2010 Lexus GX 460
2010 Lexus GX 460. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2010 Lexus GX 460

Seven-seat luxury crossovers aren’t hard to come by, and there’s certainly no dearth of SUVs built for off-roading. What’s more difficult to find is a mid-sized truck that combines all three attributes: seating for seven, luxurious appointments and running gear suitable for tackling logs and rocks and things.

If those are your requirements for a new vehicle, you have exactly two choices: the Land Rover LR4 and this vehicle, the 2010 Lexus GX 460. That there aren’t more vehicles like these is evidence that vehicle manufacturers know that most high-end crossovers are mostly used for city duty. Lexus could have easily created an upsized version of its popular car-based RX crossover, but instead decided that the GX, which has been around since 2004, could be a more unique vehicle by using truck underpinnings and a more serious four-wheel drive system.

The GX has been redesigned for 2010, with new styling and a 4.6-litre V8 engine to replace the first-generation’s 4.7-litre motor. Despite being smaller in displacement, the new powerplant is more powerful, making 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque, increases of 38 hp and six lb-ft. It’s also more efficient, with ratings of 14.1/9.8 L/100 km (city/highway), versus the old engine’s 15.3/11.4 L/100 km figures. A six-speed automatic transmission is also new, taking the place of last year’s five-speed. (For the record, the LR4 is also new for 2010, with updated looks and a 5.0-litre V8 (borrowed from Jaguar) that makes an even more impressive 375 hp and 375 lb-ft. Its third row of seats are an option, while the GX’s are standard.)

2010 Lexus GX 460
2010 Lexus GX 460
2010 Lexus GX 460. Click image to enlarge

This truck is based directly on the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado that’s sold on just about every continent but North America. Its closest relations in Toyota’s line-up here are the 4Runner and FJ Cruiser, with which the GX shares platform components and running gear. The GX’s body-on-frame construction and solid rear axle suspension make it even more unique among mid-sized luxury SUVs – the Land Rover LR4 uses what that company calls Integrated Body Frame construction (something in between body-on-frame and unit body) and all-independent suspension for better on-road performance, and most others are full unit body vehicles.

The GX’s four-wheel drive system operates all the time, distributing the engine’s power 40/60, front/rear. A centre differential changes that to 30/70 during turns to enhance stability and tracking through corners, and if the rear wheels spin, power is split 50/50 front to rear.

As well as low-range gearing (activated via an electronic switch on the centre console), the GX also uses the Toyota/Lexus Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which, Lexus says, benefits the truck’s performance both on and off the road by varying the amount of roll stiffness generated by the stabilizer bars. On paved surfaces, the bars’ effective stiffness can be increased to reduce body roll, and they can be disengaged completely to allow maximum suspension articulation in tricky off-road situations. Another standard feature is an indicator in the gauge cluster that shows which way the front wheels are turned: handy, says Lexus, for when tackling tortuous terrain, or simply navigating a tight parking lot.

2010 Lexus GX 460
2010 Lexus GX 460. Click image to enlarge

If that’s not enough, the Ultra Premium model includes (among other things) a fleet of four-wheeling enhancements like a four-camera around-view and multi-terrain monitor that lets the driver see what’s around the vehicle (both in the bush and parking lots); off-road package with off-road guidance; Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select.

I didn’t get to test the GX in an off-road setting, but I spent lots of time piloting it on paved surfaces where, anecdotally at least, luxury SUVs are more frequently found.

The soft suspension lends the GX a very comfortable ride, one more like that of a luxury sedan than a body-on-frame truck. The KDSS setup is welcome for its roll control intervention, as the truck leans noticeably even in corners taken at moderate speeds. That and the very light steering are not unexpected, though; what’s more surprising is how the truck’s nose dives under hard braking. That’s another side effect of the soft ride, and a disconcerting one.

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