2021 Lexus GX

By January 6, 2021

Big, old-school SUVs—those with ladder frames, V-8 engines, and off-road might—are few and far between these days. Lexus, however, hasn’t given up on them. Their GX, which is based on the aging but popular Toyota 4Runner, follows the time-tested SUV formula. Few SUVs can go where this one can, and those so able aren’t nearly as comfortable.

The GX hasn’t been changed much in a decade, and the latest model year doesn’t break this trend, with the only notable updates coming in the form of standard Amazon Alexa compatibility and insulated side glass.

Under the hood sits a trusty 4.6-liter V-8 that makes 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission soldiers on as the only transmission option, despite the near-ubiquity of gearboxes with eight or more speeds. The extra gears would at the least help improve gas mileage from the current 15 mpg city, 19 highway, and 16 combined.

The GX comes with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warnings. It hasn’t been tested for crashworthiness.

Model Lineup

There aren’t too many ways to spec a GX. All models wear the GX460 designation, a reference to the V-8 under the hood. From there, the base model begins at $54,125 and includes synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power seats, dual-zone climate control, a moonroof, 18-inch wheels, and nine-speaker audio. The infotainment system uses an 8.0-inch touchscreen but doesn’t include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

The $57,215 Premium builds on the base model with navigation, heated and cooled front seats, and LED fog lights.

The $65,390 Luxury trim is where you’ll find leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels, power-folding side mirrors, a power-folding third row, and an adaptive suspension.

Exterior

How much grille is too much grille? Lexus has explored just how far it can take its hourglass front end, and on the GX the grille’s the boldest of all. Get past the front end and the GX is a fairly conventional-looking SUV. It’s a boxy shape, with some gentle nods toward luxury on a body that’s built tall and narrow to slide through off-road obstacles.

Interior

The Lexus GX also has an upright dash with a shape that goes back in time to a more rugged era, though it’s upholstered and trimmed to a high grade.

The touchscreen is a sore spot. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available, and the older interface isn’t as quick to respond as the latest from Lexus.

The GX’s seats are wide and comfy, but Lexus doesn’t make leather upholstery standard on the base version. Luxury models get real hides.

In the back, a three-across bench is standard but can be swapped out for a pair of captian’s chairs. Leg room is rather limited at 34 inches. The third-row gets just under 30 inches of leg room, which makes it passable for children but a no-go for most adults.

The cargo hold has room for 11.6 cubic feet behind the third row and 46.7 cubes behind the second. With both rows folded, 64,7 cubic feet of cargo area opens up.

Driving Impressions

With a big engine that doesn’t like to whisper, over eight inches of ground clearance, and old-school body-on-frame construction, the GX drives like the capable SUV that it is. It doesn’t hide its bulk. It won’t pretend to handle like a sports car. From the first turn of the key, you know that shepherding it down the road won’t be as mindless as if this were some small crossover.

This requires being cognizant of small spaces and tighter corners of road. No blitzing switchbacks—the chassis, even with the optional adaptive suspension, doesn’t like to be rushed around bends.

The GX’s 4.6-liter V-8 is delightfully old-fashioned, a rare 8-cylinder holdout in a world now dominated by inline-4s and V-6s, but gas mileage is low. This a strong engine with down-low grunt, a pleasing exhaust grumble, and the capacity to tow 6,500 pounds.

The GX can’t be fully appreciated without mentioning its off-road credentials. All models come with standard four-wheel drive and a locking center differential. The GX’s 8.1 inches of ground clearance should be adequate for passing over any trail.

Final Word

The Lexus GX is a reminder of the bulky back-country past of the sport-utility vehicle. It’s strapped with a rumbly V-8, lots of ground clearance, and semi-exotic off-road hardware. It’s all finessed with the Lexus touch—and even if it misses out on the latest infotainment and luxury touches, it’s still a popular choice precisely because it’s no soft-roader.

 

—by Anthony Sophinos with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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