Lexus interior with beautiful analog gauges and sturdy plastics that are convincingly premium. The switchgear feels a grade above the Cadillac Escalade, especially the toggles for the crawl control, suspension comfort, and air suspension height. We love the new steering wheel too, and that adoration extends to the meticulous wood detailing all across the cabin. The semi-aniline leather isn’t as soft as a QX80’s, but still supple enough to feel like Lexus did not cheap out.
Yet, it’s like Lexus decided to update everything, then went for lunch and forgot to even touch the center stack. It’s got one of those old school alarm-clock read-outs that displays the time and temperature - when was the last time you’ve seen one of those in a 2020 vehicle. At least the LX 570 makes do with an analog clock. The touchscreen unit pulls disappointingly low-resolution graphics but it comes with a shallow learning curve - opposite of the frustrating touchpad in the RX. Furthemore, despite its sizable dimensions, the GX is not as spacious or as wide as you might expect from the inside. Relatively cramped with the heightened seat, narrow foot well, and limited front windscreen, the best we can say is it’s a cozy and intimate place.
There isn’t much here that makes me want a GX over the smaller RX. If you need extra room, why not the RX L instead with the optional third row. Of course, the GX is more attractive for the added towing capacity, sturdy frame for the off-road excursion, or if you just adore its rugged traditional looks. The side-swinging trunk door is neat too, much like it is on the Ford EcoSport. That, or you want a fuel-sipping V8 in your life, which only takes premium 91-octane fuel by the way, albeit not a very powerful one. You can see where I’m going with this. I would even recommend the more expensive and larger LX 570 instead, as it has the better looks and interior that clearly belong in the 21st century.
The GX is a substantial but fossilized SUV with exceptional ride comfort, road presence, towing capacity, and proper cabin luxury. It’s got an authentic vibe, now with more off-road cred than ever, but it’s barely floating at this point to even be considered competitive due to its poor fuel economy, lacklustre engine output, and less-than-competitive price tag. Still, there are enough quirks about it, along with an impressive reliability track record, to keep its head above water. Teaching an old dog new tricks only gets you so far but for the Lexus GX 460, it works, for now.
Model: 2020 Lexus GX 460 Executive
Paint Type: Atomic Silver
Base Price: $75,950
Price as Tested: $81,950
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,805 / 1,885 / 1,875
Curb weight (kg): 2,349
Engine: 4.6-litre V8
Horsepower: 301 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 329 lb-ft @ 3,400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4WD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 16.2 / 12.3 / 14.5
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 17.5