Finesse for the road

Posted on 12 Feb 2010 at 12:24am
By CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer crwauto@aol.com

Lexus flexes its muscle with the powerful but fuel efficient GX460 SUV


AUTO PANACHE | Lexus’ GX460 glides with style and efficiency with its smaller and stronger new engine.

Lexus’ relentless pursuit of perfection is legendary and well subscribed through two decades of constant advertising, but most of its vehicles are better suited to pursuing a good deal at the Galleria than chasing a rugged trail to a mountain cabin. But with more power, improved safety and upgraded luxuries, the GX460 can pursue perfection almost anywhere.

The 2010 GX460 occupies high ground between the RX crossover and full-size LX570 SUV. As before, the GX shares its basic vehicle architecture with the Toyota 4-Runner, allowing it to balance off-road capability with on-road handling and ride comfort. Rugged full-framed construction insures the 7-passenger SUV can handle muscle boy tasks even if it spends most of its life doing housework.

Lexus installed a slightly smaller engine that increases power and fuel efficiency.

The 4.6-liter V8 generates 301 horsepower — put through the pedals with four-wheel-drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Improved torque ratings make towing and climbing easier; it can tow up to 6,500 lbs.

Fuel efficiency was improved 13 percent to rate 15/20-mpg city/highway.

Combined ratings rose from 15–17-mpg. I wouldn’t expect anybody to whip out his green card over 17 mpg, but for a fully laden, tough job-capable three-row SUV, that’s not bad. Lexus did not promise a 4×4 Prius and you’ll never confuse the big truck’s shape for one.

Exterior forms and appendages are shaved smoother for aerodynamics, but look more fashion-forward and exclusive. Lexus calls its design language "L-finesse," but it translates into a grille with three chrome horizontal bars, character lines in the hood, chrome grille surround, integrated fog lamps, low-profile roof rack and integrated running boards. Strong fender forms convey the vehicle’s capability and buff its appearance. Even with subtle upgrades, you’ll recognize the GX460 as the newest evolution of style that began with the Toyota Land Cruiser nearly 20 years ago.

DASHING DASHBOARD | Lexus loads the interior with techie amenities for front and rear passengers.

Lexus interiors are always high style with the finest materials, but GX460 stylists found ways to make the SUV’s cabin an even more soothing place to inhabit.

Heated and cooled front leather seats, rain-sensing wipers, power moonroof, wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel and rear-back-up camera meet today’s standard. A Lexus Premium nine-speaker audio system with iPod control, XM Radio and Bluetooth capability for hands-free calling take it up.

To really load this hoss, add in the optional power-retracting outside mirrors, semi-aniline leather, heated second-row outer seats and God’s own Mark Levinson audio system that sings like cherubs. Rear seat passengers can watch two LCD screens for video or games while reclining in their own controlled climate. Front and side monitors help guide the vehicle in and out of tight parking areas.

You’ll be amazed at the wagon’s chassis adjustments from that luxury skybox.

Lexus installed the electronic equivalent of dance shoes with cleats. Adaptive Variable Suspension has three modes (Normal, Sport and Comfort) for the perfect ride. The KDSS system adjusts roll resistance to reduce the maximum body-roll angle by up to 50 percent for improved handling in the craters. The same system helps the SUV corner upright on asphalt with no heaving and hoping.

Adjustable Height Control raises the body off its suspension for serious off-road fun, while Crawl Control and Downhill Assist automatically adjust throttle and brakes during tough terrain. Hill-start Assist Control prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards when launching from a steep grade.

It’s the GX460′s on-road electronics that can really save your nubbins. An optional Pre-Collision System uses the dynamic cruise control’s radar unit to detect potential crashes, tighten seatbelts when an impact is predicted and pre-charge brakes for quicker affect. The electronics can even lightly apply brakes to start decelerating and change the steering ratio for the driver to react quickly.

Cameras in the front of the vehicle and on the steering column monitor road stripes and driver movements. If the system notices the driver has not looked ahead for a few seconds, and especially if the vehicle departs its lane, it will chime and flash a light to get your attention. If there is something to know or modulate, the GX can.

A GX460 will help you pursue perfection in places where drivers of a LS460, ES350 or RX450h couldn’t conceive. It can haul your stuff and your ass wherever you want as safely and comfortably as anybody deserves.

With prices starting at $51,970, competitors include the GMC Yukon, Volkswagen Touareg, Mercedes ML and BMW X5.   

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2010.

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