Living in Los Angeles, my wife and I sometimes wonder what would be the perfect family vehicle to have on hand when The Big One finally hits, something that will get us safely out of town through the ensuing chaos. Typically, I nominate the Wrangler Rubicon or Toyota 4Runner, vehicles we might actually be able to swing in terms of price, while she fantasizes about owning a Land Rover Range Rover.
Now that we’ve spent a week with the 2013 Lexus GX 460, it could potentially make that list of best doomsday vehicles, though the fancy side steps that make it possible for preschoolers to climb aboard like they’re scaling Mt. Everest sure do limit this vehicle’s maximum breakover angle. And the GX’s ground clearance measures 8.1 inches, which is half a foot less than a Subaru Forester.
What’s breakover angle? What’s ground clearance? Hmmm. Maybe you’d be better off reading our review of the Lexus RX 350.
Breakover angle is the maximum angle between the tires and the mid-point of a vehicle’s underside, while ground clearance is the maximum distance between the ground and the lowest part of the vehicle’s underside. Each is a key measurement for making assumptions about off-roading capability, and neither is particularly impressive for the GX, which is based on the same platform as the 4Runner and a model called the Land Cruiser Prado, which is sold in other parts of the world.
While it is true that few people require serious off-road capability, big, heavy, tough, fuel-swilling SUVs like the Lexus GX still have their place in a world where major cities go bankrupt and unfunded projects to repair or replace aging infrastructure threaten rip an axle off of a wimpy crossover. That’s one reason why I elected to test the GX on the grid of pavement known as L.A.’s Koreatown, where years of neglect have left city streets a rumpled patchwork of blacktop and concrete.
The other reason? Most Lexus GX 460s spend far more time on pavement than they do in the dirt.