2022 Lexus GX Black Line

PHOENIX — The 2022 Lexus GX SUV is a throwback vehicle can be traced back some two decades, all the way to 2002; the generation tested here dates back to 2009. Since that time, the GX has received very modest tweaks, getting the brand’s identifying spindle grille in 2013, and modest changes for 2020 such as an updated spindle grille, triple beam LED headlamps, the addition of two rear USB ports, a new exterior color and new interior trim choices.

The 2022 Lexus GX’s underpinnings make it essentially a tarted-up Toyota 4Runner, built on the same, aging, truck-like yet rugged body-on-frame chassis but using a different engine and transmission setup. If your lifestyle and hobbies necessitate the actual rugged off-road capability of the Toyota 4Runner,  but you cotton to luxury when heading out to a wilderness glamping experience, the GX 460 is a compelling choice, despite its aging platform and drivetrain.

For 2022, Lexus has added a new Black Line Special Edition GX based on the mid-level Premium trim model.  The Black Line is a trim-only package with no engine, transmission or suspension modifications. It’s only available in a choice of three colors; Starfire Pearl (white), Nori Green Pearl and our tester, Black Onyx. This special edition adds glossy black 18-inch wheels, as well as a blackout chrome grille surround. Additional details include unique Black Line lower front and rear bumper valance design, Garnet Red taillamps, black roof rails and body-colored door handles.

Inside, there’s a black headliner, as well as a confluence of surfaces covered in bi-tone black Nuluxe leather with gray-colored bolster inserts and stitching. Matte Black Ash Wood trim on the GX’s steering wheel is standard on all Black Line Special Editions. Our Black Line included the optional Lexus roof rail cross bars that, while functional, detract from the luxury look of the vehicle, in our opinion. But try as it may, the cabin, with real timber and leather accents and upholstery, looks dated and well behind competitors that feature fresh, contemporary design, materials and build quality.

The front-row seats are roomy with a high seating position, but are flat, plain and void of any decorative or functionality such as quilted and/or perforated leather that might be bolstered or adorned with contrasting piping or French stitching. The second-row seats are hard and thoroughly flat, and the third row is especially cramped, a place adults will find punishing. Best leave them for the kiddos.

In terms of infotainment, navigation, Bluetooth and operating control technology, all are intuitive and generally easy to use via a 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, standard Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free operating, some redundant buttons and switches on both the steering wheel and center stack. But the touch screen’s graphics and icons look dated. SiriusXM satellite radio is standard on all models and there’s available dual-screen rear-seat entertainment with integrated navigation. Audiophiles can upgrade to a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.

Standard advanced safety features on all GX trim levels include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and a rearview backup camera. Available advanced safety features are front and rear parking sensors, LED fog lights and a surround-view parking camera system

Regardless of trim level, all GX models are powered by just one engine: a 4.6-liter V-8 making 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and is somewhat of a workhorse, with standard full-time all-wheel drive, a 6,500-pound towing capability, a Torsen limited-slip center differential, and a two-speed transfer case with low range an adjustable suspension system.

On the road, GX reached 60 mph in 7.5 seconds from a standing stop, a bit slower than many of the competitors in the same class. One of the first things we noticed when driving the GX on the pavement was that the six-speed automatic transmission definitely feels a few gears behind the competition, who generally use eight, nine and ten-speed transmissions. Those transmissions afford quicker acceleration in lower gears and improved fuel economy in the higher gears, an area the GX is lacking with our observed fuel economy at just 15.7 miles per gallon.

Handling-wise the GX definitely felt like we were driving an older SUV; the solid rear axle transfers road imperfections into the cabin, steering is imprecise and handling clumsy on curves and cornering. That’s consistent with the GX’s objective of excellent off-road handling. Conversely, we give high marks for a quiet cabin and a smooth ride on paved roads thanks to the adaptive damping system and the adjustable air suspension for the rear of the vehicle that helps to smooth out the ride.

Overall, while some will be disappointed that the GX isn’t updated with a more contemporary design, better handling and ride, and more advanced features like a panoramic sunroof, and a more cosseting interior like those found in luxurious competitors, Lexus knows that there are buyers out there who want a luxury SUV paired with rugged off-road capability.

Perhaps they live in a rural area or down an unpaved road in the country and therefore get the benefit of both worlds. It’s also worth noting that the GX has an excellent track record for both reliability and dependability. It’s the kind of vehicle that will deliver dependable on- and off-road driving capability for 100,000 or 200,000 miles or more.

— Jim Prueter