Stick Shift: 2017 Lexus GX 460

Stick Shift: 2017 Lexus GX 460

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The Lexus GX 460 is back with a 2017 model. It remains one of the few options available for any off-road enthusiast who’s feet itch to take the route less traveled, but wants to do so in the most comfortable way possible, and with the whole family along for the ride. While its backroad prowess may still top the charts, unfortunately, every other track its playing is starting to feel a little behind the times.

From the outside, the new GX 460s’ looks couldn’t fit the rugged part it plays more perfectly. It has strong lines, bulging proportions, features carved from granite, and an overall shape that matches the mountainous landscape and rock strewn trails that make up the GXs’ playground. The Sport Design package adds extra flair in the form of a unique lower grille surround, front lip garnish and chrome on the exhaust tip and rear valance.

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On the inside though, things take an unfortunate turn. Occupants up front will be treated to semi-Aniline leather-trimmed seats that are roomy and comfortable. Second row seats are heated like up front, but can feel a little tight if you’re of a certain size. The third row, as is usually the case, is best left for young children and friends who lost a bet. Some of its features, like the leather trim, heated mahogany wood steering wheel and moonroof, help to set the stage for a classic Lexus luxury experience, but ultimately, the GX 460 is falling behind when measured up against similarly priced competitors like the Volvo XC90 or Audi Q7.

While cargo capacity is average for this segment, a unique design feature to make it feel more expansive is the side swinging lift gate that opens much like a door. This made loading easier, unless you parked near something that obstructed it from fully opening. Another nice touch was that the window in the rear door opens independently, allowing you to transport especially long items with ease. Acting as the brain of the GX 460 is a bright infotainment center. Like the rest of the interior, it isn’t as up to date as some of its competitors, but is easy enough to use, with clearly marked physical buttons on each side to further facilitate any adjustments to the 3-zone climate control, audio or vehicle settings you need to make.

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A 4.6L V8 engine can be found under the hood of the 2017 GX 460. It’s good for 301 hp and 329 lb-ft. of torque. Even with a sizable amount of power, the GX is a big, heavy SUV, and its weight hurts its acceleration. The GX feels sluggish on the road, always reminding you of its substantial girth. Combine this with plenty of body roll, lifeless steering and clumsy handling on windy roads and you start to see why this is a car best intended for slower speeds and more rugged terrain. A major contributor to how it drives is the fact that its built on a truck frame, so we expect driving comfort to suffer. On a smooth highway though, the GX does very well.

Where the tarmac ends and the punishing trail begins though, this is where the 2017 GX 460 really puts its best foot forward. Four-wheel drive is standard, and paired to a Torsen limited slip center differential to help you find traction no matter the trail surface. Attractive 18” alloy wheels are wrapped in chunky mud/snow tires, and ground clearance is enough to straddle bigger obstacles in your path. A feature that really demonstrates how seriously the new GX takes its off-roading is Crawl Control. With this enabled, you can set the speed, down to only a couple miles per hour, and our Lexus will maintain it, automatically braking and accelerating as needed so all that’s left for you to fuss over is steering around boulders and tall cacti. There’s plenty of brake assist technology packed in too, along with vehicle stability and trailer sway control.

The strength and weakness of the new 2017 GX 460 is that it’s only really appealing to a very specific type of consumer. For the average person, life consists of taking his or her 7-seater Lexus from soccer practice, to the grocery store, to work and back home again, all set to repeat and never with the intention of leaving the paved road. For that person, there are better options for way less money in the form of the Cadillac XT5 or Lincoln MKX even. But, if on occasion you want to shake off the city smog and head up and out, away from the humming neon lights and busy streets of society to commune with nature little, the GX 460 will get you there. With all that off-road technology and development, paired with a proper truck chassis, it’ll allow you to safely drive further and explore deeper with the upmost confidence, spouse, kids and family dog in tow, all in considerable comfort. It’s one of the only vehicles left that truly can.

Price as tested:  $71,890.00

By: Brandon Randall 

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