Sunday, June 7, 2015

Driving a dying breed

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   While Lexus sells many of its RX and  NX crossover SUV's, it still keeps a couple of traditional SUV's available as well. The 2015 Lexus GX 460 is one of them, and it carries the old-school SUV torch with sturdy body-on-frame construction, full time 4-wheel drive, and a big, beefy V8 engine under the hood. Whether the GX is right for you or not will depend on your priorities.

     Interestingly, this Lexus is still rather well mannered in the city. The suspension is apt at soaking up bumps and broken pavement to give you a comfortable ride. That 301 horsepower V8 is muscular enough to get you in and out of traffic with even coming close to breaking a sweat. The GX 460 even offers an adaptive air suspension, plus a solid offering of luxury features.

     The 2015 Lexus GX 460 is a 7 passenger SUV that comes in Base and Luxury trims.

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     Standard features on the base model include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED low-beam headlamps, illuminated running boards, sunroof, roof rack side rails, rear privacy glass and a rear spoiler. Inside you will find dual zone auto a/c, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, 8-way power front seats, driver memory settings, cruise control, sliding and reclining split 40/20/40 second row seats, a 50/50 split third row seating, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, an auto dimming rear-view mirror, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth, and an 8-inch touchscreen electronics interface.

     There are many optional features on the 2015 Lexus GX 460, but keep in mind that they are packaged together differently depending on the region you live in. Case in point, a vehicle you order in Cleveland could be different than one you can order in L.A.

     The Premium package includes different 18-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, a windshield de-icer, front and rear parking sensors, perforated leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row seats, tri zone auto a/c, and a navigation system. Some of those items, like the navigation, are available as separate options.

     Stepping up to the Luxury model gets you the above equipment plus a special liquid graphite finish to those 18-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive suspension, rear auto-leveling, headlamp washers, illuminated front scuff plates, auto dimming side mirrors, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, a heated steering wheel, mahogany wood trim on the steering wheel and shift knob, upgraded leather upholstery, a cargo cover, and power folding 3rd row seats.

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 Options on the Luxury model include a 17-speaker sound system, a rear seat video entertainment system, and the Driver Support Package, which includes Crawl Control, automatic high beam headlamp control, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system, additional front and rear parking sensors, and the Mark Levinson sound system

     The 2015 Lexus GX 460 has a 4.6 liter V8 engine that puts out 301 horsepower and 329 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is a full time 4-wheel drive system with a dual-range transfer case. When properly equipped, the GX 460 can haul 6.500 pounds.

     In testing, the GX 460 accelerated to 60 mph from 0 in 7.2 seconds, an average time for a large luxury SUV, and got an EPA estimated 17 mpg combined.

     The 2015 Lexus GX 460 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, a rear-view camera, front and rear seat side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, and side curtain airbags that cover all 3 rows of seating. Also standard is Lexus Safety Connect.

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     There are also a number of optional safety features including blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alerts, a lane departure warning system, and a frontal collision warning system. In brake testing, the GX 460 came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet, which is a little longer than average for this class.

     The 2015 Lexus GX 460 maintains a decidedly traditional look on the interior, and forgoes the newer more modern wide screen monitor, and Remote Touch that is present in other, newer Lexus models. Still, the GX's cabin is attractive and very well put together. It is hard to find fault with the quality of the soft leather and genuine wood trim that are standard on the top of the line Luxury trim, but the switch from leather to leatherette in the base model could be seen by some as being rather low-rent. Front seats are still plenty comfortable, but the hard and flat second row bench is less-so. The third row seats are suitable for children, or small adults only.

     Folding the second and third row seats down gives you a cargo hold with 64.7 cubic feet of space, which is a little underwhelming, given the sheer size of the GX. Accessing that space can be made complicated in some curbside situations as the rear cargo door opens to the side. It does however offer the option of opening the glass portion, which helps when you want to carry longer items.

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   GX 460 delivers a ride quality that is a fair bit smoother than you might expect. Handling around turns is secure, and the available adaptive suspension helps in this area. With that said, you will likely find that many luxury crossovers will feel more confident and a good deal sportier in turns. In the city, the GX 460 also feels a little more truck like than some of its competitors, as steering and brake inputs feel a bit slow.
 For an SUV built on traditional body-on-frame underpinnings, the 2015 Lexus

     Leave the pavement behind however, and the Lexus GX 460's full time 4 wheel drive and available Crawl Control might make you feel invincible. Select one of the Crawl Control's 3 preset speeds, and the computer takes over both the gas and the brake pedal, leaving you to concentrate on just steering.

     The GX 460's V8 produces enough power for everyday driving, but can feel a little strained in some highway passing moves. The transmission can be smooth, but unsure of itself when downshifting at times.


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