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2011 Lexus GX460 AWD Review & Test Drive

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I originally wanted to test drive the all-new 2011 Lexus GX460 when it became available shortly after it premiered and had it scheduled with Lexus but when Consumer Reports magazine came out with their review of the dangers of rollover when they took it through their obstacle course, all of the 2010 GX460 fleet vehicles were canceled and brought back to the Lexus Test Center to resolve the problem, which they did successfully.

My view is that because all real sport utility vehicles have a high center of gravity, they are not intended for high-speed slicing and dicing through curving roads, even though Consumer Reports used a course with orange cones.

These vehicles, in my opinion, are for taking care of your daily personal needs, for long cruises to your intended destination, and when, or if, you want to take the vehicle off-road.  The new 2011 Lexus GX460 takes care of what a sport utility is intended for in style, versatility, luxury and safety.

After the introduction of the rugged, second-generation GX460 in model year 2010, this capable and efficient luxury utility vehicle moves into the 2011 model year with standard new ‘Smart Stop Technology’ as an additional measure of consumer confidence.  The braking system enhancement automatically reduces engine power when the brake pedal and the accelerator pedals are applied simultaneously under certain driving conditions.

The seven-passenger, body-on-frame, GX460 combines ‘right sized’ mid-size packaging with family-friendly comfort, luxury and premium craftsmanship.  The GX460 provides a versatile interior with its three-row seating arrangement.  The second row seat slides 4.1in. fore/aft to maximize passenger and cargo carrying capacity.  The foldable and reclining second row seats also feature a 60/40 walk-in function to access the standard power fold-flat third row seats.  The swing-out rear door window has a ‘flip-up’ glass panel that adds convenience and you lock the swing-out door to any position by turning the lower pneumatic shock absorber that helps with opening the door.

I love the roomy interior and it is enhanced in the GX460 with sound deadening material all around as well as a wealth of standard features and options.  The GX460 features standard heated/ventilated front, leather-trimmed bucket seats with 10-way power adjustments for both you and your front passenger.  Among the luxury features and options are semi-aniline leather, a heated steering wheel, and heated outer second-row seats.  Multimedia features-both standard and optional-expand onboard family entertainment choices that is only the beginning of how your want to outfit the interior, AWD and suspension systems available for your personal lifestyle and tastes.

The inside of the new GX460 provides the luxury appointments, excellent workmanship and attention to detail that you find in the Lexus sedans.  As I mentioned above, Lexus uses sound insulation, dampening and sound absorbing materials throughout the cabin, body and frame to reduce drivetrain noise, especially in the 3,000-4,000rpm range, to give it a quiet Lexus like ride.  GX460 uses one-touch power windows with motors that reduced speed near the closure point to minimize the sound of the window closing.

The instrument panel is designed to appear as if formed from a single metal bar and is arranged to place all vital controls within easy reach.  Optitron instrument gauges are a traditional and functional Lexus design element.  Soft, supportive and comfortable leather trimmed seats, headrest, armrests, door trim shift knob and power tilt/telescoping, leather/wood wrapped also adds to the Lexus touch.  Real Bubinga wood trim, instrument panel stitching and soft-touch surfaces enhance the luxury feel even further.

Lexus designed the GX460 to combine function and elegance, with unmistakable brand identity rooted in the L-finesse design language.  The overall effect conveys the vehicle’s full-range capability and luxury credentials.  A key goal of the designers was to have the vehicle create the impression of being sculpted from a single block of metal, and they succeeded.  The distinctive grille features three horizontal bars and, upon closer inspection, intricate detail and texture that conveys renowned Lexus attention to detail.  Distinctive character lines on the hood and chrome surround frame the grille.  The uniquely formed headlamp cluster features adaptive HID lamps and the front bumper features standard fog lamps. In the rear are large, wrap-around LED lamps clusters and a step-up rear bumper.  The flip-up rear glass has a wiper and washer system that is hidden inside the rear LED stop lamp.  Other functional design elements include low-profile roof rails, an acoustic insulation windshield that help to reduce wind noise and a rear spoiler to further reduce wind noise and provided additional downforce at the rear.

Tasteful luxury touches abound, including green-tint UV protection front glass, large, power remote-controlled/heated/self-dimming/power-folding side mirrors, privacy glass on the rear windows, big, pull out chrome door handles, and running board courtesy lamps give the new GX460 a total rugged yet luxury style.

The weather has been poor in Southern California for the past two months with rain storms five out of seven days per week, but it gave me the opportunity to photograph the portraits of the GX460 in the sun, and then test drive its capability in the rain instead of taking it off-road in the mud.

The new GX460 takes its model designation from its 4.6 liter, DOHC, VVTi, all-aluminum V8 engine that produces 301hp at 5,500rpm and 329lb.ft. of torque at 3,500rpm.  the GX460’s fuel economy is better than other V8 luxury utility vehicles and competitive with some six-cylinder models with its EPA estimated 17mpg combined, and 15mpg/city and 20mpg/highway ratings.

The 4.6 liter V8 is teamed with a smooth shifting six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with sequential shift.  The very responsive powertrain is quiet and gives the GX460 a towing rating up to 6,500lbs.  The gear ratio is set so that you get very fast launches to 60mph from a standstill to easily and safely merge onto fast moving highway traffic.

The standard full-time four-wheel drive uses an electronically controlled transfer case and a TORSEN torque-sensing limited-slip center differential which can be electronically locked for inclement weather.  It also offers a low range for off-road driving needs.  The TORSEN differential distributes power 40:60 under most driving conditions and changes the ratio as needed based on steering input and wheel slip.

The ability to change to a 30:70 ratio during steering maneuvers helps enhance vehicle tracking through curves.  If the rear wheels spin, the center differential can change the ratio to 50:50 to help control the slippage.  The TORSEN differential also helps make the GX460 less prone to slippage caused by sudden changes in road-surface conditions, such as driving through a puddle or over an ice patch.

The GX460 is one of the few premium brand luxury utility vehicles that can deliver genuine trail driving capability.  Combining that capability with Lexus luxury an on-road performance makes it even more exceptional.  Lexus studied vehicle usage of current owners and found that many use their GX for family hauling during the week and vacations and camping trips on weekends.  They often tow a boat or watercraft, and sometimes drive to areas with unpaved and rugged roads.

The GX460 has a robust body-on-frame construction and does not compromise on-or-off-road performance; the high-strength chassis and dynamic suspension control technology support both.

The available Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with three modes: Normal, Sport and Comfort, and its independent front suspension deliver a smooth on-road ride without compromising rugged off-road capabilities.  The GX460 rides on big, 18X8in. alloy wheels wrapped with Bridgestone 265/60R18in. Hauler tires.

The power rack & pinion steering system helps make it easier to maneuver the GX460 in tight spaces.  It feels light in parking maneuvers but gives a great feel for the road at higher speeds. Rear Adjustable Height Control (AHC) enhances the vehicle’s flexibility in a wide range of driving conditions.

By adjusting sway resistance provided by the front and rear stabilizer bars, standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension Control (KDSS) can reduce maximum body-roll by as much as 50% to help enhance both on-road handling response and off-road capability.

Using hydraulic cylinders acting on each stabilizer bar and linked by a pressure-sensing valve, KSSS reduces the degree of roll stiffness provided by the stabilizer bars in response to changing road conditions and driver inputs.  Because KDSS changes the effectiveness of the stabilizer bars in certain situations like off-road driving, the nominal stiffness of the bars can be notably increased to help reduce body-tilt and improve on-road handling.

During on-road cornering, when both front and rear hydraulic cylinders are in a neutral position no fluid flows in the system and the stabilizer bars work conventionally to help reduce body lean.  In off-road driving situations, KDSS allows the wheels on each axle to move with a larger degree of side-to-side independence, helping to minimize any tendency for wheel lift.  When the GX460 encounters an uneven surface, one compressed cylinder causes fluid to flow to the other cylinder, helping the vehicle to keep all four wheels solidly planted n the ground.  That action increases wheel travel and articulation and helps to equalize wheel loading.

The new GX460, like all Lexus vehicles, is equipped with an array of dynamic safety systems.  Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) helps keep the GX460 going on its intended course by detecting front-and-rear wheel slide during cornering and attempting to control either with a combination of torque intervention and individual wheel braking. Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD) utilizes the ABS and distributes proper brake force between the front and rear wheels according to driving conditions and wheel-load.  Brake Assist (BA) is designed to determine if the driver is attempting emergency braking, and if the driver has not stepped firmly enough on the brake pedal to engage ABS, the system supplements the applied braking power.  The new GX460 comes standard with 13.3in. vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers and 12.3in. solid rear discs clamped with single-piston calipers that assure you of quick, controlled stopping power.

Besides the KDSS, what really sets the new GX460 apart from the rest of the luxury sport utility crowd is the optional Crawl Control system, a technology that helps make driving off-road easier.  The Crawl Control feature automatically modulates the throttle and brake, allowing you to concentrate on steering.  Crawl Control is also useful to help navigate the vehicle through sand, mud or snow.

When the transmission is shifted into low range, Crawl Control regulates engine speed and output, along with braking force, to propel the GX460 forward or in reverse at one of five low-speed settings.   This allows you to maintain focus while steering over very rough level ground or steep grades, without having to also modulate the throttle and brake pedals.  Crawl Control also actuates the front and rear ‘virtual’ locking differentials to help reduce tire slippage and optimize behavior.

Without canceling Crawl Control, you can reduce vehicle speed by braking or adjust the crawling speed with a selector switch.  Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) provides additional control for off-road driving by helping to keep the GX460 from rolling back while starting on a steep incline or slippery surface.

Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is designed to augment the low-speed descending ability of the transmission’s low range by helping to hold the GX460 to a target speed with no intervention from the driver.  Active traction control (A-TRAC) provides the traction benefits of having locking front and rear differentials, but with lower weight.  The system can apply the brake to a slipping wheel, while transferring torque to the wheels with better traction.  A steering angle indicator in the gauge panel shows you at a glance which direction the front wheels are pointing-useful for situations where this can be difficult to discern, such as driving off-road or when parking.

These systems enhance the new GX460’s ability and capabilities when you are challenging the toughest off-road terrain as you search for that special off-road area when it is just you and your passengers enjoying the joys of nature close up.

Keeping you and your passengers safe and secure is a hallmark of Lexus and the GX460 is no exception.  The standard supplemental Restraint System (SRS) includes 10-airbags, dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, driver/front passenger knee airbags, second-row seat-mounted side airbags, and roll-sensing side curtain airbags covering all three rows.  The front airbags are designed to inflate according to collision severity.  The roll-sensing side curtain airbags are designed to deploy when a severe tilt angle, roll or lateral G-force is detected.  The new GX460 features a roll-sensing side curtain airbags off switch to deactivate these airbags during certain off-road driving situations.

The optional Pre-Collision System (PCS) can help reduce collision damage.  The package includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which uses millimeter-wave radar to measure and help maintain a pre-set distance from a vehicle traveling ahead.  The multi-information display with the combination meter will show a car icon with the selected following distance.  If, based on a variety of inputs, PCS determines that a collision is unavoidable, the system preemptively retracts the front seatbelts and pre-initializes BA so that increased braking will be applied the instant you depress the brake pedal.  In addition, an optional Pre-Collision System with Driver Attention Monitor and Lane Departure Alert (LDA) is available for the GX460.

You get all of these standard and optional features in the new GX460 that makes driving on the pavement or off-road in a luxurious environment with the fit and finishes expected in a Lexus.  Standard features include: 10-way power-adjustable/heated/ventilated front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, leather trimmed seats and surfaces, steering wheel audio controls, rain-sensing wipers/washers, power moonroof, memory system for the driver’s seat, steering wheel and outside mirror positions, and an overhead console with integrated HomeLink transmitter.  Equipped for family multimedia entertainment, the new GX460 comes standard with a Lexus Premium 9-speaker audio system with iPod/USB connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, and music streaming, with an integrated XM radio receiver.  When connected to the USB port, the iPod can be controlled through the audio system or steering wheel controls, while information such as names for the artist, track and album is displayed on the headunit or optional navigation screen.  A rear back-up camera is standard and provides you with a view of what its lens can detect behind the vehicle when engaged in reverse gear, projecting the image on the standard 4.2in. multi-information display or the optional navigation system’s LCD display.  Also standard inside is a self-dimming rearview mirror, grab handles at all doors plus on each A-pillar, dual map lamps, lighted vanity mirrors, aluminum door sill plates, carpeted floor mats, full-perimeter lighting, one-touch power windows and door locks.

The hard disc drive (HDD) navigation system is a stand-alone option and features Voice Command casual language-based voice recognition system and Bluetooth phonebook download to enhance your convenience.  The available 17-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Audio System is the platinum standard for OEM mobile audio.  The optional Rear Seat Entertainment system includes two LCD screens, one in each front seat backrests.  Three-zone automatic climate control for enhanced third-row passenger comfort is also optional.

Lexus GX460 also offers a telematics system, Lexus Enform with Safety Connect, available by subscription, with complimentary one-year trail subscriptions included in all new Lexus vehicles equipped with these features.  Safety Connect is standard on all vehicles while Lexus Enform with Safety Connect is on all vehicles equipped with the optional Navigation system.  The Lexus Enform and Safety Connect response centers operate 24-hours a day, 7-days a week-every day of the year.

The new 2011 Lexus GX460 gives you all of the luxury and comfort that you expect from a Lexus vehicle plus all of the versatility and functionality found in a sport utility vehicle including the ability to go off-road to your favorite destinations, or never leaving the pavement while enjoying the quiet smooth ride of a Lexus vehicle.



Price: Base $52,235 As-Tested Premium $57,119
Type: Midsize SUV
Where Built: Japan
EPA Class: Sport Utility Vehicles


Length: 189.2 in. Width: 74.2 in.
Height: 73.8 in. Wheel Base: 109.8 in.
Ground Clearance: 8.1 in. Curb Weight: 5340 lbs.
Gross Weight: 6600 lbs.
Front Head Room: 38 in. Front Hip Room: 56.5 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 55.4 in. Rear Head Room: 40.4 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 57.3 in. Rear Hip Room: 55.2 in.
Front Leg Room: 41.7 in. Rear Leg Room: 34.1 in.
Luggage Capacity: 11.6 cu. ft. Maximum Cargo Capacity: 92 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 7

Performance Data

Number of Cylinders: 8
Engine Size: 4.6 liters
Engine Type: V8
Horsepower: 301 hp
Max Horsepower: 5500 rpm
Torque: 329 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 3500 rpm
Maximum Payload: 1260 lbs.
Maximum Towing Capacity: 6500 lbs.
Drive Type: 4WD
Turning Circle: 38.1 ft.
0-60mph: 7.8 seconds

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 23 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Automatic: 15 mpg / 20 mpg / 17 mpg
Range in Miles:
Automatic: 345 mi. / 460 mi. / 391 mi.


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