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2011 4x4 of the Year: Lexus GX 460 Premium

Front View Shot
Fred Williams
| Brand Manager, Petersen’s 4Wheel & Off Road
Posted February 1, 2011
Photographers: Frank Kaisler, 4-Wheel & Off-Road Staff

2011 Lexus GX 460 Premium

Lexus is the luxury arm of Toyota, and the Lexus GX 460 is the luxury version of the foreign SUV the Prado. The Prado shares many suspension components with the Toyota FJ Cruiser, and since the FJ Cruiser is one of the most capable 4x4s in Toyota's current fleet, the GX 460 should be fairly capable. And it is, to a point.

In 2003 the GX 470 won 4x4 of the Year, and this new GX grows off of that truck with many improvements. The slightly smaller 4.6L (281.2ci) V-8 offers 301 hp and 329 lb-ft of torque. A six speed transmission follows with a fulltime transfer case. The Lexus has kept a solid rear axle, but there is no locking rear differential as in prior GXs as well as 4Runners and FJ Cruisers.

Underneath, the transmission pan and exhaust seem susceptible to trail damage, and oddly the gas tank is only partially covered by skidplates. There are front and rear recovery points, but they are small and look designed as transport tie-downs. Lexus admirably removed the standard running boards, a request we have made countless years to all manufacturers. Unfortunately, we still sent the truck back with rocker panel dings.

For rockcrawling the Lexus carries over the Crawl mode slow-speed, brake-based traction cruise control that we first saw in the latest Land Cruiser as well as last year's 4Runner. This system works well but is noisy, as the brakes constantly lock and unlock to ensure traction. We would rather have a full locking differential option versus techno-wizardry.

The street-spec tires could be improved, as could ground clearance. We would have also appreciated some true rocker protection along the lines of the Grand Cherokee and previously tested Land Cruisers.

In the hillclimb section of our test the GX was capable, but again suffered from AAD (approach angle deficiency). The plastic front bumper sustained more carnage while the tire treads got chewed up hunting for traction. The Crawl mode helped, though many judges found the truck adequate without it stating, "It climbs! It doesn't look like it will, but it does."

As far as looks and amenities go, this $60K-plus sport/ute left us bored. It doesn't look bad, just not exciting. The interior is nice but feels dated, with lots of weird little doors hiding cup holders, cubbies, and dash controls. The component quality is all there, but it feels high-class in an '80s way.

Back in the dirt we noticed the GX had good power for the high-speed runs, but when rattling across washboards it skitted around rather than soaked it up like the two 4WIS contenders. The gated transmission shifter also annoyed drivers trying to shift quickly.

During the sand dune testing, a plethora of warning bells and nannies were yelling at us as we rallied the luxo-Lexus. The engine would rev to the moon but only get to the ground after we worked to shut off stability controls. As with the Raptor, we could notice the solid rear axle compared to the other SUVs.

Overall the Lexus GX 460 is a very nice vehicle. It has many amenities (sometimes too many), a comfortable ride, and adequate power. Unfortunately it also looks and feels too mature for most of our judges. The styling of all Toyota/Lexus SUVs is starting to blur. Other than the 4Runner and FJ, Toyota/Lexus needs to freshen up. If you're living in a retirement community and need a nice capable 4x4, this may be it, but don't expect anyone to confuse you with your grandson in his Raptor.

The Good
•High-revving engine
•Crawl mode works

The Bad
•No rocker protection
•Boring luxury looks

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