A Family Affair
It must be hard to have a famous father. Michael Douglas, for instance, has done well for himself, he had to start out in the shadow of his father, Kirk’s, fame and success. The Toyota Land Cruiser-based Lexus LX 570, the big daddy of the luxury brand’s SUV range, puts the smaller GX 460 in a similar situation. I got acquainted with the mid-size offering over the course of a week. In some ways, it made a good name for itself on its own. In others, it was out-shined by its patriarch.
From the front, it was clear that the GX came from good genes. The chrome-edged upper half of the spindle grille drew my eyes to the jewel-like LED low-beam headlamps and Daytime Running Lights. Looking at it from certain angles, it was hard for me to tell the difference between this vehicle and the LX 570 I tested earlier this year. They both had similar faces and wore bright silver paint jobs.
The only blemishes on this rig’s otherwise handsome mug were the up-swept turn signals. While they reflected the downward slope of the units above them, I found their styling overly dramatic. Such flashy lines looked out of place on an off-road-capable machine.
At the rear, the family resemblance ended. Whereas the LX had aesthetically pleasing ruby-like taillight assemblies, the clear casings and chrome-like inserts of those on the GX looked dated. (I liked that mixture of media on the original IS 300, but not on this 2014 SUV.)
My tester certainly came from the same muscular stock as the flagship LX. Both trucks feature rugged body-on-frame construction and full-time four-wheel drive with low range and a lockable Torsen limited-slip center differential. Like its up-market relative, the GX 460 has a V8 heart. (I talk about it in the video below.) I was able to hit around 19 mpg in mixed driving. The EPA rates the GX 460 for 15 in the city, 20 on the highway and 17 combined. The 4.6-liter mill delivered its 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque with refinement. Unlike the range-topper’s 5.7-liter engine, it felt labored and sluggish at times; another 20 horses would’ve been appreciated.
Lexus’s six-speed automatic also left a little something to be desired. Two or three times I caught it off-guard. The transmission shifted smoothly, but while on my way to Round Rock in cruise control, I occasionally felt it gear-hunting. Getting back on the right pedal after a bit of low-throttle parking lot driving, I felt a lurching sensation. In the two weeks I spent with the bigger LX, it didn’t once lose its composure. It seemed to always be in the right gear, even when I was flying back and forth over the changes in highway elevation between Kyle and Fort Worth.
In its defense, the GX 460 provided a quiet, comfortable space for me and my friends during our trip to the outlet malls north of Austin. Wind noise was well-muffled. The ride was civilized. By the time a bump in the road was transmitted through the 265/60R18 mud and snow tires and the robust Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, it was effectively neutralized.
A $4,710 Premium Package included such finery as leather seats, Mahogany trim, rain-sensing wipers, heated and cooled front seats and Touchscreen Navigation with Voice Command. The interior’s combination of creamy Ecru, subtle metallic accents and dark wood looked elegant and luxurious, and its dimensions were a better fit around me than those of the expansive LX.
Legroom in the second row was generous. With the 10-way driver’s front bucket adjusted to my liking, I was able to comfortably “sit behind myself.” I was even able to recline and move forward and backward. The two rearmost seats could be manually deployed, making the GX into a seven-seater. However, after getting all of my 5’10” frame into one and feeling the lack of outboard arm space and legroom that made my knees touch the back of the second row, I could envision only children being comfortable in either one of them for long distances. (Check out the third row and its effect on luggage space in the following clip.)
I must admit that part of what kept my GX tester from living up to the greatness of the LX was the fact that it was limited in its potential. The vehicle I drove was in the middle of the GX spectrum (Premium). It had a starting price of $53,795. With options, including the $800 Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and power retracting outer mirrors and the $310 wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob combination, as well as delivery, processing and handling, my media loaner cost a grand total of $55,815. Luxury models have a base price of $60,715, but pack the trick Adaptive Variable Suspension and a semi-aniline leather-lined cabin as standard equipment. Certain bundles, such as the Driver Support Package, which adds the helpful Wide-view Front and Side Monitor set-up and the Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, are only available on that higher trim line and bring the GX closer to the level of technological brilliance, comfort and convenience as the $82,630 LX 570.
Although the 2014 Lexus GX 460 Premium made some missteps in distinguishing itself from the more expensive, refined and powerful LX, I could still tell that it inherited most of the LX’s best traits. It was attractive, sturdy, sophisticated and capable. What dad – flesh and blood or metal and glass – wouldn’t be proud?