Lexus isn’t new to the luxury SUV game. Nearly two decades ago, the 1996 LX 450 took a bow wearing some warmed-over Land Cruiser sheet metal, borrowing the 80-Series’ solid front and rear axles. That Jurassic-era tech gave the first LX true go-anywhere capability, a skillset that its original owners appreciated but probably rarely used except on their Christmas trips to Aspen. LX owners were drawn in by yards of leather lining the interior and the truck’s softly sprung ride, and capability was surplus, a reassurance.
The LX has grown larger in the intervening years, sacrificing some of its rough-and-tumble attitude upon the altar of luxury. But Lexus hasn’t forgotten that a sense of overbuilt quality and off-road capability sells SUVs. Enter the 2024 GX 550. Its twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V-6 makes 349 horsepower and 479 lb-ft., so don’t fret about the last model’s outgoing V-8. Crucially, the new GX retains body-on-frame construction and standard low-range four-wheel drive with a center locking differential, while the new-for-2024 Overtrail model brings a locking rear diff back to the lineup. It’s the LX 450 all over again.
|2024 Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+
|3.4-Liter Twin-Turbo V6
|349 Horsepower / 479 Pound-Feet
|Price As Tested
Breaking It Down
Sharing its bones with the global Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and US-market Land Cruiser, the Lexus GX sports a very upright design, with a low beltline and thinner, more vertical A-pillars to aid visibility. The automaker’s signature spindle grille motif appears draped across the GX’s front end, and its hood creases and dips in the center, toward the nose of the truck, to aid front wheel placement and provide a better view of the road (or trail) ahead.
Inside, the cabin doesn’t get much in the way of brightwork, with a few spears of aluminum and a little spot of wood trim appearing on the center console. The shallow, flat-faced dashboard has a completely horizontal top, giving the interior a decidedly military-issue vibe – utilitarians will love it and hedonists will say it’s dour and bland.
Under its broad shoulders, the Lexus GX does away with its old, underpowered V8 in favor of a brawny twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V6 making 349 horsepower (up 48 horses over the outgoing mill) and 479 pound-feet of torque (up a staggering 150). A 10-speed automatic replaces a six-speed, and all trims get a permanent four-wheel-drive system with a locking center differential and selectable low range, just like that old LX 450. Ditto the body-on-frame construction, making the Lexus GX unique among mid-size luxury SUVs.
That ladder frame is one of the GX’s key selling points; following its debut in 2004, the rough-and-tumble Lexus became a darling of the off-road and overland set. Lexus is apparently aware, which is why there’s a new $69,250 Overtrail model in the lineup for 2024. Key upgrades for the Overtrail include trim-specific 18-inch wheels and 33-inch all-terrain tires, some trick adaptive dampers, a six-setting terrain management system, low-speed Crawl Control, and a 360-degree Multi-Terrain Monitor with under-car views.
Most importantly, however, is the Overtrail’s Electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (E-KDSS). That mouthful is longhand for a sway-bar disconnect system that works automatically, firming up at speed for better stability and easing back over terrain to provide a healthy 25 inches of wheel travel on big bumps.
Let me tell you: E-KDSS works wonders. On the moderately technical, rutted trail near Tucson, I watched the GX ahead of me droop and tuck its tires over undulations, then felt my own GX do the same while retaining a remarkably even ride. You can feel the tires and suspension moving around underneath you – involving you in the experience rather than isolating you from it – but the Lexus always feels surefooted.
The 360-degree camera proved handy on the trail, allowing me to select either an under-car view that aided tire placement over obstacles or a forward-side split view that allowed me to avoid desert pinstripes courtesy of the scrub oak and yucca plants peppering the trail. As nice as the cameras are, they do shut off at speeds above 7 miles per hour, at which threshold I found myself grateful that the GX is only 78.7 inches wide – a mere 2.7 inches broader than that old LX 450.
Luckily, the GX has a lot more power than its legendary forebear, and it doles that grunt out easily. Turbo lag is nearly non-existent, and in low range, it’s easy to apply just the right amount of throttle to hurdle big bumps without being surprised by a sudden rush of boost. The electric power steering is similarly approachable, providing enough feedback on obstacles without thumb-endangering kickback.
While the trails we sampled in Tucson weren’t nearly to the level of Moab’s Escalator to Hell or Lake Tahoe’s Rubicon, they were still challenging enough to suggest the Lexus GX is indeed as overbuilt as that old 80-Series. I suspect owners who do take their brand-new SUVs off-road will find a just-right balance between technological assistance and mechanical enjoyment – you’re still the one behind the wheel doing the work, but the Lexus is there to lend a helping hand when you need it.
Paying The Piper
It’s rare to find a vehicle that demands nothing in return for its capability, and in the case of the Lexus GX, it’s not quite as composed on-road as some of its unibody rivals. Lexus specifically cites the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE as its key competitors, but the GX just isn’t as comfortable or sporty as its German counterparts.
For example, the all-terrain tires on the Overtrail model issue plenty of thrumming noise and vibration, while the middle-tier Premium+ model that Lexus expects to be the volume seller evinces some tire slap on tarred-over cracks and concrete expansion joints from its highway-oriented rubber.
Both GX trims I sampled rode smoothly on the freeway, with controlled body motions on curving roads. The too-light steering is nonetheless accurate and direct. Better still, the upright windshield and bulky mirrors don’t produce wind noise. It’s not quite LS400-quiet in the cabin, but the GX is not far off. As it turns out, the piper’s price is more reasonable than expected. But anyone coming from one of those German SUVs will have to get used to the Lexus’ avowedly rugged personality. The GX might be a refined truck, but it’s still a truck.
The GX will be offered in six trim levels: Premium, Premium+, Overtrail, Overtrail+, Luxury, and Luxury+. Those first four rungs on the ladder get Lexus’ supple NuLuxe simulated leather upholstery, while the Luxury trims get semi-aniline leather. The first two rows of seats offer plenty of headroom and thigh support, making the GX a pretty nice place for four people to spend time – a fifth passenger in the back might crowd matters, though. All but the Overtrail twins also get a third row, but it’s best used in emergencies since it reduces cargo space to just 10.3 cubic feet.
Fold it flat and you’re left with a healthy 40.2 cubes, expanding to 76.9 with all seats down. The Overtrail does better still, since it doesn’t even offer a third row to take up space when folded. Cargo goes up to 45.6 cubic feet behind the second row or 90.5 behind the front seats.
A 14.0-inch center touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster come standard on all trims and run an infotainment system shared with other Lexus and Toyota products. But it works better here than elsewhere thanks to function switches that permanently occupy a column on the left side of the screen. When you use CarPlay or Android Auto on other Lexus vehicles, those buttons disappear, making it hard to switch back to native apps. Speaking of, smartphone mirroring is wireless.
Cash And Carry
The nicely equipped, $69,250 Premium+ is expected to be the volume seller in the GX’s first model year, during which Lexus expects to move a total of 34,000 mid-size SUVs to customer garages. The automaker is also banking heavily on the two Overtrail and Overtrail+ grades, which are expected to capture 30 percent of GX sales between them.
My tester was a very nicely equipped Overtrail+, equipped with standard massaging seats, automatic parking assistance, and a few other luxuries to justify its $77,250 starting price. Two-tone paint, a center console cool box, Mark Levinson audio, and a head-up display brought the total price to $79,810. I also spent time in a Premium+ with an as-tested price of $70,350, a very palatable sum given the content and capability on offer.
The most natural competitor for the GX is the Land Rover Defender, which starts at $62,075 in four-cylinder, four-door form. Go for the power-competitive six-cylinder and you’re left with a $69,375 base price. Equip it like an Overtrail+ and the Defender is pretty competitive at $78,575, especially given its attractive-yet-rugged interior and status-symbol badge. The GX is easier to jump in and drive, though, with off-road driving aids that are more intuitive and less intrusive than the tech-happy Defender. And just like the original LX 450 and its contemporary Range Rover rival, the Lexus is less conspicuous – a secure choice rather than a status-oriented one.
Gimme my Overtrail in Nori Green with a black roof, and I’d trade my personal 80-Series in tomorrow.
No, not yet at least. Lexus will offer the GX with a hybridized powertrain, but specifics haven’t been released. For now, the GX 550 gets a twin-turbocharged V6 making 349 horsepower and getting 17 miles per gallon combined.
In Premium and Luxury trims, the 2024 Lexus GX has 8.7 inches of ground clearance. The GX 550 Overtrail has 8.9 inches of ground clearance.
Yes, and a heavy one at that. The 2024 Lexus GX has a minimum towing capacity of 7,601 pounds, with properly equipped models rated to tow up to 9,096 pounds.
|2024 Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+
|Twin-Turbocharged 3.4-Liter V6
|349 Horsepower / 479 Pound-Feet
|Speed 0-60 MPH
|109 Miles Per Hour
|15 City / 21 Highway / 17 Combined
|45.6 / 90.5 Cubic Feet
|$62,900 + $1,350 Destination
|Trim Base Price