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Where is Lexus going with the GX?

27 Jun 2019 12:23 AM | Danny Harrison

The 2019 Lexus GX 460 was one of the more challenging vehicles for me to review over these last several years, not because I didn’t understand its features, but because I don’t entirely understand why it still looks and performs almost exactly like the last GX 460 they sent me about four years ago.

Don’t assume you know where I’m going with this review, though. You may be surprised.

When my family tested the 2015 model, we took it full-bore down to Amelia Island, Florida and drove it on the beach. It exceeded our expectations by offering a relatively quiet, comfortable ride down the Interstate, despite being built on what is essentially a truck chassis. Luxury touches like vented seats and quick-acting, zoned climate control made getting in and out of the car on hot days much more tolerable. In short, we fell in love with the vehicle.

One of the great charms of the GX is that it is true luxury vehicle with full off-roading capabilities. It’s 4.6-liter V-8 engine delivers better than 300 horsepower and around 330 lb-ft of torque. That loose, golden sand was no problem for this beautiful beast.

This 2019 copy is no less amazing than the 2015, but that’s primarily because it’s pretty much the same vehicle. It still has the 4.6-liter V-8 that still delivers 301 horses, and it still looks the same on the interior and the exterior.

The price range is the same. The one we drove four years ago stickered at $63K, and this comparable one rolled off at just north of $70K.

Frankly, this new GX 460 lacks technological features that are now standard on the Toyota Corolla (Lexus, for any who may not already know, is Toyota’s luxury line), and that really was shocking considering the price gap.

Initially, I was surprised by this lack of progress, and then I looked up the sales figures. Turns out, Lexus sold more than 27,000 GX 460s in the United States in 2017, and just a few thousand shy of that figure in 2018. Could it be that Lexus knows its market better than car reviewers do? Could it be that there is still a strong segment of the population who wants a luxury SUV that looks and drives exactly as the GX 460 does now and has done for the last several years?

A few years ago, I marveled that the owner of the newspaper where I worked (and dozens more) showed up for tri-annual visits to our facility in an older model Jaguar. It is the same vehicle he had been driving for many years.

He is wealthy, we thought. He could drive anything he wants, we said. So then why would he drive an older-model Jaguar?

And we missed the point. Of course he could drive whatever he wanted, and he wanted to drive that car. We don’t need to understand why.

So that’s my take on the new GX 460. It’s still the same amazing, stately, powerful, comfortable, beautiful SUV that is has been for half a decade, and if you want a brand-new copy of it, they’re still up for grabs at the Lexus dealership.

I’m not finished wondering, though.

I hear rumors that, despite the still-strong sales figures, Lexus is redesigning the GX 460 for 2020. Will it be quicker, stronger, sleeker, bolder, more youthful? Will it have cutting-edge technology that blows us away?

Conversely, would Lexus be so bold as to just change the 19 to a 20 and roll this same vehicle back out again?

Whatever the case, I’m counting on a return of the GX to the 2020 Lexus lineup, and whatever it turns out to be, someone, and probably a lot of someones, will buy it.

[Danny Harrison is a veteran journalist who cut his teeth in the newspaper industry in 1995. He is the public relations specialist for a bustling municipality just south of Atlanta, but he still enjoys writing news features and reviews in his personal time. He is an active member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association. He and his wife have five children, all of whom fancy themselves to be automobile critics.]

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