There are plenty of things in life that never change. They stay exactly as we remember them and become almost comforting because everything else is changing so fast. Toyota and Lexus SUVs have become one of those things, and continue on, relatively unchanged for several years at a time. That can absolutely be a comfort to people who just want a vehicle that performs, looks, and even smells the way they remember. One of Lexus’ largest SUVs, the GX, was lightly updated for the 2020 model year with more tech and a revised look, but nothing to ruin the nostalgia.
I recently spent a week with the 2020 Lexus GX 460 and came away from that time with a renewed appreciation for its ability to linger on, well past the timeframe that would render most “normal” vehicles completely obsolete. Part of what makes vehicles like the GX and the Toyota 4Runner so special is that they’re dinosaurs that are still good at what they do: combining daily usability with a high level of off-road capability. They’re part of a very small group of vehicles that can pull off the balance between capability and usability, and part of an even smaller group that can do it with a high level of reliability. Enough with the “-ility” rant. Let’s look at some of the GX’s tech and driving dynamics that have played a big part in making it such a legendary vehicle.
It’s Got Solid but Sometimes Infuriating Tech
The Lexus GX’s infotainment system has a mostly easy-to-use but outdated user interface. Where so many new vehicles leave the factory with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, the GX is notably lacking both. That leaves us with Lexus’ Enform system, which is both capable and annoying in ways that keep uncovering themselves in waves the more the system is used.
When the vehicle is started, the touch screen defaults to a set of warnings and flashes a Lexus animation as it boots. That’s not all that uncommon on its own, but the length of time that the system forces users to stare at the boot screen feels like an eternity. Nothing can be done until the infotainment system is fully started and ready to go. That includes climate settings, audio volume, and navigation, among other things. On hot summer days, you’ll be sitting in a boiling vehicle while the infotainment system finishes telling you how dangerous it is to look at a screen while driving. If you left your stereo blasting when you got out of the car, you’ll have to listen to that while you wait, too, so make sure your kids like Whitesnake before jamming out too hard the night before school drop-off.
Another difficulty arises with the system’s behavior when listening to music. The audio screen changes back to a default display after a while, which can be disorienting while driving. Sure, you shouldn’t be scrolling endlessly through SiriusXM radio channels while you’re scooting down the highway at 75 mph, but you should be able to quickly find the screen you need, change a setting or channel, and move on. The GX’s interface doesn’t make it impossible to change audio settings, but it’s certainly a lot harder than it needs to be.
Things look up considerably when we get to the GX’s safety equipment. The Luxury trim I tested came standard with intuitive parking assist, LED fog lights, headlight washers, ten standard airbags, triple beam LED headlamps, blind spot monitors, and an $800 surround-view camera system. That’s on top of the standard kit that every GX gets, which comes in the form of the Lexus Safety System +, and includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alerts, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent automatic high beam headlights.
It Can Take You Further Off-Road Than You’ll Probably Want to Go
You can add a $1,570 off-road package to your Lexus GX, but it’s a supremely capable off-roader without it. The package includes the surround-view camera that can be purchased as a standalone option, crawl control, multi-terrain select, a fuel tank protector, and a transmission oil cooler. Crawl control functions as a sort of off-road cruise control that allows the driver to set a low speed and maintain it while focusing on steering and braking.
It’s Still a Lexus
The GX’s stout off-road capability doesn’t completely kill its ability to handle its luxury duties on the road. The 301-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 is smooth and refined and is strong enough to push the big Lexus to 60 mph in about seven seconds. The GX features Lexus’ Dynamic Suspension System, which works to improve off-road traction and helps keep the SUV’s body movements under control when it’s on the road. It’s a similar system to the one that Toyota uses in the Land Cruiser and is one small contributor to that vehicle’s status as a legendary off-roader.
The most surprising thing about the GX is just how Lexus-like it is. Its on-road manners, peaceful cabin, and relaxed driving dynamics are all straight out of the Lexus playbook. If you didn’t know you were sitting in a rugged body-on-frame SUV with some serious off-road abilities, the GX won’t do much to tip you off. This is about as cushy as all-out capability can get, short of something with a bigger price tag and a much longer name that starts with “Land Rover.”