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Merging a sturdy chassis and typical Lexus luxury, the GX is a mountain climber in a three-piece suit. A 301-hp 4.6-liter V-8, a six-speed automatic, and a four-wheel-drive system with a locking center differential are all standard and provide the GX its off-road credentials. Inside, plush seats, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a power-adjustable steering wheel are standard; adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking are optional on the top Luxury trim.
Under the Lexus glitz, the GX is most closely related to the Toyota 4Runner—ladder frame, live rear axle, and all—but with a V-8, standard third row, four-wheel drive, and luxury accoutrements. A Toyota in a tux, if you will. It really hasn’t changed much since it first slithered out of the primordial soup as a 2003 model GX470. There’s some new technology, namely updated safety and infotainment items, but it’s still the same basic creature. Well, plus a distinctive, bigger-than-life spindle-shaped grille that arrived with the 2014 model and looks like it might just swallow whatever gets in its way.
This Lexus SUV isn’t the ride you’d choose to hustle down a twisty road or to maximize fuel economy. (We averaged 17 mpg, and we recorded 22 mpg in our 200-mile test at 75 mph.) In our experience, it doesn’t encourage spirited driving. For one thing, the steering lacks good communication skills. The brake pedal is mushy at the top of travel; even though we didn’t experience any fade during our testing, hyperactive ABS intervention led to some pretty long stopping distances from 70 mph. While the tall 265/60R-18 mud-and-snow tires are just what you’d want for poor traction situations, on a dry road there isn’t an abundance of lateral grip. The tall body sits atop a rugged ladder frame, and occupants feel the chassis rocking from side to side on curves and pitching fore and aft with throttle and brake applications. In this case, dive, squat, and roll are not Olympic events. But the GX’s ride is comfortable, absorbing harsh impacts well. A three-position switch offers Normal, Sport and Comfort settings for the available adaptive dampers that provide slight but detectable changes in ride quality.