Experience the Driver’s Seat: Lexus GX 460

Lexus’ uptown GX 460 is always ready to get down and dirty.

With its squat, vaguely top-heavy proportions, blunt aerodynamics and pinched, oversized trapezoidal grille, the Lexus GX 460 doesn’t exactly fit most people’s visions of automotive beauty. But the seven passenger SUV’s visual mishmash vanishes once you’re strapped into the driver’s seat. And it’s only from behind the wheel that you’ll discover the virtues of the big Lexus’ personality. Make that personalities.

Although the 2016 GX 460 glides comfortably and quietly, swaddling its occupants in a cocoon of leather and high fidelity, its full-time all-wheel drive and mud-and-snow tires serve notice that this Lexus sport ute is ready to get down and dirty charging off road or taking on rock-strewn trails.

Electronics and programming rule both environments. In the cabin, for instance, the infotainment suite centers on an 8-inch touch screen that can be split into two or three panes to simultaneously monitor, for example, radio (including high-definition and Sirius XM), GPS mapping and weather info.

The standard GX stereo has nine speakers, Bluetooth, iPod/USB connectivity, high definition radio and as long as you’re in high-definition radio range, weather reports. Music, sports and news can make traffic gridlock or long stretches of highway bearable, so we’re happy to report that the GX 460’s Sirius XM radio does an admirable job picking up and locking on to those satellite signals.

When it comes to terrestrial duties, the GX is fully loaded from the get-go. Standard hardware includes a Torsen torque-sensing center differential with electronic locking and a two-speed transfer case, downhill assist, hill-start assist and even a suspension arrangement that can effectively decouple the front and rear stabilizer bars when off road for more wheel articulation and tire stick. Think Spiderman.

Of course, the GX 460 also comes with the sort of gear you’d expect in a $50,000 Lexus: dual zone automatic climate control, moon roof, power everything (including 10-way power seats up front), HomeLink and backup camera. The front windows even have water-repellent glass.

The GX 460’s plucky dual nature shone through moments after we settled into the driver’s seat. For one thing, the GX was so quiet, at times the only sound we heard coming from the vehicle was from the tires.

Then there’s the surprising performance. In an age of hyperactive horsepower, 301 ponies from a 4.6-liter V8 seems unremarkable, especially with Lexus and other automakers coaxing more power from their V6s. But ratings numbers don’t do justice to this luxury SUV. The V8 and six-speed automatic transmission make a frisky combination, which is pretty remarkable considering the GX 460’s 329 lb.-ft. of torque has to move more than 5,200 pounds in driver and SUV alone. Adding to our respect was its capability to tow up to 6,500 pounds.

Lexus says the GX 460 will hit 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and cover the quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds. Got a favorite stretch of open— preferably straight—road? The Lexus will do 110 mph before the electronic nanny steps into the picture. Something tells me I just found the perfect ride to explore Big Bend—and get there in good time.

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