By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 6.2
The 2015 Lexus GX 460 has a personality that makes it stand apart from most 3-row luxury SUVs. Actually it's more like a split personality that embodies the plush accommodations associated with every Lexus, and the 4-wheel-drive capability to venture where few of its peers would dare. While rivals such as the BMW X5, Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60 and Audi Q7 are tailored for sedan-like on-road performance, the V8-powered Lexus GX has truck-like construction for excellent off-road performance. That makes the GX somewhat of a compromise in the city, where its ride is less forgiving. But for adventure seekers looking for a 7-passenger SUV that's luxurious and rugged – not to mention reliable and a resale champ – the Lexus GX is among the last and best of its kind.
If you want to crawl over rocks, scale treacherous slopes and tow heavy loads in your 3-row luxury SUV – or at least give the impression you do – nothing outside a Land Rover LR4 will do it better in the $50,000-$60,000 price range. Moreover, the Lexus has excellent resale value.
If the terms "low-range gearing," "locking center differential" and "crawl control" sound like foreign language, you likely won't be using the Lexus GX 460 for serious off-roading. In that case, you'll appreciate the more refined on-road manners and better fuel efficiency of one of its luxury crossover SUV rivals.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2015 Lexus GX 460 returns with minimal changes but an important one if you own an iPhone: The Lexus SUV now comes with Siri Eyes Free, which enables enhanced voice-control operation of the Apple device. Slacker streaming audio is also added to the Enform App suite.
Driving Impressions Despite its Lexus badging and posh interior, the GX 460's driving manners quickly give away the fact that this 3-row luxury SUV was built to conquer far more than freeways....... The GX 460's fully boxed frame withstands the abuses of extreme off-road excursions, but it's not ideal on the asphalt where most drivers will use it most of the time. Overall ride quality is certainly acceptable, but it's not the pillow-soft refinement found in the 5-passenger Lexus RX. On the other hand, the GX 460's 301-horsepower V8, smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission and 2-speed transfer case can tackle rutted terrain and tow up to 6,500 pounds. To help counteract the potential cornering lean inherent in a tall SUV, the Lexus GX features a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that decreases body lean with its massive anti-roll bars or, when needed, automatically relaxes sway control for increased wheel articulation and greater traction off road.
KINETIC DYNAMIC SUSPENSION SYSTEM (KDSS)
During serious off-road driving, this standard system maximizes suspension travel to keep the GX's tires on the ground. Without it, a tire would remain in the air over deep moguls when either the front or rear suspension has reached its natural limit of travel.
ENHANCED SAFETY SYSTEMS
The Lexus GX 460 recently gained more safety features thanks to technology. Now available are blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, dynamic cruise control and even a camera-based system that monitors whether the driver is paying attention when an obstacle is detected in front of the vehicle. Safe is smart.
The 2015 GX 460 has a 3-row layout with seating for seven. A 40/20/40-split 2nd-row bench, combined with a flat-folding 3rd-row seat, provides several configurations for people and cargo. Second-row legroom is adequate for adults, though the third row is best left for children. Base models use Lexus' faux-leather NuLuxe seating material while higher trims get the real thing. All models feature a high driver's seating position. Lexus' latest infotainment system comes with a user-friendly touch screen and auxiliary hard-button controls. To the right of the gear selector are switches for off-road use, which could very well go untouched during the life of the vehicle.Exterior
The GX 460's rugged frame isn't the only giveaway to its traditional SUV roots. One look and you'll see that Lexus' off-road luxury rig has the boxy shape associated with tough sport-utility vehicles rather than the softer, rounded lines of sedan-based crossover SUVs such as its best-selling sibling, the RX. This Lexus is a tall vehicle, but getting in and out is made easier thanks to standard running boards. More potentially inconvenient is the GX's rear door, which opens to the side rather than upward. That awkward opening can complicate loading and unloading cargo in tight spaces, and it must be done manually.
In the base Standard form, Lexus' 3-row midsize SUV comes nicely equipped with synthetic leather interior, wood trim, 10-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, rearview camera, power moonroof and power-operated tilt/telescope steering wheel – always a nice touch. Entertainment and phone connectivity are provided by a 9-speaker AM/FM/CD display audio system with 8-inch touch screen and Bluetooth, dual USB inputs and the new Siri Eyes Free iPhone compatibility. On the safety side, there are 10 airbags, active headrests to reduce the severity of whiplash, and Lexus' Safety Connect system with 24/7 emergency services.
Stepping up to the Premium level costs an extra $4,710 but is recommendable for the amount of features it packs. Among them are leather-trimmed interior, tri-zone climate control, navigation, heated/ventilated front seats, heated 2nd-row seats, park assist, and the Lexus Enform App suite with subscription-free services such as Bing, Yelp and Pandora. Top-line Luxury models include features such as adaptive variable suspension, blind-spot monitoring, heated steering wheel and power-folding 3rd-row seats. Other available options include a 17-speaker Mark Levinson high-end audio system, the Driver Support Package and dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system.
The Lexus GX 460 uses a 4.6-liter V8 that makes 301 horsepower. This sole engine choice is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. Off-road-oriented, the Lexus uses a standard full-time 4-wheel-drive system and features a 2-speed transfer case with a lockable center differential. With an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 17 mpg on premium gasoline, it's hard to call the GX frugal. That's one of the compromises of driving a V8-powered, off-road-ready SUV. If you don't plan to go boulder hopping and want to save fuel, myriad alternatives exist, including the Audi Q7 TDI, Acura MDX, Mercedes-Benz ML350 Bluetec and Infiniti QX60 hybrid. All return up to 28 mpg on the highway, while a diesel BMW X5 nets up to 31 mpg.
301 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
329 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/20 mpg
The 2015 Lexus GX 460 has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting right around $50,000. Fully loaded, the GX can pass the $71,000 mark. At its opening price, the Lexus GX costs more than every competitor except the BMW X5 and Land Rover LR4, which are slightly higher. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Lexus GX 460. While the Lexus starts several thousand dollars higher than most competitors, it holds its value exceptionally well. In fact, the 2014 model was crowned with the KBB.com Best Resale Value Award for Luxury Mid-Size SUV/Crossover.