Sacramento, California – If you’ve been longing for the top-tier sport-utility vehicle experience, rest assured that it’s still out there, even amid this wobbly economy.
I give you the 2010 Lexus GX 460 Premium, a seven-passenger sport-ute loaded with luxury and divine excess. I considered myself lucky to have a week in this redesigned-for-2010 SUV, because, alas, my budget does not allow for purchase of this vehicle for full-time enjoyment.
I’m guessing that most budgets are in similar shape, but for those fortunate enough to afford the fare, this is a luxo liner extraordinaire.
The starting price on the tester was a hefty $56,765, but a special navigation/Mark Levinson audio package helped push the bottom line to $62,714. This more than filled the requirements for the luxury SUV niche, and the list of to-lust-for features was so long that I needed to take a cold shower halfway through reading it.
All-star perks included full-time 4WD (as if someone would take this beauty into the rough off-road and put a scratch on it), four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, 10-way power/heated/ventilated front seats, Auburn Bubinga wood trim, rearview camera, downhill-assist control, headlamp cleaners, running boards with courtesy lights, leather trim all around, heated middle-row seats, adaptive variable suspension and enough cupholders and air bags for two vehicles.
And believe me when I tell you that’s the short list.
How does it look? Not super sporty but righteously elegant. Riding on 18-inch, six-spoke alloy wheels certainly adds some zip. Mine was wearing “Claret Mica” paint that I might have called “Root Beer,” remembering the candy barrels of my youth.
Performance from the 4.6-liter, 32-valuve V-8 with 301 horsepower was top-notch. The tester out-accelerated just about anything at an intersection and toyed with most freeway demands. Power is not pin-me-down robust but smooth and steady. Yet the interior cabin is so bank-vault solid that very little engine noise reaches the ears, even during hard accelerations.
I didn’t have much problem with the GX 460’s center stack of controls, although some folks might be intimidated by the “War and Peace”-length owner’s manual.
Great feature: The right side-hinged, swing-open back door, braced at the bottom. It offers a huge hole for loading cargo of all sizes.
I had just a couple gripes. The on/off knob on the sound system is large and mounted on the extreme left of the center stack, protruding just slightly into the driver’s footwell area. A couple times, my right knee bumped the knob and triggered the radio, giving me a momentary jolt. Part of the problem might be size, and by that I mean my size. I’m 6-4, so my knees tend to rest high in the cockpit, within reach of the on/off knob.
Another minor gripe: The foot brake, when pressed to the floor, is so far under the dash that I had to go searching for it with my left foot, sometimes taking three tries to disengage it.
All in all, however, this Lexus wears the luxury label well. For those aiming for the SUV heights, the GX 460 is situated at a pleasingly high elevation.
And please note, the 2011 GX 460 is showing up looking like its 2010 predecessor, but with some braking/technology enhancements added for the new model year.