Field Test: What Makes The Lexus GX 460 An Appealing Off-Roader?

When choosing your next ride for an SUV-type off-road daily driver, you might want to consider the Lexus GX 460 and GX 470. This vehicle features an actual truck-based ladder frame with extremely capable off-road performance and the comforts of a modern luxury SUV. Off Road Xtreme got a chance to take out a 2021 model for field testing and to no surprise, the Lexus GX 460 makes for an appealing off-roader. 

2021 Lexus GX460

First and foremost, the Lexus GX is a full-size luxury SUV available in North American and European markets and the sibling to the Lexus LX which is based on the Land Cruiser. It should be noted that the Lexus GX borrows the vehicle platform, also known as J120 (GX 470), from the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. Beginning in 2002, the J120 platform was also shared with the 4th gen Toyota 4Runner, and later with the 2007-2009 FJ Cruiser as well. The latest generation successor has been labeled the updated J150 which took over in 2010 through current 2022 models. 

2021 Lexus GX460

What Makes The Lexus GX460 An Appealing Off-Roader?

The J150 was the main reason Off Road Xtreme was interested in the Lexus GX 460 for field testing. This vehicle was designed from the ground up to be a capable off-roader and the four-wheel technology is conceived from the full-sized Land Cruiser. Loaded with a body-on-frame construction, the drive train features full-time four-wheel-drive, an electronically controlled hi-lo transfer case, and a Torsen center locking differential. Beyond that, a suite of modern off-road tech is included which we can present here and touch on later:

  • Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System
  • Adaptive Variable Suspension
  • Four-Wheel Active Traction
  • Downhill Assist Control (DAC)
  • Hill-start Assist Control (HAC)

Additionally, the Lexus GX 460 available Off Road Package includes:

  • 360 degree Panoramic View Monitor
  • Multi-Terrain Monitor With 4 Cameras
  • A Transmission Cooler
  • A Fuel-Tank Protector
  • Crawl Control 
  • Multi-Terrain Select

Everything outlined above was what put this on my radar, however, I was aware that the vehicle was well supported by the aftermarket sector. Both core off-road brands and big-name automotive accessory manufacturers offer loads of products specifically designed for the Lexus GX SUVs. When a vehicle platform is off-road capable from the factory and then can be further tricked out and fully upgraded it makes for an appealing off-roader. 

Just to name a few, here are some companies that offer Lexus GX 460 vehicle-specific parts? 

First Impressions

We received a fresh 2021 GX 460 with a little over 9,000 miles on the odometer. This thing was loaded with the Off Road Package of course but also the Sport Design Package. The exterior was finished with your aging Aunt and Uncle’s favorite color of Atomic Silver, but the interior was what really stuck out. Scarlet red leather upholstery was very plush even all the way back in the third-row bench. The second row had very unique tilt/side captain’s chairs, but the front was where it was at with heated and ventilated adjustable front seats.

I did the casual walk around opening and closing the doors, peeking in and under. It felt sporty, but more conservative than pretentious. The 5100-pound full-size three row SUV did not consume an obnoxiously large footprint. A notably wide signature Lexus grille looked like it was ready to efficiently swallow air to cool the 4.6 liter 301 horsepower V8. Overall, my first impressions were this is what a modern day SUV should look and feel like. 

The Lexus GX 460 available Sport Design Package includes:

  • 19-inch Dark Gray Metallic Alloy Wheels
  • 2nd Row Tilt/Side Captain’s Chairs
  • Unique Lower Grille Surround
  • Front and Rear Bumper Spoilers
  • Dark Gray Exhaust Tip
  • Chrome Detail Side Mirrors
  • Scarlet TailLights

Easy Does It!

My field testing experience off-roading the Lexus GX 460 was performed with an open mind knowing the vehicle was equipped with all season 265/55 x r19 Dunlop AT23 Grandtrek tires. The optional Sport Design Package’s featured 19-inch rims left significantly less sidewall than standard size wheels. With the front and rear bumpers and the side step panels, the Lexus measures approach angle at 21 degrees, breakover at 21 degrees, and the departure angle at 23 degrees.  That being said, I did not hold back any punches and drove directly out to the steepest hill climbs I knew of in my area.

Upon entry to the isolation, the full-time 4-wheel-drive let me and Lexus wander effortlessly through the sandy creek bed trying to find a way out to the hills. I came to a wash embankment that had been carved out making for a steeper than normal approach angle. Figuring this would be the first test to see if I would wipe out the front bumper plastics, I went for it. The SUV dipped over the bank about three feet before leveling out and even cleared the front spoiler without rubbing.

Now squared up to the first hill, I engaged the Torsen center locker and flipped it into four-lo. By switching the transfer case into four-lo this automatically presented multiple camera views onto the Multi-Terrain Monitor system. 

Going further, I configured the KDSS into comfort mode to allow for a little looser driving,  programmed the Multi-Terrain Select for loose rock, and configured the crawl control to its fastest speed setting. This formula allowed the vehicle to drive up a precarious hill on its own by merely lifting off the brake and steering.

How Does The Lexus GX 460 Handle Off-Road?

From here on out, I maneuvered the Lexus GX 460 over and through every obstacle I could find. Attempting to reveal a weak link, the vehicle proved its prowess with nimble agility. I fumbled through all of the off-road settings, managing different configurations of four-hi with and without the locker engaged. I played a lot with the Multi-Terrain Select and the Multi-Terrain Monitor which I could see being helpful when driving over tricky rock-strewn trails. Some were more useful than others such as the inclinometer and Four-Wheel Active Traction which were both of significant value.

2021 Lexus GX460

The Lexus GX 460 Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) raises and lowers the rear suspension.

I found many steep hills to drive up and down and across at off-camber angles. Our GX 460 did it all without haggling performance or safety.  The aid of Downhill Assist Control (DAC), as well as the Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) are of definite benefit to inexperienced drivers. For myself, I preferred my natural instincts of control and being able to two-foot the pedals. 

All in all, there were a lot of off-road controls to manage for a simple guy like me. It took a little bit to master, but no matter what, the off-road capability of the Lexus stood out and handled everything. I never got hung up and the SUV always pushed on. The vehicle had the power, torque, and protection, just not the ground clearance or the tread for real traction. Those negative aspects are easily overcome through the aftermarket.

2021 Lexus GX460

Made For Road Trips, Daily Driving, And Seats 6!

Like we mentioned before, the Lexus GX 460 is not enormous by today’s standards of modern luxury SUVs. It does smartly configure room for six with a third row controlled by a rear electronic switch. The power fold-flat rear seats are independent of each other and most likely only used as the need arises. When locked away, a roomy cargo area opens up the rear for more utilitarian duties. 

The second row seats can be slid forward or folded down for access to cargo or third row.

Moving forward, I was impressed with the generous room situated with the plush captain’s chairs in the second row. Convenient door and forward storage, fold-out cup holders, and its own climate control made it a desirable scenario for a full-sized adult. At 6’4″ tall and over 250 pounds, I could get comfortable with no issues.

A power moonroof and a premium seventeen speaker Mark Levinson Surround Sound System made this vehicle environment all that much better. Also included from the factory that makes it a better road tripper is capable towing equipment. Auto-leveling rear air suspension, Trailer Sway Controls, Tow Hitch, and Ball Mount were all equipped.

For tall people like myself, I really appreciate the rear door opening to the side instead of lifting vertically. With the touch of one button, having a rear window hatch open up independent of the door is also another convenient and desirable feature. As seen below, when the rear seats are up and deployed, it really eats up the cargo room. Folded flat (not pictured) there was ample storage opportunities

2021 Lexus GX460

Is The Lexus GX 460 Already Obsolete?

The week I had the vehicle clocked almost 700 miles. I drove it up to the mountains, down to the beach, back and forth to the office, and put it through its paces in the dirt. I averaged a little better than 16 MPG on the highway but suffered gassing it around town. This can be attributed to the 6-speed transmission and full-time four-wheel drive. Comparable SUVs of the day are equipped with advanced 7 and 8-speed transmissions which efficiently swim through the gears providing better fuel mileage.

The Lexus GX 460 has been on market since 2010 with several facelifts. The modern off-road tech and interface along with the dash, infotainment system, and all of the controls throughout looked and felt dated by about ten years. This was my only other drawback I felt like I could pull from a 2021 model, all of which I could definitely live with.

Conclusion: A Great Used Buy For Under $30K!

I am just going to come out and say. Lexus made this luxury SUV to be a great all around town comfortable and safe vehicle that could drive out to the cabin, up the dirt road and through the snow if needed. For someone like me, who wants to take it up and down every steep rutted out trail and send it sideways at speed through a sandy wash, well the Lexus GX 460 can do that too. It just needs a little more aggressive tire and ground clearance to do it properly. 

The Lexus GX does have certain off-road appeal for sure. I could see myself picking up a straight low mile used GX ready for some mods. A new 2022 base model start at $55,425. The selling price for the model we tested was $71,690 USD. For those overlanding couples making dual six figure incomes, consider the GX or the new LX 600 for your next overlanding adventure platform.

Lexus GX 460 Field Testing Image Gallery

Photo gallery

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Real World Lexus GX Owners And What They Think

After getting to drive a GX for a week, I felt like I wanted more perspective and went out to connect with a few actual vehicle owners. Ones that I know use these SUVs as their primary vehicle but also a regular off-roader.
First, we spoke with Casey Campbell, @556_photo on Instagram, who gets a lot of use out of his ride working as a photographer chasing off-road adventures and desert racing.
The GX 470 just works. After 16 years and 221k miles, Toyota’s reliability and durability endures. With the exception of a small tank and less than ideal gas mileage, the 4.7L 2uz-fe is near bulletproof. With only Fox 2.5 shocks and Camburg billet upper control arms, I have been able to  enjoy hundreds of miles chasing down Gen 2 Raptors. The narrow track width is outstanding when off-roading with your friends with SxS.  I absolutely love my GX!

Campbell’s GX 470 Modifications

Andy Sedona’s 2011 GX460

Next we found Andy Sedona, @53dano on Instagram, a well known off-road videographer and content creator who drives a 2011 Lexus GX 460 to support his work duties.

I chose the GX platform  because I needed something with lots of space to store my camera gear and keep it safe from the elements. I bought the GX to build something I can take off-road and to the desert for fast pace driving. For work I do media coverage for a racing association called VORRA (Valley Off Road Racing Association) they do full desert races and some short coarse as well.
I worked with great partners such as Eibach, KC Hilites, AEV, Rigd Supply, Toyo Steering and Magnaflow Exhaust. There is also have a GFC Supelite that I currently have off. I could not of made it what it was today without those great partners.
The way we built this GX, it can keep up in the high desert and chase down these Trophy trucks, UTVs, pro buggy’s and other class racers. It’s capable to drive fast and keep up and at the same time camp out for couple nights. Not so much what people call an “overland” build. I call my Lexus the Media Support Vehicle, because this is what’s getting me around and carries all my media stuff to do shoots for companies. Overall it’s a great platform, love it over a 4Runner and anything else. Might be a little heavy but sure does go fast and super capable.
Off Road Xtreme would like to thank our audience for their interest in our field testing of the 2021 Lexus GX 460. We also need to thank Casey and Andy for their last minute perspectives and contributions. Finally I want to recognize Lexus and Toyota Motor North America for giving us the opportunity.

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About the author

Micah Anderson

Micah is a 20 year authority in the off-road industry with extensive experience founded on marketing, events, and racing. Professionally skilled in all things creative, Micah is passionate about faith, freedom, and anything powered by adventure.
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