by Morgan Carter
The Lexus GX is an interesting amalgamation of a luxury SUV that doesn't discard its off-road capabilities. Its body-on-frame construction helps here, giving it a certain degree of ruggedness that more city-centric crossovers don't share. Unfortunately, that same design choice does hurt the GX a bit when it comes to ride comfort on the asphalt. However, the midsize SUV still compares well with rivals like the Land Rover Discovery and Acura MDX in this regard. The standard V8 engine is a bit lackluster, though, developing 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque, which is directed to all four wheels. Paired with its awkward high-speed handling and subpar ride quality, the GX can't match its rivals around town, even if it is quite capable off-road. Inside, the cabin isn't as plush as you'd expect from this price bracket, with some notable oversights in standard features, such as smartphone integration. When you're spending over $50k, you expect to get your money's worth. But, the Lexus GX just doesn't manage to impress, especially with its poor fuel economy figures piled on.
Most of the changes made to the Lexus GX for 2020 are skin-deep. A minor facelift in the form of a new spindle grille and updated back door, emblem, and license garnish finishes gives the SUV a slightly more modern appearance. The headlights have been replaced with triple beam LED clusters as standard, and Atomic Silver replaces Silver Lining on the color palette. Inside, the steering wheel and shifter each receive new detailing, while two rear USB ports supplement those up front. Lexus Safety System+ comes standard on every model, along with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The interior gets new color options and seating configurations, while the Luxury Grade and Off-road packages are available on the upper trims.
While it may have received some visual updates for the new year, the GX is still an unmistakable midsize SUV. The smallest wheels available are 18-inch alloys on the GX 460, while the GX Luxury gets 19-inch alloys. Triple beam LED headlights come standard across the range, along with LED daytime running lights and taillights. The front fascia is extremely large and rugged, with an enormous hourglass-spindle grille. The Premium and Luxury trims get LED fog lights embedded within the bumper, while a power moonroof is standard fare on every trim.
The Lexus GX may not be a full-size SUV, but it's far from being small, measuring in at 192.1 inches long, although the 109.8-inch wheelbase is a bit short for the style of vehicle. It's surprisingly slim, too, at just 74.2 inches wide. Height varies between 73.8 inches and 74.2 inches, depending on the trim level. The GX is a pretty capable off-roader, thanks to its 8.1-inch ground clearance and approach and departure angles of 21 and 23 degrees, respectively. This compares quite well against the Acura MDX, while falling about an inch shy of what the Land Rover Discovery offers. Yet, the GX is heavier than either of these rivals, tipping the scales around 5,130 and just under 5,200 pounds.
For 2020, the Lexus GX is offered to shoppers in several different hues. None of the available paints require any additional investment, nor are any options restricted to a specific trim level. However, you will need to see if your favorite color matches your desired interior color scheme. That said, color options comprise Starfire Pearl, Black Onyx, Fire Agate Pearl, Atomic Silver, Nebula Gray Pearl, Nightfall Mica, and Claret Mica. The latter two colors are the most eye-catching, while Fire Agate Pearl is more understated yet rugged and just as attractive.
With only a single powertrain available, performance across the range is pretty standard. The naturally aspirated V8 engine develops 301 hp and 329 lb-ft for all four wheels, which allows the two-and-a-half-tonner to get up to 60 mph in a modest 7.8 seconds from a standstill. This is almost a full second slower than either the Land Rover Discovery or the Acura MDX, despite the GX having quite a bit more power than the latter. The midsize SUV is no speed demon, however, with a limited maximum speed of just 110 mph.
The Lexus has a decent amount of torque on hand, and with standard all-wheel-drive and a sturdy body mounted directly on the SUV's frame, the GX is capable of towing up to 6,500 lbs in its most capable configuration. This puts the Lexus somewhere in the middle between the Acura MDX's 5,000 lbs and the Discovery's 8,201 lbs.
The GX range is powered by a 4.6-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine that develops 301 hp and 329 lb-ft. This is a bit behind leading rivals like the Land Rover Discovery, which gets 340 hp and 332 lb-ft, but it's far more capable than the Acura MDX's 290 hp and 267 lb-ft.
Unfortunately, while the engine may be capable of moving the hefty SUV, it certainly can't do so quickly, and the barely adequate six-speed automatic gearbox doesn't help the situation. Tuned more towards fuel efficiency than enhancing performance, the transmission takes a while to deliver power inputs when the throttle is applied.
Getting around town isn't too much of a chore, assuming you aren't in a rush. Passing on the highway can be a challenge, though. However, many of the Lexus' rivals shine better than it does off-road, while not sacrificing so much city drivability.
While it may be a capable off-roader, the Lexus GX is quite well-tuned for maneuvering around town, too. At lower speeds, the steering is quick and precise, with more than enough electric assistance to help take advantage of the SUV's remarkably tight turning circle. However, the steering doesn't gain much heft when traveling at higher speeds, and there is little to no communication with the wheels. Such heavy vehicles need strong brakes, and the GX's get the job done easily enough. However, they are a little spongy and require more effort to modulate than you may like.
Larger trucks with body-on-frame construction don't often deliver very smooth ride quality, but the Lexus manages to find a fair middle ground. Far from being floaty, the suspension absorbs everyday bumps and abrasions in the road, but even moderate bumps can sometimes cause a little jostling of the cabin. Any bouncing caused by larger bumps is mitigated by a decent amount of ground clearance.
A torque-sensing limited-slip differential helps to ensure that every wheel gets the necessary power to ensure optimal traction at all times, allowing the midsize SUV to handle windy roads with ease at moderate speeds. This system is deactivated when off-roading, allowing for a bit more freedom of movement over rougher terrain. This is where the GX actually does its best work, being quite a bit more rugged than its luxury demeanor suggests.
While it may remain mechanically unchanged for 2020, the Lexus GX promises some slightly improved gas mileage figures for the new year. However, with 15/19/16 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles, the midsize SUV has no reason to boast about this. It is still one of the worst gas-guzzlers on the market, and the fact that it relies on premium gasoline doesn't help its case either. By comparison, the luxurious powerhouse that is the Land Rover Discovery gets 16/21/18 mpg, while the more reserved Acura MDX in FWD manages 20/27/23 mpg, with the AWD variant sacrificing one point in each cycle. Despite gaining one mpg on the highway cycles the 2019 model year, the GX gets a smaller 23-gallon tank, limiting its range to 357 miles on a full tank.
When you step into a Lexus, you expect to be wowed, and the GX doesn't disappoint. The build quality is top-notch, and the choice of materials around the cabin is beyond reproach. And it's quite a large cabin, too, with three rows of seats coming standard. However, passenger space dwindles quite quickly as you move back through the rows. The seats, themselves, aren't overly comfortable, but they do offer power-adjustability and a number of comfort features on the upper trim levels. The infotainment suite is pretty solid and well laid out, but the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is a bit disappointing. There is a limited amount of standard cargo space, which can be enlarged by folding down the third- or second-row seats. However, power-folding third-row seats are reserved for the top trim.
The cabin inside the GX is by no means small, but with three rows of seats squeezed in, there isn't as much passenger room as you'd expect. The cabin can accommodate seven as standard, reduced to six if you get the optional second-row captain's chairs. Those up front won't be complaining, though, with plenty of head- and legroom to spare. But, move back a row, and you will already notice a significant decrease in legroom, while the third-row seats can accommodate only smaller children comfortably. Getting in and out is pretty par for the course for a three-row SUV; the first two rows are quite accessible, but gaining access to the third row requires some finagling. Across every trim level, ten-way power front seats come standard, although they gain heating and ventilation from the Premium upwards. At this point, the rear outboard seats gain heating, too. Forward visibility is excellent, thanks to a high driving position and a large windshield, but the length of the SUV and the many seating appointments can create rear and side blind spots, so you will be thankful for the standard blind-spot alert and parking sensors.
Upscale materials come standard regardless of the trim you choose, but the GX 460 and Premium each get NuLuxe synthetic leather upholstery instead of the real deal. The entry-level 460 can be dressed in Ecru, Black, Sepia, or Rioja Red NuLuxe, paired with Linear Espresso wood trim. Upgrading to the Premium doesn't change the color or material of the upholstery, but it does see the trim changes to Gray Sapele wood with aluminum. The top-of-the-range comes upholstered in semi-aniline leather, but the color palette and trim carry over from the Premium. However, the Luxury also boasts a wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel. Build quality is excellent across the board, resulting in a well-insulated cabin that won't rattle even as you brave the rough terrain of the great outdoors.
Despite its size, the Lexus GX doesn't boast a particularly spacious trunk, at least, not with all the seats in place. Behind the third-row seats, only 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space is provided. While you could technically make do with this for standard errands around town, you will often be wishing you had extra space. Luckily, the third row of seats folds down in a 60/40 split to open up 46.7 cubic feet. This is more than enough space for daily use and could easily swallow up the luggage of the remaining five passengers without too much fuss. However, the second-row seats can be folded down, too, in a 40/20/40-split if you need even more space. With all the seats down, the rear of the GX creates a 64.7-cubic-foot cargo hold capable of stowing some small items of furniture or a washing machine.
Small-item storage around the cabin isn't lacking, with a standard glove compartment supplemented by a moderately sized cubby beneath the center console armrest. Each of the four door pockets is deep and spacious, easily accommodating water battles and more. A pair of cupholders are provided for each of the three rows of seats.
Every Lexus GX comes equipped with a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and Lexus Safety System+, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and pre-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection. The base model gets dual-zone climate control, while the upper trims get tri-zone climate control. Ten-way power front seats with memory are the standard, but they are heated and ventilated from the Premium upwards, while the rear outboard seats gain heating, too. The second-tier trim also adds front and rear parking assist. The standard NuLuxe upholstery is upgraded to semi-aniline leather upholstery on the Luxury, which also adds power-folding third-row seats and a cargo area tonneau cover. Keyless entry and ignition, along with a power moonroof are standard across the range. The top-tier model can also be outfitted with a panoramic view monitor, a passenger camera, and a multi-terrain monitor.
The infotainment suite centers around an eight-inch touchscreen, which grants access to Bluetooth functionality, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, as well as AM/FM/HD/Satellite Radio, all channeled through the standard nine-speaker sound system. Navigation functions are added from the Premium trim, while the Luxury can be optioned with a more premium 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. The top trim also offers an available rear-seat entertainment system consisting of two screens, two wireless headphones, and a single remote control. Four USB ports are provided as standard to help keep your smart devices connected and charged. However, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not supported.
While it may look more stylish than last year, the GX bears the same dependability score of 80 out of 100 from J.D. Power. This relatively high rating is reflected by the SUV's good service record, with only one official recall issued in 2018 for incorrect load information on the label - a very minor infraction. Lexus offers a standard 50,000-mile/48-month basic warranty on new purchases, while the powertrain warranty is valid for a period of 70,000 miles/72 months. Complimentary maintenance is available for the first year, or the first 10,000 miles.
The midsize SUV has not received confirmed safety ratings from the NHTSA or the IIHS, which isn't unusual in the luxury segment. However, a number of standard safety and driver-assistance features work to keep your family safe.
Every Lexus GX comes equipped with the basics - ABS, EBD, traction and stability control, and an impressive ten airbags: dual front, front knee, front side, rear side, and side curtain. Lexus Safety System+ is now also standard, which comprises pre-collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, automatic high beam assist, lane departure alert, and adaptive cruise control, along with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a rearview camera. The Premium expands this offering by adding rain-sense wipers, and front and rear park assist. The top-tier Luxury can also be outfitted with a surround-view camera, as well as a multi-terrain monitor.
The Lexus GX tries to be a lot of things, and in so doing, manages to be good at very little in particular. The only engine available is a middling V8 that struggles to move the hefty SUV with any real haste, although it does give the vehicle enough power to tow a pretty impressive 6,500 lbs. However, with an unrefined six-speed transmission that doesn't do a very good job of mitigating the GX's terrible fuel economy, the SUV isn't very fun to drive, unless you take it off the beaten path.
Perhaps the one area where the Lexus actually does excel is off-roading. With decent ground clearance and a very capable all-wheel drivetrain, very little can unsettle this midsize SUV. It's the one area where the subpar ride quality doesn't actually matter, although the uncomfortable seats are still a disappointment. For everyday use, these qualities make the GX almost unbeatable. And the tiny 11.6-cubic-foot trunk doesn't help its case as a daily driver.
When you add on the fact that you are paying a premium price for a vehicle that doesn't deliver a premium experience, and spending through the nose to keep said vehicle running, the Lexus GX just doesn't feel like a very good investment. It's not technically a bad vehicle, but there are far better options out there that do the same job, if not better, for less cost.
Take a premium nameplate like Lexus, stick it on a midsize SUV, and you can expect a large price tag. One look at the GX proves that assumption, with the GX 460 starting bidding off at $53,000. It's a modest $2,790 increase to the GX 460 Premium for the extra comfort features. But if you want the top-tier GX 460 Luxury, you have to be willing to foot a pretty hefty $64,265 bill. But for this increase, you get some exterior enhancements to go along with the top-tier tech and comfort features. These prices are MSRP and don't include tax, registration, licensing, or Lexus' $1,025 destination charge.
While it may have been facelifted for 2020, the GX carries over the same three trim levels from last year: the standard GX 460, the Premium, and the Luxury. Every model gets the same 4.6-liter V8 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission to send 301 hp and 329 lb-ft to all four wheels.
Standard equipment on the entry-level GX 460 includes 18-inch alloy wheels, triple beam LED headlights, and LED taillights. The cabin is upholstered in NuLuxe synthetic leather, while the front seats offer ten directions of power-adjustability. Standard features include dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, and keyless start. An eight-inch touchscreen interface grants access to Bluetooth functions, SiriusXM, HD Radio, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant, while a nine-speaker sound system channels the audio. Lexus Safety System+ comes standard, comprising pre-collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, automatic high beam assist, and lane departure warning, along with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Premium adds LED fog lights, rain-sense wipers, and front and rear parking sensors to the standard equipment, while additional interior features include heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, tri-zone climate control, and navigation.
Larger 19-inch alloy wheels give the Luxury an even more imposing appearance, while an adaptive suspension improves ride quality to make up for this. Inside, the upholstery is upgraded to semi-aniline leather paired with wood and aluminum trim, which extends to the steering wheel. Power-reclining and -folding third-row seats, headlamp washers, and a cargo area tonneau cover round out the standard features.
Each GX comes quite well-appointed right off the production line, but there are still a number of ways to customize your SUV to your taste. However, the entry-level GX 460 isn't quite so generous in this regard, offering only the Navigation Package ($1,555), which adds navigation, Lexus Enform App Suite, Lexus Enform Destination Assist, and Fuel, Sport, and Stocks. The base model can be equipped with some standalone options, though, such as intuitive parking assist ($500), heated and ventilated front seats ($640), or headlamp washers ($100). The GX Premium gets two packages: the Sport Design Package ($5,510) equips 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport design front fascia and lower grille, a sport design rear valance, and second-row captain's chairs. The Premium Package with captain's chairs ($3,115) adds everything in the inclusive Premium Package ($2,790) as well as captain's chairs. The top-of-the-range Luxury can be outfitted with the Off-road Package ($1,570), which adds a surround-view camera and a multi-terrain monitor as well as multi-terrain select, and a fuel-tank protector. For $1,145, the Luxury can be had with the 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system.
With a pretty enormous price hike of around $10k between the base-level GX 460 and the Luxury trim, getting the best value for your money is pretty important. For this reason, we suggest opting for either the SX 460 or the Premium, if you're willing to tack on the extra $2,790. Both these models perform just as well as the top-tier Luxury, with the same engine and maximum towing capacity. Lexus Safety System+, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert are not standard features, too, so you no longer need to go for broke to feel safe and secure. The Premium is a little cushier, with heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats, but these are features you can pass up on if you want to save a few bucks. However, true off-road warriors will be drawn to the expensive Luxury for its panoramic camera and multi-terrain monitor.
When it comes to large, luxurious off-road SUVs, look no further than the Lexus LX. As the bigger brother, the LX does everything the GX does, only better. In its standard configuration, the large SUV accommodates five passengers, but it can seat up to eight. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same cramped third row as the smaller Lexus. However, the LX has quite a bit more standard cargo space, with 16.3 cubic feet presented behind the rear seats. It also gets a highly capable V8 engine that develops 383 hp and 403 lb-ft to move the three-ton SUV, but it's not much quicker than the GX, with a 0-60 mph time of 7.3 seconds. The LX also doesn't tow much more than the GX, maxing out at 7,000 lbs. Inside, the LX is far plusher than the GX, and it doesn't suffer from the same uncomfortable seats. It also gets most of the same tech, as well as Apple Carplay (although Android Auto is still missing). Despite these strengths, the LX delivers subpar fuel economy and comes with an enormous starting price of $86,480. If you're going off-road and don't need all the luxuries of the larger LX, then the Lexus GX should suffice. But if you're looking for a well-balanced SUV that can do it all, then you should probably be looking elsewhere altogether.
The Toyota 4Runner certainly looks as rugged as it claims to be. It doesn't try to look city-chic while playing in the mud. This is owing to the Toyota's more truck-based design philosophy. Unfortunately, this translates to less refined handling dynamics, too. However, since the GX handles much like a truck itself, this isn't a point against the 4Runner. Where the Toyota does fall short, though, is pure power. With only a naturally aspirated V6 under the hood, the 4Runner develops 270 hp and 278 lb-ft. This also limits its towing capacity to 5,000 lbs. What really sets the two SUVs apart, though, is their base offering and relative price. The Toyota costs a lot less at $36,120, but for that price, you get a very mediocre interior with only the bare minimum of features. With comparable fuel economy figures, the Lexus GX may be the better buy here, if you can afford the initial capital outlay.
Check out some informative Lexus GX video reviews below.