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Behind the Wheel – 2011 Lexus GX 460

We take the GX 460 for a week long road test.

Lexus GS 460

When an automaker hands over a vehicle for a seven day press ride, there’s a limit to how much a reviewer can do. In the case of the 2011 Lexus GX 460, that’s frustrating.

 

I look to expose a vehicle safely to as many different road conditions and situations as possible to test the machine in as realistic a fashion as possible – trying to simulate what a prospective owner would experience behind the wheel in the course of a week. With a luxury SUV like the GX 460 that includes freeway driving, stop and go, hill courses, etc.

 

But, I did say SUV, and the word “sport” is tucked away in that acronym – as in rugged off-roading. I doubt many Lexus buyers look to catch some air off of dusty berms, so I couldn’t hand a GX 460 back to the Lexus press fleet after a day bouncing around the foothills of the Angeles National Forest on the off chance that something goes awry. So, I want to find someone who owns a 2011 Lexus GX 460 and ask them – beg them – to take it into the wilds for a serious, vicious road test.

 

Until someone gets back to me on that one, I can serve up the Lexus GX 460 road test in a more civilized manner. At first glance, it might be difficult to believe that this model is the Lexus mid-size SUV – larger than the  RX 350 and less insanely huge than below the LX 570. You could carry some hatchback in the latter, and good luck parking the 570 in most urban settings.

 

It’s well-known that Lexus and Toyota are cousins, and the GX 460 is comparable in size and construction to the best Toyota SUV, the uber-rugged and Land Rover-defying Land Cruiser. On the road, the SUV’s 4.6-liter V8 (hence “460”) spreads out its 301 horsepower smoothly, easily pulling away from most vehicles keeping you company in freeway traffic – and powerful enough  to tow most common loads from boat trailers to horse cars. (This is a Lexus after all, and an SUV that goes for nearly $58,000 isn’t going to be pulling anything less.)

 

With four wheel drive and adaptive stabilizer bars firm up the ride on rough ground while also smoothing out the freeway cruise. A dial on the instrument panel can adjust the suspension with three modes to match shifting terrain.

 

It’s the interior and high-tech appointments of of the GX 460 that make me long to see it head into the wilderness. What does off-roading looking from the leather driver’s seat while surrounded by ample wood trim, satellite navigation system, AM/FM/CD/Satellite and power everything? Is it something like riding a BMX bike through a tea shop?

 

Considering that the GX 460 is most likely to serve as a family-friendly people carrier, Lexus engineers equipped it with split-folding rear seats and power-folding third row seats – enabled with separate rear passenger climate control.

 

The most unusual design choice is the rear door, which opens horizontally – as opposed to the traditional vertical back hatch. I’ve reviewed several Lexus vehicles, and this is the first design item I cannot understand. There’s a reason why hatchbacks open “up,” and not out. It requires less room behind the vehicle to access cargo with the door opening skyward. Fortunately, the rear window flips up to reveal a rear shelf for lighter items.

 

All totaled, the Lexus GX 460 is a sophisticated, luxurious SUV cruiser. That won’t stop me from wanting to see how its powerful V8 performs away from pavement. If you have an extra one sitting around, let me know if you want to rip it up somewhere uncivilized.

 

Photo credit – Lexus