crankandpiston takes several spins in the new-for-2014 Lexus GX 460 but still can’t kick up the sand…[Not a valid template]
I’m currently sitting in the 2014 Lexus GX 460 – traction control off and six-speed sequential in second gear – driving on a beach towards crankandpiston photographer Arun and attempting a drift, kicking up the sand and disappearing into the cloud of dust as a result. But there are a couple of problems. Number one. The sand isn’t quite loose enough to kick up the cloud we had been hoping for. And number two. I’m finding the whole experience a little… disinteresting. And this is not new. In the four days I have been living with this mid-sized SUV, I’ve found it difficult to garner any strong feelings towards it, one way or the other.
I should point out though that my laissez faire attitude does not mean the ‘new’ GX 460 is not a good car. It is. It just leaves me a little cold.
Let’s start with the styling. Rather than a complete overhaul, the 2014 model of this second generation Lexus (which first broke cover in 2009) has been given a few botox injections, the rounded front end and dainty grille now sharper, giving the GX a more aggressive look. There’ve been modifications to the front bumper too, and there’s now more pronounced bonnet lines and subtly flared wheel arches to cocoon those 18-inch alloys. And, give or take a bit of bling about the bumper, door handles and new LED headlights… that’s about it. See? Nothing to really get the ticker thumping at felt pelt.
It’s a similar story on the inside, the key newboy being the eight-inch touchscreen for a new multimedia system: pausing live radio is now a reality with Lexus. But again, there’s not much else, the traditional Espresso Wood trim and Sepia upholstery working nicely with three-row seating you can fold flat for 64.7cu ft of cargo space. It’s a detail that folds seamlessly into a conversation about trips to the garden centre but is unlikely to have friends and co-workers rolling in the admittedly spacious aisles.
As you’d expect with a facelifted model, there’s little change under the cosmetic tweaks. You’ll find the same chassis from sister company Toyota’s Prado Land Cruiser, and the 4.6-litre V8 bolted down in the outgoing 2013 GX. Power and torque outputs consequently remain the same, the 4608cc chucking out 301hp and 329lb ft respectively. Performance then hasn’t changed much, putting another dampener on my enthusiasm. Then again, 0-100kph takes a not unreasonable 7.8s (quicker than a Subaru BRZ) and acceleration is surprisingly linear with little in the way of lag at either end of the speedo. Not bad for a 2.5-tonne family mover.
By this point we’ve done three or four attempted drifts on the beach with limited success. So Arun and I are now mulling a different plan of attack: rather than a run up, we’re going to try the traditional ‘right hand down, boot it’ approach. The coating Arun gets shortly afterwards proves the validity of this re-think, and were I not busy avoiding a dip in the sand I hadn’t noticed earlier, I’d probably be celebrating. I don’t fancy rolling our Black Onyx test model. Standing just over six feet tall, body roll and understeer through some of the tighter turns are expected, though there are options to firm up the suspension and lower the ride height to counter this. All with the just the flick of a switch. One of many, many switches.
And here we have the main reason for my indifference.
New additions to the GX’s already laden technical portfolio include a Blind Spot Monitor, Supplemental Restraint System (that’s Japanese for ’10 airbags’), Lexus’ new Enform connectivity service, Driver Attention Monitor, Pre-Collision System, and various other systems designed to whittle the driver’s input down to almost nothing. Brake with less enthusiasm in traffic than the system believes necessary and the tyres will audibly squeal as Pre-Collision slams on the brakes. Adaptive Cruise Control will automatically keep you a certain number of car-lengths behind the vehicle in front, and will decelerate sharply if another car changes lanes in front of you. Lane Departure Alert informs you when you forget to use your indicator, and rebukes you loudly (and shrilly). It’s all designed to take the act of driving away from the driver, whether you want it to or not. And because of that, it’s difficult to get attached.
I realise this sounds unnecessarily derogatory towards Lexus, especially since technical development is key to the automotive industry and one of the marque’s core strengths. Nor am I knocking the evolution of road safety and the worthwhile research that goes into it, or indeed the 2014 Lexus GX 460 itself. It looks great, rides beautifully, offers plenty of space and amenities, and though filling the tank is a little pricey, cruising in comfort has rarely been easier. And that’s fine. For the ease and usability on offer, the Lexus GX 460 is very good. Even if it does make me feel superfluous.
On the plus side, we finally nailed that drift.
|GX 460 (2014)
|V8 / 4608cc
|301hp @ 5500rpm
|329lb ft @ 3500rpm
|Six-speed sequential shift automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission (ECT) / four-wheel drive
|Double wishbone / coil springs / stabiliser bar
|Four-link rigid axle / control arms / coil springs (Standard model) / air springs (Premium model) / stabiliser bar
|Ventilated front and rear disc / Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) / Brake Assist (BA) / Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) / 13.3-in vented (front) / 12.3-in vented (rear)
|18 x 7.5-inch aluminum alloy (front and rear)
|265/60R18 front and rear
|2406kg (GX) / 2422kg (GX Luxury)
|175kph (electronically limited)