Luxury Hauling, Lexus Style

If plenty of seating and towing are requirements, the GX460 is a sound choice.

With all the SUVs and crossover choices in today’s marketplace, there’s a vehicle that should meet nearly any buyer’s wish list. If three rows of seating are required, lots of solutions exist, from minivans to giant SUVs. But after loading up the family you need to haul a 6,500-pound trailer that everyone can sleep in, the list gets dramatically shorter. Then to shrink the choice further, let’s add off-road capability along with premium luxury.

Balance of Size and Capability

Once upon a time, before Lexus launched its wildly popular RX model, SUVs were developed from truck architecture. That design isn’t nearly as accommodating as the unibody structure of used to produce modern passenger cars, but for towing and off-road prowling, body-over-frame is still hard to beat for rugged capability.

For those who want truck-like toughness with the velvet glove of luxury in a size that fits in a normal garage, the Lexus GX460 has become a popular choice. While it’s a bit less capable than Lexus’ flagship LX570, it comes perilously close to matching up in every important category and whips the big sibling’s window sticker by at least $20-grand.

Smooth Moves

During my week in the GX460 Luxury edition, I didn’t require towing, off-road rock crawling or loading freight and passengers. I did make time to drive on a variety of public roads and highways. In this light duty, the GX has all that feel of substance and a high perch that work to disconnect occupants from the trials of today’s tribulations. But it goes about this task without giving up reasonable response to the driver’s inputs. Our Luxury model’s Adaptive Variable Suspension delivered limousine smoothness over a variety of road surfaces.

All GX460 models are powered by smooth 4.6-liter V8 engine bolted to a six-speed sequential shift transmission and connected to all four wheels by a Torsen limited-slip center differential with high/low ranges and electronic locking. It’s a combination that begs for off road challenge and will do just fine when the ski cabin gets snowed in. The downside of this powerful capability is an appetite for premium petrol, with fuel economy in the teens.

Inside Job

GX460 operators enjoy a lovely soft leather chair-like perch facing an instrument and infotainment layout that’s traditional yet up-to-date. The Lexus Enform user interface has improved a bit each year, but it’s still a bit quirky for my touch and I do miss Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, a feature set that’s worked its way into Lexus sedans and smaller SUVs. On the plus side, the 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system is brilliant and still has CD and DVD disc capability that’s mostly missing in rival offerings. It’s well worth the $1,195 option.

Mid row passengers are well accommodated in soft leather seating, complete with armrests. But that third row is best deployed for short trips with kids or short-statured adults with a good sense of humor. Again, this Lexus is all about balance, luxury with off-road capability in a rather reasonable footprint.

THE FINE PRINT

2020 Lexus GX460 Luxury

TYPE:  Front engine, all-wheel-drive

ENGINE:  4.6-liter V8

HORSEPOWER:  301 @ 5,500-RPM

TORQUE:  329 lb.ft. @ 3,500-RPM

BASE PRICE: $64,295

PRICE AS TESTED:  $73,090

FUEL CONSUMPTION:  15-city, 19-highway, 16-combined