“They don’t make them like they used to” is an idiom we’ve all heard before. Whether talking about cars, cellphones, televisions, or generations of people themselves, it’s hard not to compare things to past versions. If you’re the type of person that likes things that are very much influenced by the old-school way of getting stuff done, then the 2020 Lexus GX 460 is the perfect SUV for you. It’s one of the few SUVs that would probably outlast an apocalypse and one of the few that still prioritizes getting dirty more than showing off down Hollywood Boulevard.
Then again, what would you expect from a vehicle that hasn’t changed all that much in 10 years? In the same amount of time it takes a child to go from cute and cuddly to a pubescent monster, all the GX has done is gain a slightly altered look and a few new features. It’s the dinosaur that refuses to die. You’re either going to love it or hate it.
For all that the GX 460 gets right, especially with the automotive crowd that does believe cars were better in the past, there are quite a few things that it gets wrong. I love the SUV – it reminds me of my 2002 Toyota 4Runner that I recently sold in the best way possible – but can also see why some are so turned off by it. Here are a few things we really like about the $71,240 GX 460 and some we aren’t huge fans of.
What We Love
Go Anywhere, Do Anything Capability
See that hill? Looks awfully steep doesn’t it? That hill is minced meat to the GX 460. Want to climb Mauna Kea, one of the tallest mountains in the world? Eh, that might be taking it a little too far, but you get the idea. In a segment where automakers have all but bred out their true off-roaders, the GX 460 continues to do what it knows best.
We didn’t get to try the GX 460’s off-roading capabilities all that much, it being hunting season and all in Maryland. But gravel roads and slight inclines to wineries posed no threat. New for 2020 is an Off-Road Package that further bolsters the SUV’s off-roading prowess. Our test vehicle didn’t come with the package, but at $1,570, we think it’s a box worth ticking.
Modern In All Things Safety
The GX 460 may be old, but it’s packed with all sorts of safety features. Nearly everything under the sun is standard on the SUV, with front and rear parking sensors being the only available option. This being a Lexus, everything works properly and as it should.
A Class On Simplicity
Hop into another midsize SUV today and you’ll be treated to all sorts of sounds and screens. For those that prefer to not be attached to the hip to their technology, this is a nightmare. The lack of buttons in today’s cars is also sure to cause a brain aneurism as everything is controlled through overly complicated screens. That’s not how it is with the GX460.
Sure, you’re getting a touchscreen, but there are real buttons for everything. From HVAC controls to even a button to make a phone call, you don’t have to search through menus to find something you want to do. Nowadays, you’re lucky if you even get a knob to control the audio volume. Hard buttons are so much better.
What Could Be Better
Swinging tailgates are out, but Lexus is still sticking with one in the GX 460. For suburban folks, it shouldn’t be a major issue. And if you have trouble raising your arms to close a traditional SUV trunk, then the swinging tailgate may actually be beneficial. But for those of us that live in the city and have to parallel park, it’s nearly unusable. It requires so much space to fully open, that you’ll either have to completely pull out of your spot or stow whatever items you need in the back seats for the time being.
The glass portion of the tailgate does open in a more traditional fashion, and over our week with the SUV we regularly opened that little hatch instead of messing with the tailgate. So, unless you went to Costco or Home Depot, where you’re probably going to be able to open the entire tailgate, there is a workaround for the pesky swing-out design flaw.
Out Of Date V8
Midsize SUVs are still sticking to six-cylinder engines, but the GX 460 makes do with a V8. While that sounds like an immediate advantage, bigger is always better, the V8 isn’t designed for straight-line speed. That’s why you’ll lose a race against nearly every other midsize SUV in the segment. This is more of a burly engine, built to provide you with low-down grunt for off-roading and longevity. Be prepared to get horrible fuel economy and pay for premium fuel.
With its tall design, the GX 460 offers you with plenty of headroom, tall passengers and owners rejoice. But things on the inside still feel cramped. Despite having second-row captain’s chairs, the seats feel more confined than other midsize options. And the third row is just hilariously small. It is best left for emergencies.
Then, there’s the issue of cargo space. With the third row in place, you’re only looking at 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold the third row and the second row, and cargo space measures in at a total of 64.7 cubic feet. That’s plain bad. I mean, we were able to get two medium-sized dogs and four full-sized adults in the SUV, but if we had to make a stop for dog food or new chew toys at Petco, we would’ve been in trouble.
The GX 460 being an old-school vehicle, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that ride quality isn’t stellar. The SUV comes with adaptive suspension with two modes: Sport and Comfort. In Comfort, the SUV feels like a boat, floating over bumps with tons of body movement. Surprisingly, in Sport, things really do stiffen up, resulting in something with far less roll around corners. Good on Lexus for calibrating a Sport setting that actually does something.
But even Lexus’ adaptive suspension can’t stop the GX 460 from translating nearly every bump into the cabin, especially over rough tarmac. We suspect that the majority of consumers would rather trade off-roading capability for a smooth ride, so this is probably the SUV’s most damning quality.
The infotainment system in the GX 460 is a joke. Clumsy, outdated, and utterly useless, Lexus would be better off providing owners with the ability to remove the touchscreen as an option. Either that or at least update the new system to have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. If we were to purchase a GX 460, and we seriously considered the proposition after our week with the vehicle, we would switch the head-unit out for a more modern one immediately.
Yes, there are more negatives than positive with the GX 460, but these in no way affect the SUV’s overall appeal. Lexus knows exactly who buys this SUV and continues to make changes that make it a better option for those select few. Unless you go off-roading or want to try your hand at overlanding, you won’t take a second glance at the GX 460. But, for the people that do or are interested in conquering the path less taken, the GX 460 is on a short list of new vehicles.
As someone that’s lived with a couple of 4Runners over the past few years, the GX 460 is the answer to those that have been seeking a more luxurious, V8-powered SUV with the same off-roading chops.