2024 Lexus GX First Drive Review: Truly Worth The Long Wait

First Drive / Comments

The new GX is better in every single way.

Few vehicles could remain on the market for 14 model years and still maintain strong sales, but the Lexus GX is quite unique. The last "all-new" generation GX 460 debuted back in 2009, so to say it's long overdue for an overhaul would be an understatement. Enter the 2024 Lexus GX 550, the long-anticipated third-generation of the iconic GX.

Just looking at the new GX, it's obvious that everything from the outgoing model has been cast aside. It now rides on Toyota's TNGA-F platform, which also underpins the Lexus LX, Toyota Land Cruiser, and other body-on-frame models. The bulletproof (but ancient) 4.6-liter V8 is gone, replaced by a superior 3.4-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that produces significantly more power and torque from a smaller displacement. There will also be a four-cylinder hybrid offered later down the line, the details of which have not been fully revealed as of this writing.

Lexus flew us out to Tucson, Arizona to experience the 2024 GX and find out if this SUV more than a decade in the making was worth the extended wait. Spoiler alert: it is.

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Exterior: Japanese Defender

The Lexus GX was never what we would describe as an attractive vehicle. It was tall and narrow, giving it oddly squeezed proportions. Lexus decided to take a big design swing with the third generation - a swing that has resulted in a styling home run. The boxy shape clearly targets vehicles like the Land Rover Defender and Mercedes-Benz G-Class, a comparison that has never before been uttered about a Lexus product. It's 3.74 inches wider (4.52 inches in Overtrail guise) than the outgoing GX, with bigger proportions than the previous generation.

Wheel sizes start at 20 inches on the Premium trim and go up to 22-inch wheels on the Luxury+. Alternatively, the off-road-focused Overtrail and Overtrail+ get smaller 18-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch all-terrain tires. The Overtrail models also get a slight boost in ground clearance, up from 8.66 to 8.86 inches.

The GX's color palette contains a mix of bold and conservative options, both of which look great. We particularly love how Incognito (pictured below) and Nightfall Mica look sleek on the on-road-focused trims, while a new color called Earth (pictured above) and Nori Green Pearl look mean on the Overtrail versions. The Overtrail can also be optioned with a two-tone black roof, further increasing the curb appeal.

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Interior: All New Stuff

Aside from the addition of a new touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the outgoing GX 460's interior was completely outdated. The GX 550 arrives sporting the latest Lexus technology, including a standard 14-inch touchscreen with wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and optional features like a head-up display and camera rearview mirror. Lexus also makes some sweet luxury features available, such as massage seats, a 21-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, an electrochromic moonroof, and a refrigerator in the armrest. For the first time since 2009, the GX finally feels modern inside.

Lexus retained physical controls for important functions like the climate temperature, 4x4 controls, and volume. Sadly, some features, like the massage seats, are buried in menus and can not be activated via voice command or saved in the favorites quick-select screen.

Buyers can select Black, Dapple Gray, or Saddle Tan upholstery in NuLuxe on base trims or semi-aniline leather higher up in the range. These colors are paired with brown or black grained cabin trim. The Overtrail gets special Black or Chateau NuLuxe with Olive Utrasuede. We think the Saddle Tan adds a nice pop of color that the other interiors can't match.

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Practicality: Price Of Capability

Lexus will offer the GX with three seating configurations at launch, ranging from five to seven passengers. The Overtrail models only come with two rows and five seats, though Lexus could be persuaded to add a third row if there is demand. Buyers who want a third row will have to get one of the road-focused trims, which are available with either a second-row bench or captain's chairs. Legroom isn't great in either configuration, which is the price of the GX's body-on-frame construction. On the bright side, legroom in the new GX is slightly increased in the second and third rows compared to the old GX 460.

Trunk space with the third row up is laughable with only 10.3 cubic feet available. Folding it down opens the space to 40.2 cubes, but both of those figures are lower than the outgoing model. Overall space behind the second row is up to 76.9 cubic feet compared to 64.7 in the GX 460. If you can live without the third row, the Overtrail models have 45.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 90.5 cubes total. For a more practical three-row Lexus SUV, look to the TX.

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Performance: New Kind Of Dinosaur

The outgoing Lexus GX felt like a dinosaur - and not the vicious kind. The 4.6-liter V8 chugged along with just 301 horsepower, the same amount you get from a V6 Toyota Camry. It may have fewer cylinders, but two turbochargers help the new GX's 3.4-liter V6 pump out 349 hp and 479 lb-ft, increases of 48 hp and 150 lb-ft over the V8. The GX 550 may have some pumped in sound from the speakers, but the V6 easily sounds more ferocious than the wheezy V8. With this new V6, the GX has gone from herbivore to predator.

Along with the huge output increase, the GX goes from an aged six-speed automatic to a more modern 10-speed unit that puts down the power more effectively. In fact, Lexus says the GX Overtrail can now tow up to 9,096 pounds when appropriately equipped; some trims tow less, but all can manage at least 7,600 lbs. Regardless, this is more than the outgoing model's 6,500 pounds. Lexus doesn't claim best-in-class towing capability, but we can't think of anything that even comes close.

The only thing that didn't improve much is fuel economy. The GX 550 is rated at 15/21/17 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, which isn't much better than the old GX 460 at 15/19/16 mpg. Those turbos are there for power, not efficiency. Buyers wanting a more frugal GX should wait for the upcoming hybrid, which will use a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 366 hp.

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Power goes out to a full-time four-wheel-drive system with selectable high and low range. Switching between the two requires a shift to neutral, but the change itself is far quicker than it was on the GX 460. In 4H, the GX gets access to Auto, Dirt, Sand, Mud, and Deep Snow Modes, while L4 loses Deep Snow and Dirt but gains a Rock setting. A Torsen limited-slip locking center differential comes standard, while the Overtrail trims add a rear locking differential for additional off-road capability.

The GX boasts fairly usable off-road specifications, including a 26-degree approach, 24-degree breakover, and 21-degree departure angle (up from 21/21/23 in the outgoing model). A Land Rover Defender is still superior in all of these metrics, though.

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Driving Impressions: Better At Everything

It might not come as a shock to anyone, but the SUV developed a decade and a half later is better in every way. On the road, the GX exhibits some characteristic body-on-frame vibrations over rough pavement, but it's nicely damped to keep occupants comfortable. An available Adaptive Variable Suspension further improves the ride, though putting the GX into Sport+ does transmit more road imperfections.

The GX 460 was so old that it still used a hydraulic steering system that felt light but also lazy and inaccurate. This new electric power steering system is far more precise and feels better weighted as well. As we mentioned earlier, the powertrain is the biggest improvement, no longer making the GX feel like it's struggling to get going in a hurry. It can also take a corner without feeling like it's about to flop over.

Our off-road time in Arizona was limited by some unanticipated rain, but the limited experience proved that the GX can handle more than the average owner will ever throw at it. Buyers who demand more capability will likely turn to the aftermarket for larger wheels, a lift kit, and other accessories. Lexus will sell some of these accessories at its dealers through a new Associated Accessory Parts (AAP) Program which the automaker showed off at SEMA.

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Pricing & Verdict: Lexus Will Sell A Ton

Lexus is already projecting a record year of sales for the third-generation GX and after driving it, we have no reason to question this prediction. Pricing starts at $62,900 (excluding a $1,350 destination fee) for the base Premium trim, meaning the Land Rover Defender is the only close rival to the GX in terms of price. The Defender is technically cheaper, but it starts as a two-door model with a four-cylinder, so it's not directly comparable. A more similar Defender 110 with the inline-six engine starts at $67,900, meaning the Lexus is actually less expensive.

Stepping up to the Premium+ brings the price to $67,900, while the Luxury and Luxury+ models are $75,900 and $79,900, respectively. For our money, the Premium+ seems like the best bang for your buck. The Overtrail is the same price as the Premium+, exchanging features for off-road capability, while the Overtrail+ adds more luxury for $75,900.

The new GX 550 is more expensive than the outgoing GX 460, but it's improved in every way so that increase is logical. Lexus hasn't had a product this exciting since the original LS 400 launched alongside the luxury brand back in 1989, offering S-Class luxury at a much lower price. The GX offers everything that buyers love about the Land Rover Defender and Mercedes-Benz G-Class, now with fabled Lexus reliability. Europe better watch out - Lexus has arrived... again.

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