By Don Fuller, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 6.1
Among luxury SUVs, the 2016 Lexus GX 460 is a bit of an odd duck; its level of plush accommodations and impeccable detailing matches all expectations yet, in the trade-off, its rugged body-on-frame construction and extremely competent full-time 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system deliver off-road capabilities that are as good as it gets. For years the competition, such as the BMW X5, Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60 and Audi Q7, has aimed at making SUVs more “car-like,” with their drive systems intended for bad weather and snow, certainly, but not rugged banging around through mud and boulders. As an alternative, the Lexus GX 460 is less compliant on city streets, but it can handle the rough stuff if needed. It’s also reliable and returns exceptional residual value.
Your vehicular shopping list calls for sumptuous luxury and the capability to go anywhere you doggone well please, all while carrying up to seven people in comfort or pulling a trailer. That means your shopping list is short. It also means the GX 460 is on it.
If you have no need for “low-range gearing,” “locking center differential” or “crawl control,” then you have no need for the Lexus GX 460; you will be better off with something delivering more refined driving characteristics and better fuel efficiency. The market offers those alternatives.
KBB Expert Ratings
There is almost no change for the 2016 Lexus GX 460. Sepia has been added as an interior color choice along with black; the navigation system’s Lexus Enform App Suite adds Destination Search; and there is now Lexus Enform Remote, which allows remotely viewing and controlling certain vehicle functions.
Clearly, and unapologetically, the Lexus GX 460 is intended to deal with more than just smooth city streets and velvety highways, and its driving characteristics reflect that reality. Ruggedly capable,...
... with a robust fully boxed frame and off-road-oriented full-time 4-wheel-drive system, the GX 460 is less ideal on the pavement where most drivers will use it almost all the time, so do not expect the ride refinement and handling response of those luxury SUVs designed for asphalt rather than boulders. On the positive side, the GX 460’s strong 301-horsepower V8 and smooth-shifting 6-speed transmission will not only make it through rugged terrain but also tow trailers up to 6,500 pounds. To help keep things in check, the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System can reduce body lean with its massive anti-roll bars or, when desired, can relax that control for increased suspension movement and superior traction when in the rough stuff.
KINETIC DYNAMIC SUSPENSION SYSTEM (KDSS)
This ingenious systems utilizes stiffer-than-normal anti-roll bars to control lean angles while driving on pavement, then allows increased suspension articulation on uneven surfaces, such as off-road, to keep all the tires on the ground. Seasoned off-roaders will love it.
COMPREHENSIVE FULL-TIME 4-WHEEL DRIVE
Few SUVs anywhere offer as capable a drive system as the GX 460. It includes a Torsen torque-sensing limited-slip center differential with electronic locking to distribute power evenly between front and rear wheels, and Active Traction Control to maintain traction at all four wheels, no matter the surface or weather.
The 2016 Lexus GX 460 has 3-row, 7-passenger seating; a 40/20/40-split 2nd-row bench seat and flat-folding 3rd-row seat offer numerous configurations for people and cargo. Front-seat comfort is terrific, the second row is adequate for adults and the third best for children. The base version has Nuluxe upholstery while the Premium trim gets real leather. Instrumentation is easy to see and controls easy to reach but there are lots of them; the instrument panel’s center stack contains the sound and climate systems and in the center console are controls for the 4-wheel-drive system. It’s all finished impeccably.
The GX 460’s tall, square-shouldered shape is clear evidence of its robust off-road intentions; no rounded-over aerodynamic teardrop this. But that tall shape pays dividends. Entry and exit are high, but the doors are big and ample standard running boards make the step easy. Some may like, some may dislike the rear door; it’s a side-opening arrangement, hinged on the right, which can make loading from curbside awkward and is inconvenient when carrying long stuff home from the lumberyard. On the other hand, for loading luggage or groceries you don’t have to lean in over a swing-down tailgate.
In base form, the Lexus GX 460 is well 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.
While the base GX 460 is a good value we recommend the Premium trim; it’s only slightly over $4,000 more but includes leather, 3-zone automatic climate control with interior air filter, mahogany trim, LED foglights and Intuitive Parking Assist. We think that represents reasonable value for the money. Top-line Luxury models include Adaptive Variable Suspension, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, power-folding outside mirrors, wood and leather-trimmed heated steering wheel and power-fold-flat 3rd-row seats. Other available options include a 17-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound audio system, the Driver Support Package and a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system.
The 2016 Lexus GX 460 has a 4.6-liter V8 of 301 horsepower and a 6-speed automatic transmission. With its off-road intentions, the GX 460 has an impressive full-time 4-wheel-drive system with a 2-speed transfer case and lockable center differential. This capability does not arrive without a price, and that’s fuel consumption; the EPA numbers are 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 17 combined. If, like most people, you drive on the pavement your taxes paid for, there are many alternatives that are more refined and use less gas, such as the Audi Q7, Acura MDX, Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec, Infiniti QX60
hybrid and BMW X5. All will beat the GX 460 in fuel economy, but not in climbing over, around and through boulders and mud.
301 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
329 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/20 mpg
The 2016 Lexus GX 460 has a base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) right around $51,000; fully loaded, it easily tops $70,000. At its base price, the GX costs more than every likely competitor except the BMW X5 and Land Rover LR4, which are slightly higher, so it’s not a bargain item. But it is a quality piece of work, with great fit and finish and a proven record of dependable reliability. We recommend the mid-trim level Premium version for its value for the money. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the GX 460. While the Lexus starts several thousand dollars higher than most competitors, it holds its value exceptionally well. In fact, in the past it has won the KBB.com Best Resale Value Award for Luxury Mid-Size SUV/ Crossover. Inexpensive? No. Great long-term value? Yes.