2020 Lexus GX460 Review — A Retro Classic You Can Buy New Today

2020 Lexus GX460 Luxury Fast Facts

4.6-liter DOHC V8 (301 hp @ 5500 rpm, 329 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm)

Six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive

15 city / 19 highway / 16 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

17.2 (observed mileage, MPG)

16.2 city / 12.3 highway / 14.5 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $65,290 US / $78,176 CAN

As Tested: $72,330 US / $84,176 CAN

Prices include $1,025 destination charge in the United States and $2,226 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

I’m trying to imagine the buyer who walks into a Lexus dealership, ready to buy an SUV. The options can be overwhelming. No fewer than five distinct models with a bit of ground clearance dot the clean, modern showroom and perfectly aligned aisles of fresh deliveries.

The RX is the gold standard of luxury crossovers, of course – and it’s now available with a third-row great for small children, small dogs, or golf clubs. The NX and UX lean toward the more affordable scale, for upwardly mobile folks who don’t need to be mobile with a ton of stuff.

The 2020 Lexus GX460, however, is in a weird spot. It really doesn’t give the passengers much additional space over the RX, but it’s a much bigger vehicle overall. It’s a rugged, body-on-frame beast that can tame many an off-road trail. It doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the Lexus lineup – bigger LX notwithstanding. But it clearly meets the needs of many, many drivers.

A couple of years ago, I drove a 2018 GX460 – and I don’t think I quite understood it then. I saw a large, thirsty vehicle without a ton of interior room – another big SUV in a world dominated by crossovers, which sadly do a much better job of people hauling in everyday conditions than a more traditional SUV. A Thanksgiving road trip – back when we could “go places” and “see others” – showed me the on-road virtues of this classic.

Ever since, I’ve been noticing the GX seemingly everywhere – and in forms not one typically equates with the usual Lexus owner. I’m seeing older models with ladders strapped to the roof, laden with tools of a trade and showing signs of abuse. A friend has a GX that makes Home Depot runs on the weekends for his remodel project while cleaning up nicely for visits to his business clients through the week. And both Instagram and real life are dotted with the GX, modified with a bit of ride height and (invariably bronze-colored) Method off-road wheels to bring Lexus bling to overlanding.

I’d have preferred a bit of the older look to my tester, which has undergone radical rhinoplasty over the years to wear the corporate predator grille. With chrome trim ringing the gaping hourglass, there’s no mistaking this for anything but a modern Lexus – for good or bad. It’s not pretty, but many competitors in this market (gestures generally toward Munich) have eschewed all attempts at making a bulky box on wheels look anything but terrifying to onlookers. In that context, the Lexus grille has become less jarring by familiarity.

I often will criticize automakers for not being daring with their paint colors. Indeed, black, white, gray, grey, greige, beige, and blah have long been the favorite hues of the beancounters and the dealer principals alike. However, the Nebula Gray Pearl here – despite falling smack in the middle of the bland spectrum – is a handsome shade. The dark gray wheels here (fitted as part of the $2,020 Sport Design package, which also replaces the second-row bench with captain’s chairs among other details) are just a skosh darker than the body color, making the big Lexus rather handsome if you don’t look at it from the front.

It’s even better when you open a door. Alert – RED LEATHER! It’s marvelous! I welcome a return to joyous interior color and encourage all automakers to turn the page in the Tier One upholsterer’s sample books beyond the usual black or gray. Beyond the lovely leather, the interior is much the same as the car I sampled a couple years back – a black dashboard with silvery-painted plastics brightening things up a bit, with a dated touchscreen controlling HVAC and audio. The third row is tight for most anyone over five feet tall – as my spawn have rocketed upwards, there’s no use in attempting to shove them back there.

Oh, and take a look at that cruise control stalk at the four o’clock position on the steering wheel. It’s the same control that was on my mom’s 1994 Corolla. Same feel, same font. It works well, so I suppose there’s no reason to change it. If Toyota paid engineers in royalties, some long-retired knob specialist would be a billionaire.

It’s a classic, of course, and it drives like it. It’s not agricultural at all like one might expect from such a dated mechanical design – but it’s clear that more modern SUVs from Detroit, especially, have an edge in ride quality on the tarmac. 301 hp from the V8 is plenty for most uses, though it’s quite thirsty. Steering is direct and communicative without harshness over potholes or expansion joints. I’d have loved to get it off the pavement – I’m sure it would shine.

And that’s what keeps people coming back to the 2020 Lexus GX 460. It’s familiar. It’s not right for me right now – but I’ll admit I keep looking at Craigslist for older ones. And have another tab open for bronze wheels.

[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn]

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