Recently we lived with the all American luxury SUV the Buick Enclave and this got us thinking: why are there so many of these things? Even though the market seems to be shifting towards smaller vehicles, manufactures still know that (for the time being) there is a place for the luxury SUV. The top dogs for a long time have been the Lexus trucks, more specifically the full size LX and the smaller RX. But Lexus does make a “right-sized” model that seems to go unnoticed: the GX. Based on the Tacoma/4Runner platform, Lexus has decided to push the body-on frame GX 460 into stardom for 2011.
Realizing where the priorities are in a luxury SUV, Lexus has put more development into the interior and safety features. Debuting for this year is the new Smart Stop Technology that cuts into engine power when braking. This is obviously in response to the past year’s disaster that Toyota encountered over its braking systems. Millions of dollars in recalls can usually make a manufacture sit up and take notice.
Easier cargo loading is also an added feature for this year. The third row seats now get a power folding system to aid in loading groceries and kids. Once strapped in, the GX will move its cargo with the power of a 4.6 liter 301 hp V8 and 6sp automatic. This engine may have variable valve timing and 329 lb-ft of torque, but the GX is no light weight and isn’t going to be much fun at the Saturday night drag strip. The fuel mileage doesn’t impress either with an EPA estimated 15 mpg in the city. It maybe mid-size but the GX 460 is flat-out heavy and would easily be more efficient with the Tundra’s 5.7 iForce V8.
What has always been impressive about the larger Lexus SUVs have been their body-on frame construction which allows for stellar off-road capability. The GX is no slouch with TORSEN limited slip differentials in the front, center and rear. With the ability to lock the torque split between the front and rear at a 50:50 ratio, the Lexus will have trouble getting stuck in the muck. The transmission and transfer case use a downhill assist feature that can also help the big GX in the rough stuff. All of this off-road technology is wonderful but here is the real question: how often will it be put to use? This has always been a conundrum about the Lexus SUVs; why do all of that to a vehicle when the most jungle these things usually see is made of concrete?
Despite its mixed priorities, the 2011 Lexus GX 460 is rolling proof that Toyota is actually trying to fix what happened to them. They are standing by their products and stopping at nothing to make them better and put their name back on the map.
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