2014 Lexus GX: New Car Review
The 2014 Lexus GX 460 is an analog SUV in a digital world. Based on the same body-on-frame platform that underpins Toyota's 4Runner and FJ Cruiser SUVs, the GX 460 prioritizes off-road performance, just as every SUV used to do. Featuring tough, trucklike construction and standard 4-wheel drive with a dual-range transfer case, the GX is a go-anywhere kind of vehicle. But that puts it in stark contrast to modern luxury SUVs, which generally employ unibody platforms that are optimized for shopping malls and suburban driveways.
Of course, Lexus has made sure that the GX feels at home in civilization, too. Thanks to a soft suspension, a slew of fancy features and standard 3-row seating, the GX can certainly play the part of a high-end family vehicle. We're surprised that Lexus didn't use richer interior materials in this expensive SUV, but the mellifluous V8 engine provides some consolation. Just don't expect carlike handling in corners. The GX is an old-school SUV that's happiest when it's pointed straight ahead.
What's New for 2014?
The GX 460 receives the corporate spindle Lexus grille this year as well as standard LED headlights (with available LED fog lights) and a new 8-inch touchscreen interface. The equipment roster was shuffled so that some content was taken out of the base and Premium models, but this change cuts the price of both by a few grand. A new Luxury trim debuts as the top-shelf GX model.
What We Like
Off-road-ready hardware; compliant ride; standard 3-row seating; plenty of luxury and technology features
What We Don't
Uncomfortable second- and third-row seats; cumbersome on-road handling; unremarkable interior quality; low fuel economy
The rear-drive-based GX 460 comes with standard dual-range 4-wheel drive and a 4.6-liter V8 engine rated at 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque.
Its fuel economy is a predictably underwhelming 15 miles per gallon city/20 mpg highway.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Lexus GX 460 comes in three trim levels: base, Premium and Luxury.
The base GX 460 ($49,995) includes 18-in alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, a sunroof, keyless entry with push-button ignition, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, 10-way power front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, driver memory functions, electroluminescent gauges, a rearview camera, a trip computer with a 4.2-in display, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth (for both phone and audio) and a 9-speaker audio system with an 8-in touchscreen display, a 6-CD changer, satellite radio and iPod/USB connectivity.
The Premium ($54,705) adds niceties such as high-gloss 18-in wheels, LED headlights, mahogany interior trim, perforated genuine leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, tri-zone climate control with a smog sensor, a wood and leather steering wheel, voice controls and enhanced Bluetooth. This model also has a hard-drive-based navigation system that features Lexus Enform, which lets you either plan trips from home using a Lexus-exclusive online search called eDestination or leverage your smartphone for this purpose with the downloadable Enform mobile app.
The Luxury ($61,625) boasts exclusive 18-in liquid graphite wheels, an adaptive air suspension, power-folding auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, semi-aniline leather upholstery, a power-folding third-row seat and a cargo-area tonneau cover.
Some of the higher trims' standard features are optional on lesser models. Available on the Luxury model only are a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, a dual-screen rear entertainment system, and wide-view front and side parking cameras. Additional options include dynamic cruise control and CRAWL Control for automated low-speed off-roading.
In terms of versatility, we found that the GX's standard third-row seat is mounted low, so longer-legged passengers will likely have their knees in their faces. The second row isn't particularly supportive or comfortable, either. If you plan to use more than two rows on a regular basis, we recommend purpose-built people-carriers such as minivans or the Ford Flex with EcoBoost.
Cargo capacity in the GX measures just 11.6 cu ft behind the third-row seat. Power-fold that seat into the floor and you have a more reasonable 36.5 cu ft. With the second-row seat backs folded down, the GX can haul a healthy 91.9 cu ft. However, the GX's unusual cargo door is hinged on the passenger side, which means it opens toward the curb on American roads -- not the most convenient design for curbside loading.
The 2014 Lexus GX 460 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and 10 airbags (front, front side, front knee, rear side and full-length side curtain). All models include Safety Connect, which uses the same 24-hour response center as the Enform system to get you the help you need if the unexpected occurs.
Crash tests have not been performed on the GX.
Behind the Wheel
The GX's interior frankly lacks the top-quality materials we've come to expect from Lexus over the years. In particular, the dashboard doesn't look or feel like it belongs in a vehicle costing more than $50,000. Still, everything seems screwed together reasonably well, and Lexus's trademark electroluminescent gauges serve as a reminder that this is more than just a Toyota. Also, while the GX 460's central control panel has a lot of buttons, they're clearly marked in large white type, so there are no ergonomic snafus to report.
On the road, the GX 460 is a mixed bag. Its tall, slim build may work well for tight off-road trails, but it also makes the GX feel a bit claustrophobic, as if it hasn't yet expanded to its full width. That feeling doesn't inspire confidence in corners, where the GX could hardly be more out of its element. In a straight line, however, the GX's soft ride and excellent noise suppression make for a pleasant cruising experience. Potholes are often barely noticeable thanks to the long-haul, off-road-ready suspension.
Acceleration from the mandatory V8 is adequate, though it's unusual to see a V8 these days with such a low horsepower rating, and you'll feel the lack of juice at higher speeds. The GX can tow up to 6,500 pounds with the optional trailer hitch, which is more than car-based crossover SUVs can handle but not that much by trucklike SUV standards.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi Q7 -- With its standard 3-row seating and premium ambiance, the aging Audi is a natural GX foe.
BMW X5 -- Boasting superior handling along with an available third row, the X5 is the driver's SUV in this class, but don't even think about it if you're the off-roading type.
Land Rover LR4 -- The surprisingly affordable LR4 impresses with its sumptuous interior, muscular V8 and adult-friendly 3-row seating. Its off-road performance is, naturally, beyond reproach.
If your heart's set on a GX, you might as well go for the top-of-the-line Luxury model with the optional Mark Levinson audio system. It's not a stellar value, but you'll be glad you sprang for the Luxury's standard features and that killer Levinson stereo.