Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted May 07, 2013 16:33
The Rugged Gentleman
The Lexus GX is one of the most premium and one of the most expensive SUVs you can buy in the Philippine market today. Expectations are high from what critics see as an overpriced Toyota. Can the GX deliver?
Let's find out.
From the outside, the critics of the GX have a point. The GX460 practically has the same body as the LC Prado SUV, but has been levelled up quite a bit. The front end has been given the Lexus treatment, prominently showcasing the proud Lexus grille. Side by side with a Prado, it becomes a bit of a spot-the-difference, but what's striking is the paint job. In metallic black, the GX just beams from afar, and up close, it's practically a mirror-esque finish. Overall, the GX has quite the presence, but perhaps a bit too subtle over the Prado by my eye.
Inside, however, it was a different story. Lexus's designers created a properly luxurious interior, one that befits the pricetag. The interior is different from the Prado, with a more generous application of premium leather. There are seven seats, the front two with power adjust, the middle row with manual adjust while the 3rd row can be folded flat with the push of a button.
Sitting in the driver's seat, the first thing you'll notice is the abundance of buttons. There really is a bit of button overload if you've just sat in it for the first time. To the left of the wheel are the buttons that control the side mirrors, windows, lights and other bits. To the right of the wheel are all the buttons on the center console for the radio, climate control and the push start. On the wheel are the satellite controls for the audio system, cruise control and Bluetooth. Beside the transmission's shifter are the toggles for the 4x4 and adjustable ride height and suspension stiffness. Something tells me a good, unified command interface system should be next on Lexus's list of needs for a vehicle this sophisticated, much like the one on the GS 350 F Sport we tested earlier.
Closing the doors for the first time, the remarkable thing about a Lexus -any Lexus- is the impeccable sense of quiet and serenity. You'd think that its a trivial thing, but try riding in a supremely comfort-tuned car like a Lexus or its contemporaries and you'll see what I mean. Close those those doors and you feel secured from the noisy world outside. Lexus has perfectionists for engineers, and they make damn sure that as little noise as possible can penetrate the cabin, if any at all. So every panel of glass is quite thick, and nook, cranny and steel panel was padded with, well, something. The result is a serene environment that you'll love if you've driven in the metro.
Popping the hood, I was actually a bit surprised; it wasn't as fully covered in slabs of plastic to hide the hoses, wires and other components like most of the other Lexus models I've driven. What I'm looking at is a 4.6 liter V8; the same engine found in the LS 460 sedan and the previous generation GS 460, but has been tuned a different way. Given the size and weight of the vehicle, engineers tuned the 4.6L V8 to produce peak torque and peak horsepower at lower rpms than the LS. As a result, the V8 produces 301 PS at 5500 rpm and 446 Newton meters of torque at 3500 rpm, and is matched with a 6-speed automatic that drives all four wheels.
Driving around town, the silence of the cabin and refinement of the V8 engine comes right through. Remember the toggles beside the shifter? One of those controls the stiffness level of the shocks, and in full comfort mode, the GX460's suspension will absorb everything thrown at it for you, and in the Metro, that really is a blessing. EDSA, you've met your match.
What you really shouldn't expect is good fuel economy. In town, don't be surprised if this massive 4.6 V8 powered SUV will return a maximum of 5 kilometers to the liter if you're frugal and lucky with traffic. If you've got a heavy right foot and have bad traffic ahead, expect something around 3 kilometers to the liter.
On the highway, the GX has the manners as expected of a heavy SUV. It's not fast, but it has plenty of power, and with the suspension on 'sport' mode on the smooth tarmac, roadholding is excellent and lane changes are accomplished with confidence. For a smooth cruise, I just left it at the most comfortable setting. Fuel economy on the highway is much better, as the GX returned 8.6 on an 80-100 km/h cruise; I really think, given the size and weight, a proper diesel engineered and refined by Lexus is the way to go.
Of course, being a true 4x4, the GX comes equipped with toys like a great four-wheel drive system, traction control, and an adjustable ride height control system for off-road confidence. I just took the car out on a light trail (I really didn't want to max it out on a true off-road trail) and for such a heavy SUV, it finds traction easily even on highway tires. And like metro's streets, the GX 460 does it in supreme comfort and silence.
So, here's the important bit: the price. As it is, the Lexus GX 460 can be had for PhP 5,328,000 from Lexus Manila. The LC Prado on which it is based, with the 4.0L V6 gasoline engine, is PhP 2,900,000.
It's hard to see on paper why the Lexus GX costs 2.4M more than the Prado. Only when you drive it, ride in it, and get cocooned in it's superior refinement will you know exactly where the money went. Given today's extremely loud and busy world, peace, quiet and comfort are things that are simply priceless.