When the Lexus GX 460 showed up in my driveway, I almost discounted it immediately. It seemed like another honkin' big SUV that requires honkin' deep pockets to purchase; my test vehicle was priced at just over $62,000. Ever the intrepid journalist, I decided to wrap my preconceived notions up in a tidy little box, stow them away on a shelf in the garage next to the doggy-safe ice melt and review this car with an open mind. Low and behold, I'm glad I did. I actually loved my week in the GX.
Not only did the GX 460 ooze luxury, it was equally functional for my days shuttling my kids and their friends around.
This SUV with room for seven doesn't drive like an SUV with room for seven. It's amazingly nimble, with a turning radius that's much smaller than I expected (its maneuverability is also aided by front and backup cameras and parking sensors). Its ride quality is super smooth, and its acceleration is light, quick and responsive.
During my week of test driving the GX, I commented numerous times on how quiet the interior is at highway speeds, so much so that I could hold a conversation with the third-row passengers. However, as soon as I picked my parents up for a little road trip to visit my brother in his seventh year of college (you think I'm kidding?) both of them complained about the road noise. I told my dad to turn off his hearing aids and that seemed to fix the problem quite nicely.
Despite all the pros, there are a few cons in the Lexus GX 460 that would be deal-breakers for me.
Despite undergoing a redesign for 2010, the GX 460 looks pretty much like you'd expect a large Lexus SUV to look. It's a little sleek, a little rugged and a little boxy; basically, it's a little bit of everything and not too much of anything, almost as if it's trying to not offend anyone with drastic design cues.
Its outside stance is tall and narrow, like a distinguished Englishman in a top hat. This contributes to extra headroom inside, which keeps passengers from feeling claustrophobic, and an urban-friendly turning radius.
My biggest complaint about the GX - something that'd be a total deal-breaker for me - is its swing gate cargo door. What?! At the risk of sounding brash, it's just plain stupid. Let me set the scene for you: It's sleeting outside, but you have to get your daughter and her science fair project to school for the science fair. You head into the garage, load the family into the GX - they climb in easily thanks to the illuminated running boards - then carry out the science project board. However, you can't open the cargo door since there isn't enough room in the closed garage to do so. You try to crack open the cargo door just enough to slide the project in, but there still isn't enough room. You resort to opening the garage door and venturing into the sleet with the project board so you can open the cargo door and load the project board, which is now covered in icy slush, into it. Your daughter's hypothesis runs down the board like cheap mascara.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The interior is where this lady really shines and pampers me (as a single mom, I'm totally OK with the idea of someone pampering me for a change). For those blessed enough to live in warm climates year-round, the GX's ventilated front seats are such a pleasure. For the rest of us in cooler climates, both the front and second-row seats have tush-loving seat warmers.
What I really loved was the heated steering wheel. Just a few seconds after pressing the button located just below and to the left of the steering column, the steering wheel warmed up and was just as comforting as wrapping my hands around a cup of cocoa. Truly, the only thing better would have been to have a cup of cocoa at the ready in one of the front cupholders.
My crotchety parents, who rode in the second row for our road trip to my brother's college town, were thrilled not only with the heated seats but also their very own ambient temperature controls. They could warm up or cool down at a moment's notice without asking me to do it for them. Air vents for all three rows are great for keeping even those sitting in the "way back" feeling cozy.
My parents also liked the reclining second-row seats, a feature I had to show them how to use after they made some noise about the seats being "too upright." In their defense, I think they were just trying to "help" me review the car... and that they did.
I appreciated that the second row slid fore and aft and made extra legroom room for either the second- or third-row passengers, depending on your people-carrying needs. The third row is suitable for kids or smaller adults when the second row is moved forward.
When you need to put the third row down to carry your baby brother's new snowboard (that he totally doesn't deserve based on his college grades), you can do so simply by pressing and holding the power-fold button located in the back of the cargo area.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Talk about fully loaded! The 2010 GX 460 is chock-full of safety features, including front knee airbags, side-impact airbags for the first and second rows, and side curtain airbags for all three rows. It also has standard active front head restraints, an electronic stability system, traction control and antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake distribution.
Buckling in was a cinch for youngsters because of the sturdy seat belt buckle receptors. Using the Latch connectors was a little trickier, however. Lexus had the right idea by creating a long flap that Velcros into place, covering the Latch connectors. It offers easy access to the Latch connectors. However, they put the rough side of the Velcro on the seat bottom (rather than the flap), requiring a parent to rough up their hands when sliding them between the seat bottom and the rough Velcro in order to use the Latch connectors.
One safety feature that really stood out is the optional Wide View Front and Side Monitor System with "crawl control" ($720) in combination with the Intuitive Parking Assist system ($500). The park assist turns on a backup camera when in Reverse, so I can make sure I'm not about to back over someone or something when I'm pulling out of my driveway. It works in combination with sensors in both the front and rear bumpers, alerting me with an audible tone if I'm coming close to hitting anything and an icon that lights up. When I'm slowed down as I approached a stop sign, for example, the front and side monitor cameras showed me if any small pedestrians might be crossing in front of me or if a bicyclist was pulling up beside me. Brilliant! This park assist really came in handy while the third row was in use since the head restraints definitely impeded my rear visibility.
In Diapers: Sliding second row makes room for rear-facing infant-safety seats.
In School: Power-folding third row transforms this SUV from a cargo hauler to school-kid hauler.
Teens: This is a lot of car to drive, but the Wide View Front and Side Monitor System helps keep everyone safe.
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