GX460 is tough Lexus; LS surpasses $100,000

The Lexus GX460 is a tough, durable sport utility vehicle. (Bud Wells photos)

I’ve driven back-to-back in early summer two Lexus luxuries – the 2018 GX460 midsize sport utility vehicle and the LS500 full-size sedan.

To spend time in the GX460 is to be reminded of Toyota’s 4Runner, which I’ve considered one of the toughest of sport utes. They’re both of body-on-frame construction, based off the same platform at the Toyota assembly plant at Aichi, Japan.

There is nothing quick about the GX’s 301-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8; teamed with the 6-speed automatic transmission, though it is very smooth. It carries a somewhat old-fashioned approach to the rear of the vehicle, where you’ll find a swinggate rather than liftgate.

On a rainy morning of Father’s Day, Jan and I drove the Lexus GX460 into Big Thompson Canyon west of Loveland, turned at Drake onto the smooth Devil’s Gulch Road to Glen Haven. After stopping briefly at the general store for a couple of Steve and Becky Childs’ cinnamon rolls, we continued on to Estes Park, when back down the canyon via U.S. 34.

Though the GX had no paddle shifters, I opted for manual  mode in 3rd and 4th gears all the way down the canyon for safe slowdowns in the sometimes heavy traffic.

Inside, the front seats in the Lexus are relatively short, not as comfortable as competitors’. The touchscreen is very easily used for settings with the Mark Levinson audio.

Offroading is the GX’s forte. Power is split 40/60 front-to-rear in the Lexus all-wheel-drive system, with which a Torsen differential can send additional torque rearward when necessary. It is also equipped with four-wheel low range.

From a base price of $63,230, the GX sticker price reached $72,485.

The LS’s spindle grille identifies the sedan as a Lexus.

As for the luxurious 2018 Lexus LS, its redesigned F Sport four-door has burst through the $100-grand marker. It’s the first Lexus I’ve driven to reach six figures in price, and is an indication the LS continues to chase after the Mercedes S class and BMW 7 series in the premium luxury sedan category.

The Lexus’ sticker topped out at $101,675, $10,000 of which was for the F Sport package including fresh, distinctive styling, perforated-leather-trimmed interior/steering wheel/shifter knob, ultrasuede headliner and aluminum pedals. A large black-mesh spindle grille out front is an easy identifier.

The LS’s V-8 power of the past is gone; in its place is a 3.5-liter, twin-turbo, 415-horsepower V-6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Jan and I on a Thursday morning drove the Lexus west of Greeley on U.S. 34 to Loveland, then south on U.S. 287 to Longmont, where we visited the new home of Keith and Sandy Boggs. Don and Audrey Carey of Sterling were also guests for lunch. In looking over the exterior and sitting in the big, long (206 inches, same as Mercedes) LS, the four Boggs and Careys agreed the interior is one of the finest they’d ever seen on an automobile.

On a Friday evening, we drove with Bud Hargis and Ila DuBois to Eaton for dinner at the Eaton Country Club, where golf pro Rick Cole has been for many years. The LS carried us in style. The 10-speed transmission lends smoothness to the drive; shifts are almost imperceptible.

High-grade materials are used throughout the rich-looking cabin; seats are comfortable and a 23-speaker, Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system is especially pleasant. Leather-covered, floating armrests/grab handles are of easy use and good comfort at each door. Trunk space is a roomy 16.9 cubic feet.

The LS carries an EPA estimate of 19/30 miles per gallon; I averaged 19.7 overall.

An oddity is that protruding from each side of a cover atop the instrument panel, readily noticeable to anyone entering the sedan, are dials for snow/traction and for shifting between comfort and sport modes. These are key decision choices for a driver while maneuvering; of absolutely no concern to other passengers, and ought to be more unobtrusively placed.

The LS model, built in Tahara, Aichi, Japan, was introduced into the U.S. almost 30 years ago in 1989.