Luxury Large: Newly retouched Lexus GX boasts supple ride, family niceties with boat-towing SUV toughness

This 2014 Lexus GX 460 comes priced at $56,175. The updated SUV, from Lexus of Charleston, was parked in a West Ashley neighborhood last week (Jim Parker/Staff 10-16-2013).

Talk about in-demand.

Parked in a show carport one morning at Lexus of Charleston, the new GX 460 SUV required a few minor adjustments such as dealer plates before being ready for an informal test drive.

Mike Warren, general sales manager, made assurances the vehicle would be available in the early afternoon.

It was more like mid-afternoon. But during those few hours, Lexus managed to sell the four-door – conditional on a new model arriving – and also provided a test drive to an out-of-town couple who had just driven by and glimpsed the SUV.

On top of that, the model wasn’t the first GX to arrive. Lexus had already sold two more models in the past week.

Such is the price of fame.

The 2014 Lexus GX 460 starts around $53,000. The well appointed model at the showroom Wednesday priced out at $56,175.

At least some of the buzz stems from new national TV ads that spotlight the GX’s luxurious interior and smooth ride before panning to the high-end SUV towing a large boat.

Put another way, not many models boast both a 6,500 pound towing capacity and Linear EspressoWood and Abyss Black trim.

According to a Lexus brochure, the GX 460 seats seven, possesses full-time four-wheel-drive, touts a six-speed automatic transmission and encompasses a 301 horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 engine.

The SUV showcases five safety perks: a backup camera, intuitive parking assist that sets off “audible tones” when the vehicle gets too close to objects, lane departure assist to guard against drifting, blind spot monitor to warn when a vehicle approaches from an adjacent lane and an available wide-view front and side monitor that allows the driver to see around blind corners.

Standard attractions in the new Lexus GX include 18-inch alloy wheels, fold-flat third row seats, LED headlamps, power moonroof, 10-way power adjustable front seats, reclining and sliding middle row seats, nine-speaker “premium” sound system, iPod and BlueTooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, start-stop button and “SmartAccess” key fob that automatically unlocks doors.

The GX Premium trim picks up heated and ventilated front seats and heated second row outboard seats, rain sensing wipers and navigation package.

The GX Luxury, meanwhile, adds “adaptive variable suspension,” blind-spot monitor, power folding outside mirrors, heated steering wheel and power fold-flat third row seats.

At least one feature shows that Lexus takes it seriously about the vehicle’s heavy-duty traits. It’s called “trailer sway control,” which the carmaker contends can automatically take corrective measures if the trailer starts to move around too much.

In an (eventual) moderate length drive this week, the new GX demonstrates the visceral appeal of a larger SUV.

Exterior looks move away from a boxy style for a rounder, more crossover-like design. A running board assists with entering or exiting the SUV, but it doesn’t seem to be all that necessary.

The GX 460 sits up so the motorist is looking out over traffic. Visibility is very good, particularly for a longer-than-usual vehicle such as an SUV. Also, the drive version included lane departure warnings on the side view mirrors, which proved effective.

The V-8 engine didn’t lack for power in most siuations, although the 301 hp engine seemed to plateau at interstate traffic speeds.

For a big car, the GX 460 offers a tight turning circle of 41.4 feet.

The interior proved luxurious and quite comfortable, with buttons to adjust the seats that are easy to use.

The center console provides an intuitive layout that makes it fairly easy to move between navigation, climate and audio. The optional Mark Levinson audio package delivered fine sound even at high volume.

If the GX could use improvement, it’s the driving experience. The six-speed transmission can be shifted from automatic to manual-like mode, which can provide a boost on the highway. But the vehicle didn’t seem peppy considering its hefty engine.

Meanwhile, it would be prudent to choose the push-button option to configure the third row seating or fold flat cargo area. The third row choices can be helpful to a family, who can either lock in the seats when hauling youngsters or fold down seats to open up the cargo space. The reclining and sliding middle row seats are quite helpful in allowing people to move in and out of the third row.

However, maneuvering the third-row seats manually can prove a bit cumbersome. There’s no heavy lifting but a little bit of moving back and forth between the second and third aisles.

Also, the fuel mileage of 15 mpg city, 20 highway and 17 mpg overall is hardly best in class.

Still, the Lexus GX has a lot going for it. Buyers can purchase an easy-to-drive luxury, full size SUV that yet can be converted to a boat hauler or even an off-road vehicle at a moment’s notice.

To learn more about the GX 460, visit your local Lexus dealer.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or