You may remember that the Lexus GX 460 had a "don't buy" label slapped on it by Consumer Reports, which led to a recall of the SUV. The problem? Several factors — including software — led to a rollover risk during emergency maneuvers. When we drove the 460 shortly before the spring recall, we didn't experience any problems.
Appearance: This is an old-school SUV — it shares chassis components with the Toyota 4Runner — and has room for seven passengers. Despite that, it's called a midsize SUV, or Luxury Utility Vehicle in Lexus-speak. The 460 is tall, with a commanding face dominated by a three-bar grille. The body design allows for some trucklike sculpting above the rear wheel wells, which have lots of travel room for the 18-inch wheels if you go off-road. The 460 also has running boards, which, in combination with lots of handles to pull yourself up, are necessary, as Lyra found out.
Performance: The 4.6-liter V-8 puts out 301 horsepower, which is enough to get the SUV from zero to 60 in 7.8 seconds — not sports-car numbers, but not too bad for a 5,340-pounder. Yes, you'll notice some body lean in turns, but the adjustable suspension offers sport and comfort modes. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly. There are a host of helpers should you travel off the flat Florida terrain: full-time four-wheel drive, with downhill assist and hill start, and auto-leveling to adjust the rear suspension. Curiously, there's also an eco-indicator that monitors if you're driving conservatively. With fuel mileage of 15 mpg in the city and 20 highway, that's understandable.
Interior: Lexus' simple white-on-black gauges frame an uncluttered instrument display. The center console features lots of buttons and switches to accommodate all the electronics. Lyra found some of the controls a bit plasticky for a Lexus, though the wood trim on the dash and steering wheel help mitigate the feeling. The stitched leather seats are comfortable and plush up front. The rear seats can be a bit more cramped, especially the third row, which is best for the kids. Lyra had this beef: The rear door opens sideways, but to the driver's side. She blames it on the fact that in her native Japan, the passenger side is on the left. We both thought there was just minimal cargo area with the third-row seats up. There is barely enough for more than a few grocery bags. But at least there are easy-to-reach buttons to fold the third row flat.
Our 3 favorites
Ride: For its size, the 460 is relatively nimble.
Towing: It's rated at 6,500 pounds, more than enough to pull your personal watercraft.
Headlights: Projector-beam lamps and design that's very Stark Industries.
Safety gadgets: Lots of bells, whistles and cameras to keep you safe.
Power fold: Buttons make folding down third row easy.
Comfort: Front seats are plush and huggably soft.
The bottom line: The Lexus GX 460 is a study in contrasts — a comfortable, gadget-laden SUV that's built on a rugged frame and can be taken off-road. If you need three rows of seats and actually leave the pavement, it's worth a look.