SAN DIEGO, CA - I came out here to get a look at four Lexus nameplates: the LS 600h L, the LS 460 Sport, the ES 350 and the GX 460.
That's a lot of metal so I decided to concentrate on the GX 460 because it was all new. The others had been tweaked to one degree or another for 2010 model year.
Anyway, one of the most significant things about the 2010 GX 460 is that Lexus stuck with the traditional body on frame construction for its midsize sport utility rather than switch to unibody or crossover construction.
The point is the former means that a vehicle sits on a truck based chassis while the latter is constructed on a car based chassis. The latter is thought to provide a quieter, more car-like and fuel efficient ride when it comes to a utility vehicle.
That brings me to the second thing about the 2010 Lexus GX 460; it's KDSS. The acronym stands for Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. There's a bunch of technical jargon to explain it but in a phrase KDSS allows for the GX to have greater wheel articulation off road and a lot less of it for very smooth on road driving. Wheel articulation is the vertical distance (up or down) that a tire travels.
Quite frankly, the off road course that Lexus had set up was really dirt roads and they were not very challenging. To enthusiasts, off road means no road. However, on the way to the horse ranch where the off road driving took place the on road ride of the Lexus GX 460 was an eye opener.
The ride was just as smooth as that of some sedans I've test driven. KDSS kept body roll in the turns at a minimum. It also prevented a lot of body sway under hard acceleration and braking. The system used to be an option on the old GX but it has now been made standard.
There is a smaller engine but it generates more horsepower, 301 versus 263 for the old model, a six-speed automatic transmission versus a five-speed for the old model and it's more fuel efficient 17 mpg overall versus 15 mpg.
Torque has been increased slightly to 329 foot-pounds compared to 323 for the old model. The all new 2010 Lexus GX 460 can tow up to 6,500 lbs.
Amongst the new stuff on the GX 460 is a wide view front and side monitor. It works at 7.5 mph or less. One camera is mounted in the grille work while the other is on the passer side view mirror. The view aids parallel parking and getting in and out of tight spots in parking lots as well as nose front parking. It's also helpful off road.
Physically, the new 2010 Lexus GX 460 is a little bit longer, wider and it is a bit lower than the old model. The grille has fewer lateral bars and the hood bezel flows into the outer frame of the grille while surfaces have been shaved. The GX looks a lot tougher.
Lexus also got rid of the vehicles wide, wood loaded center stack. The GX 460 now has a sleeker center stack with the look of machined metal. The wood used in the interior was Auburn Bubina and there was just enough of it to convey an ambiance of luxury. The interior was just more sophisticated than the old model.
There were all sorts of goodies. Power third row seats, heated second row seats, a rear glass hatch, heated steering wheel, a rear-seat entertainment system, Bluetooth, intuitive parking assist, a backup camera and adaptive headlights.
There are two trim lines: the base model starts at $52,845 while the premium model starts at $57,640. With the new GX 460, Lexus hopes to capture 25 percent of the midsize luxury sport utility market.