- The 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 is a real upgrade over the outgoing V8.
- New ladder frame is lighter and stiffer.
- Overtrail versions get a locking rear differential and automatic disconnecting sway bars.
- Off-road capability is real but the ride suffers as a result.
2024 Lexus GX First Drive: What's Old Is Finally New Again
Lexus leans into the luxury overlanding scene
In a sea of car-based crossovers, the Lexus GX is one of the few remaining truck-based SUVs. The idea here is to deliver old-school off-road performance and towing capacity while still meeting modern expectations for comfort and luxury. Replacing the second-generation GX that debuted all the way back for the 2010 model year, the redesigned 2024 Lexus GX gets a more powerful engine, an updated safety tech suite, and a more refined interior. Oh, and it also has new exterior styling to better help it stand out from all of those other look-alike crossovers.
While Lexus has finally moved the GX into the modern era, it did not forgo the SUV's rugged roots. It rides on the same GA-F platform as the larger and more expensive LX 600 — which features a traditional ladder frame — and comes standard with four-wheel drive. There's even a new Overtrail trim that leans into the GX's off-road prowess, adding useful items like 33-inch all-terrain tires wrapped around 18-inch wheels, an electronic locking rear differential for better traction, and an aluminum skid plate. It's visually distinguished from other GX models with black protective exterior fender cladding and an available two-tone exterior paint scheme.
One powerful powertrain, for now
The 2024 Lexus GX launches as the GX 550 that has a turbocharged 3.4-liter V6 paired to a 10-speed automatic. It produces a stout 349 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque — a major upgrade from the outgoing model's V8 that produced just 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque. This powertrain also offers a towing capacity of up to 9,096 pounds, which is more than rivals like the Land Rover Defender, BMW X5 or Genesis GV80. It even outpulls the Chevrolet Tahoe.
Looking into the future, Lexus says that a hybrid powertrain will be available in the U.S. at a later time. Our gut tells us that it will likely be one to two years down the road and is likely to be similar to the 437-hp hybrid unit in the related Toyota Tundra and Sequoia.
Even though the new GX downsizes from a V8 to a V6, fuel economy isn't expected to be significantly better. The outgoing GX gets 16 mpg in the EPA's combined cycle, and Toyota estimates the new one will earn a 17 mpg rating. Suffice it to say, that hybrid can't come soon enough.
We can't talk powertrains without all the Lexus acronyms like Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) — which helps you choose an ideal terrain focus for the vehicle — Downhill Assist Control (DAC) to help with descending a steep hill and the Electronic-Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (E-KDSS), which helps improve wheel articulation. These are available alongside Crawl Control (a kind of off-road cruise control) and the 3D Multi-Terrain Monitor, which gives you different viewpoints around the vehicle. The full-time 4WD system also comes with a Torsen limited-slip center differential with a locking feature to assist in varying terrain.
More controlled and plenty capable off-road
Any fears the loss of the V8 would be a detriment to the GX can be set aside. There's plenty of power available at low rpm for cruising around town but the engine isn't afraid to dish out more of a punch when you want it. Of course the engine is only part of the equation here. The 10-speed automatic it's bolted to is well geared for the engine's broad powerband and is capable of swapping gears in a very smooth and Lexus-like manner. While there are the options for sportier drive modes that sharpen throttle response and alter the shift programming, we found the GX was the most comfortable in its standard drive mode.
Another major differentiator between the new and the outgoing GX is its chassis. The GA-F platform (that's what Lexus calls it) is shared with the larger Lexus LX and is stronger, lighter and more resistant to twisting than the GX's previous underpinnings. During our time behind the wheel, we found the new GX to be significantly tighter-feeling, less sloppy and with far more accurate steering than the older model. We were also pleased with the tuning of the GX's brakes. The pedal was firm, with most of the braking power coming in very early in the pedal stroke, but they were still easy to control and smooth stops were second nature.
All of this increased refinement and smooth, extra power might lead you to believe that the GX rides on a nicely upholstered leather pillow, but that's where you'd be wrong. Remember, the GX is a body-on-frame SUV with moderate off-road intentions, so it rides a bit like a truck. Even on smoother roads the GX feels a bit stiff-legged, and it can get downright choppy when the surface degrades. The Luxury trim's 22-inch wheels and low-profile tires do the ride no favors, but even the 18-inch wheels, and their 33-inch tires, don't make a major difference to the overall ride quality in the GX. The look and feel of the GX might make you forget about the GX's off-road capability, but the ride never will.
Our time spent off-road was quite limited but the GX was able to demonstrate that, in its Overtrail trim, it does possess more off-road ability than anything else in the class, Land Rover Defender excepted. Opting for the aforementioned Overtrail trim outfits the GX with a locking rear differential, 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, and an automatic disconnecting sway bar system. This system, known as E-KDSS, allows for increased suspension articulation during off-road driving while not sacrificing on-road stability.
There's also a bevy of off-road driving modes at your disposal. Calibrated for dirt, deep snow, sand and mud, the permanent four-wheel-drive system can also be dropped into 4-Lo for more technical, slow-speed off-road driving. Ground clearance is up to 8.86 inches for the Overtrail model but that increase of 0.2 inch over the standard model is due solely to the larger-diameter off-road tires. And while the Overtrail does include a skid plate, and the lower front bumper trim (the silver bit in the center) is easily removable if it's damaged. Still, you shouldn't expect the GX to be an all-out mountain goat once the trail begins. For reference, a Subaru Outback Wilderness offers 9.5 inches of ground clearance, while the Land Rover Defender 110 can give you up to 11.5 inches with its optional air suspension.
More refinement inside
The 2024 GX's interior offers a more refined and cohesive design than the outgoing generation. The infotainment screen no longer seems like a tablet attached to the center stack, and there's a nice flow from the instrument panel to the touchscreen. Seating for seven across three rows continues to be the standard, though second-row captain's chairs are available for increased second-row comfort (if you're OK with reducing capacity to six).
There's plenty of headroom and legroom for most occupants except in the middle of the second row, where the passenger will have to straddle what seems to be an extension of the center console. The front seats are quite comfortable and have ample cushioning for the thigh and side bolsters. However, the rear seats lack much lateral support, so people in the back might slide side to side a bit on bumpy off-road trails. Cushioning isn't bad, but it's nowhere as nice as the front seats. The third row offers a decent amount of legroom but adults will probably find the headroom somewhat lacking. The Overtrail model dispatches with the third row of seats altogether and is only available as a five-passenger SUV.
Though the styling might be a bit controversial, it does make the GX very easy to see out of. The driving position borders on commanding, and thanks to the low hood line and near vertical windshield, it's very easy to judge forward distances. The GX's large side windows also provide good visibility, even with only a quick glance over your shoulder. A surround-view camera system is always helpful on a vehicle this size, and the GX offers a trail camera configuration for added visibility in low-speed, off-road situations. We just wish it delivered better resolution and stayed on at speeds higher than a walking pace.
A big boost in tech
Lexus' touchscreen system has vastly improved in recent years, but the GX is poised to deliver a major upgrade in functionality. The user interface loaded into the 14-inch touchscreen is similar to the ones in recent Toyota and Lexus products, and we find it intuitive and fairly user-friendly. The GX even supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — a coup for a vehicle that didn't offer these applications at all just a few years ago. Also new for this year is an optional head-up display, which is useful for keeping pertinent information in your direct line of sight while you concentrate on navigating around pesky boulders.
To top it all off, Lexus offers an impressive array of electronic driver assist systems to help you on the move. Standard on every GX is the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, which includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision safety systems, and lane keeping and lane departure systems with steering assistance, just to name a few. These driver aids could help reduce stress and fatigue on long commutes or road trips.
The GX lineup
The 2024 GX is available in six trims. The Premium is the introductory trim, with feature highlights that include heated and ventilated front seats, a 10-speaker audio system, and the aforementioned wireless smartphone connectivity and driver aids. The Premium+ grade adds more features, and from there, you can go the off-road route with the Overtrail and Overtrail+ or fully loaded with the Luxury and Luxury+.
After what seemed like an eternity, a new Lexus GX has appeared. With plenty of off-road ability, impressive towing numbers and typical Lexus quality, the GX should appeal to shoppers wanting a rugged (and ruggedly styled) midsize luxury SUV. Stay tuned to Edmunds for our full expert rating and review of the 2024 Lexus GX when we can get one in for official testing.