THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Ruggedly attractive, loads of content, impressive utility
- What’s Bad: Smaller than it looks, dated interior, average on-road performance
In 2019, almost 9,000 Lexus RXs were sold in Canada. 8,827 to be exact. The mid-size SUV was the bestselling Lexus in the land by a wide margin.
But this isn’t an RX review. No, today it’s all about the GX, the RX’s bigger sibling. And how many GXs were sold in Canada last year, you may be asking?
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the brand’s worst seller – the company does make passenger cars, after all – but in the Lexus SUV category, the GX is the slowest seller of the bunch. Even the biggest and priciest member of the family (LX) sold 1,053 units last year.
It’s a bit of a shame the GX isn’t more popular because it’s an intriguing vehicle with DNA that stretches back almost 20 years. It’s very much OG Lexus.
First introduced in 2002, the second-gen GX went on sale in 2009 for the 2010 model year. Known officially as the GX 460 (GX for the purposes of this review), this Lexus is a seven-passenger, body-on-frame SUV built on the same platform that underpins the Toyota 4Runner.
Despite being related, the GX differs from the 4Runner in two key respects apart from branding, packaging, and styling. Firstly, the GX is strictly a three-row, seven-passenger vehicle, whereas the 4Runner can be had in either five or seven-passenger configurations. Second, the North American GX is powered by a 4.6-litre V8, rather than the 4.0-litre V6 used in the Toyota. The V6 is available in select markets outside of Canada and the U.S., however.
The 4.6, which was offered in the full-size Tundra pick-up prior to 2020, produces 301 hp at 5,500 rpm and 329 lb-ft. at 3,500 rpm and is mated to a 6-speed automatic with standard 4WD.
The current GX has been facelifted twice, once prior to the 2014 model year, and most recently for 2020. Key among the changes for this year is a new front fascia with a revised spindle grille and new triple LED headlights, LED fog lights, and combination LED rear combination taillights.
On the packaging front, the GX now comes with standard kit, including Multi-Terrain Monitor with Underfloor View and Bird’s Eye View Monitor and Lexus Safety System+, which includes a suite of active safety technologies.
Other changes include a new steering wheel and shift knob, along with a redesigned 4.2-inch multi-information cluster display, an additional console USB port and updated alloy wheels. For Canada, the GX is available in one well-stocked trim with a starting MSRP of $75,950.
For this review, Lexus Canada set me up with an atomic silver tester finished with a semi-aniline, Roja red interior. In addition to its long list of standard kit, my tester is also outfitted with the Executive Package ($6,000) which includes a Front Console Cool Box, 19-inch alloy wheels, P265/55R19 Dunlop tires, Transmission Fluid Cooler, Rear Seat Entertainment System and Crawl Control + Multi-Terrain Select. The before taxes price checks in at $84,025, including freight.
Boxy, but not ugly
The GX isn’t gorgeous by any means, but its boxy profile has some rugged appeal. Its aesthetic of sturdy, capable luxury has aged well, and the facelift makes its appearance more contemporary. The grille is still a bit big for my taste, but the new LED headlights do a good job of livening up design language that dates to the early Obama years.
The cabin is a mixed bag. From a content perspective, it’s well kitted out, but the look and feel of things is a bit old. The steering wheel and gear shifter are new, but most of the surrounding touch panels and trim pieces are not and they look it.
The recessed infotainment touchscreen is small, and while it works fine there were several occasions during my test where it took a second press or two to toggle various functions. Same goes for the hard keys on either side of the screen, although they are handy as shortcuts. The screen’s graphical fidelity appears last-gen compared to other premium brands and could use an update.
On the plus side, everything is smartly laid out. Controls and switches are logically placed, and general comfort is quite high. The GX’s boxy design offers good visibility and the second-row seating area has a good amount of space for normal-sized adults.
As for the third row, well, it’s a third row. Better for luggage than people, but fine for small kids. Maximum cargo space is rated at 1,833 litres. Overall, I’d say space is adequate but that will depend on one’s needs. Compared to other seven-passenger SUVs I’ve driven, the GX is on the smaller side and is something to consider.
On the road
The 4.6-litre V8 isn’t especially quick off the line and doesn’t feel powerful through the rev range, but peak torque arrives at just 3,500 rpm, so you won’t have to mash the throttle to get the most out of it. Generally, the GX doesn’t excel on pavement – brake feel lacks precision, lots of body roll in cornering, acceleration is so-so – but it’s acceptable for most daily driving situations.
Powertrains in big SUVs are generally best suited to long-haul cruising on the highway, and the GX is no exception. The 4.6 and 6-speed automatic could push the GX’s 2,359 kg. (5,179 lb.) all the way to Florida – assuming the border re-opens someday – without breaking a sweat.
The 6-speed autobox isn’t the most efficient gearbox in 2020, but the 13.5L / 100 km average I logged is better than spec, although I concede the number would be far worse if my tester was loaded with passengers, cargo and / or towing a trailer. Incidentally, the GX has a max towing rating of 2,948 kg. (6,500 lb.).
Note: I am aware of the GX’s off-road pedigree it shares with Toyota’s Land Cruiser family. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to go off-pavement this time around, so I have no impressions to share in that regard. Next time.
In a sense it feels like the GX’s time has come and gone. A once proud and shiny status object that the relentless march of technology has rendered almost irrelevant, or at least retrograde.
But couldn’t the same be said for all body-on-frame SUVs in 2020? They are all anachronisms to varying degrees with their big V8s, hulking structures and lack of electrified powertrains. The category has its drawbacks, and so does the GX.
On-road performance is mediocre, it feels small inside for a seven-passenger vehicle and the cabin is showing its age. But it also has strengths: loaded with premium content, respected off-road pedigree and Lexus build quality, all for a reasonable price.
The GX isn’t cutting edge now, nor has it really ever been. But it’s the product of decades worth of proven technology that owners can trust. True, the GX’s market is small, at least in Canada, but those who invest know exactly what they’re buying. And it’s hard to put a price on that.