The second generation Lexus GX 460, which debuted for the 2010 model year, was due for a mid-generational refresh in 2014, and as Lexus has committed to its “spindle” grille as a brand trademark, how better to set the new model apart. Still, deep down there’s not a lot of change since last year, or even since the 2010 Lexus GX 460 replaced the Lexus GX 470, which had been around since the GX arrived in 2002.
The spindle grille, which some—OK, we—say looks like a pinched rectangle gets its own treatment with the GX, more aggressive than the larger Lexus LX 570, and also gets LEDs for the headlamps, daytime running lights and optional foglamps. The major body panels unchanged, and the tailgate still a gate, hinged on the right and swinging open from the left. The rear fascia has been redesigned, though not so extensively as the front, although the clear taillights are noticeably new.
Lexus also took the occasion of the 2014 update to expand the capabilities of the electronics. The big eight-inch multi-information display gets a customizable home screen that can display three sections at once. The screen can be configured as a single display (navigation/map), dual display (navigation/map plus audio, compass or other function) or three displays on the same screen (navigation/map plus audio plus weather). It’s a big screen. Why limit it to one function?
A backup monitor is also now standard, along with HD Radio, Bluetoothaudio, automatic phone book transfer, a vehicle information display and free traffic and weather data. Cache radio—which can pause live radio, automatically recording 15 minutes for replay—is also standard.
But mostly the 2014 Lexus GX 460 remains the same. And mostly that’s a good thing. It’s another one of those vehicles that requires a step up, and the running boards are just not quite wide enough. Lexus has provided hefty, well-placed handgrips for the hoist up. It’s worth it. The seats are cushy and trimmed in semi-aniline leather, heated and ventilated in front with ten-way power adjustment. The second row slide fore and aft, and the third row…
The best that can be said about the third row is that on our test vehicle it powers up and down by switches accessible via the right side back door, and when it’s down it forms a flat floor. It’s not much higher than sitting on the floor, however, and we don’t recommend the seat to any adult with a reasonable facsimile of dignity. At least there are headrests to keep the third row passengers heads from striking the glass, because the seats are right up against the rear of the car. And that translates into little real usable cargo space behind the third row.
Access to the cargo area is via a tailgate hinged on the right side. It’s inconvenient, requiring more room behind the vehicle to open than a conventional liftgate, and since it’s hinged on the right, the door also blocks access to the curb when parallel parked. The rear window pops open hatch-like, but it’s only good for throwing stuff in because the window is so high that only NBA prospects are tall enough to reach in. If loading and unloading at curbside is important, the tailgate could be a dealbreaker.
One needn’t worry about comfort on the road, however. The 2014 Lexus GX 460 will impress with a smooth and quiet ride. The smooth ride comes from putting the variable suspension—Lexus calls it “Adaptive Variable Suspension,” standard at Premium trim level and up—in Comfort mode. The system determines shock absorber stiffness, and it has a significant tangiable effect. Set on Sport, the GX 460 is, well, sporty in something of an overstatement, but it tames the wallow on a winding road.
Then there’s what Lexus calls it “Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System.” Lexus puts an anti-roll bar in the GX 460 about half again as strong as it would be without KDSS, and this pays off in reducing vehicle lean when going around corners. But because an off-roader needs a suspension with a lot of “articulation”—suspension travel at opposing sides of the vehicle—Lexus’ KDSS uses hydraulic cylinders on either side of the vehicle to reduce the anti-roll function of the anti-roll bar by passing fluid from one side to the other. The more articulation, the more the GX 460’s tires can stay on the ground, important in off-road driving.
Our test 2014 Lexus GX 460 was not equipped with Crawl Control, which is a low-speed cruise control combined with anti-lock braking, which allows the driver to concentrate on steering without having to worry about working the gas pedal as well when creeping through off-road obstacles. It can be activated in low range, standard on the GX. Crawl Control, with the chattering of the brake system, is noisy, but it works.
All Lexus GX models however come standard with variable ride height suspension, however, for added offroad agility with without losing highway stability.
Our test model was the 2014 Lexus GX 460 Luxury, which adds trim-level specific 18-inch alloy wheels, full mahogany interior trim, and blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic warning. That’s on top of the Premium level with a long list of added equipment including the Adaptive Variable Suspension, rear air suspension with load leveler, heated steering wheel and outboard second row seats, power fold third-row seats, leather, three-zone climate control, and more.