Lexus Adds More Off-Road Capability and More Ugly to 2020 GX 460

Anthony Magagnoli
by Anthony Magagnoli

Just because the Lexus GX 460 rarely goes off-road, doesn’t mean it can’t. Despite the fact that most GXs prowl suburban malls, Lexus is still working to bolster its boulder-bashing bonafides.

The 2020 Lexus GX 460 will be available with an Off-Road Package with Multi-Terrain Select. Available on the top-level Luxury Grade model, this package should help with all that off-roading that Lexus owners are apparently known to do. This system combines surface-selectable traction- and stability-control modes with the Panoramic View and Multi-Terrain Monitors, all but negating the need for a spotter when doing some hardcore rock crawling.

Lexus is taking existing developed systems and technologies and incorporating them into the GX platform.

The Off-Road Package also includes some hardware upgrades in the form of a transmission cooler and fuel tank protector. With standard full-time 4WD, a Torsen center differential that can be manually locked, and low range in the transfer case, the GX is not just pretending to be able to handle the rough stuff. However, I don’t see any correlation between the buyer of a top-end Luxury trim level and that same customer’s desire to take their $65k+ SUV through terrain that would require such capability.

Completing their commitment to provide Lexus Safety System+ on every model, Lexus is including the active safety system on all trim levels as standard. Lexus Safety System+ includes pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert, intelligent high beams and high-speed dynamic radar cruise control.

Now let’s get to the exterior … ahem, enhancements. The press release states “The 2020 GX wears an updated signature spindle grille that gives it distinctive, standout style which better aligns with the entire Lexus portfolio.”

They say that like it’s a good thing, or a reason to do it. I hate to focus more than a couple words on what everyone is already thinking anyway, but the gaping spindle grille is just atrocious. The majority of the front of the vehicle is now covered by one single grille. Furthermore, it’s out of sync with the entire rest of the vehicle, which has been essentially unchanged since its introduction in 2010. Along with the addition of triple-beam LED headlights, Lexus is merely putting fluorescent-colored lipstick on the proverbial pig.

It should be no surprise, though, as this J150 generation of the GX was first introduced to world markets in 2009 and has not seen wholesale updates since then. It still rides on a ladder-frame with a solid rear axle suspension. Eighteen-inch wheels and tires were the only size available until now, as the Sport Design Package will offer 19’s.

The 1UR-FE engine is a suitable powerplant for this application, making 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque, though it’s applying that power through only six forward gears. While I enjoy the driveability of a six-speed, the fuel economy of 15 city/18 highway is far from stellar. It should be noted that these figures all require at least 91 octane fuel, as well. At least the towing capacity is a solid 6,500 lbs.

While a couple of interior trims are added for 2020, there is no escaping the dated interior. The early 2000’s called… They want their infotainment and switchgear back. The GX is just hanging on until a major model change, but the truck platforms are on an extremely long product cycle.

I suppose that I don’t understand the average buyer in the luxury truck-based SUV segment. If the GX rides and drives anything like the Toyota Land Cruiser I drove last year, I can’t see how anyone would leave a dealership in one. Even with the fabled Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, literally all aspects of the ride, steering and handling were notably inferior to the average $50k three-row SUV. On top of that, the rest of the vehicle felt obviously dated; from the infotainment and interior layout to the sound of the door closing.

For someone to spend the $52-$90k that these vehicles demand, they must prioritize the off-road prowess over on-road driving dynamics, fuel economy, and modern style and technology. Is that the same buyer who values “semi-aniline leather [that is] dyed completely through, unlike most leathers with conventional surface dyes” and “a wood and leather-trimmed heated steering wheel, crafted exclusively with hand-selected materials”?

[Images: Lexus]

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli

Following 10 years in Toyota's Production Engineering division, Anthony spent 3 years as a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer for FCA. From modest beginnings in autocross, he won a NASA SpecE30 National Championship and was the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge TC Rookie of the Year. Aside from being a professional racecar driver, he is a private driving coach and future karaoke champion.

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  • Jerome10 Jerome10 on Jun 20, 2019

    This sells because it won’t break, it is capable, it is luxurious enough, it doesn’t break, it can tow your boat if you want, it doesn’t break, it has 3 rows of seats, it doesn’t break, the dealership will treat you like royalty when you take it in for basic service since it won’t require warranty repair, it will have great resale, and it doesn’t break. I’m not a big Lexus / Toyota guy. But every time I drive one I “get” why they sell so well and have such loyal buyers. The cars are nice enough and good enough especially if you’re not a car person, and you just really are never going to fight a dealership on warranty, and then if you decide to keep the car 20 years it will keep on running and not cost much for the repairs that do come up.

  • GX4ever GX4ever on Jun 20, 2019

    If your priority is a luxury "SUV" that drives like a car, get an X5; if it's to have Apple Car Play, look elsewhere. Comparing this to a Wrangler, Aviator, or your average unibody competitor is a joke for a number of reasons. Most folks don't get it; this is a Land Cruiser Prado everywhere else in the world. Sure our GXs don't drive, feel, or have the latest technology like competition, but so what? It's tried and true and will get me there and back no matter where I go. To top it off, they're meticulously engineered, buttery smooth, very capable (but not athletic) tow rigs, and as solid a brick s#$%thouse. This truck will last forever without much effort, and that still means something. Will other modern so-called SUVs last 200k miles? Maybe, but I'll bet your spending a while lot more over that time period in repairs. No thanks. This is the last of a dying breed.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Aja8888 I expected that issue with my F150 starting at 52,000mi. luckily I had an extended warranty and it saved me almost $8,000. No more Fords for me, only Toyota.
  • Lou_BC I saw a news article on this got a different read on it. Ford wants to increase production of HD trucks AND develop hybrid and EV variants of the SuperDuty. They aren't scaling back EV production. Just building more HD's and EV variants of HD's .
  • Lou_BC Backing up accidents are one of the most common causes of low speed accidents. You'd think sensors and cameras would help.
  • Jpolicke Jaguar started making cars that were dead ringers for Kia Optimas, but less reliable. They now look like everything and nothing; certainly nothing to aspire to.
  • ToolGuy I would answer, but the question might change again, and then where would we be? Also, bran... wheat bran? Bran Castle? The coliva served at Bran Castle is made with wheat, I checked. (Some places use rice, because collectivism does not work.)
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