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Toyota Land Cruiser vs. Lexus GX 550: Off-Road Rivals Tested

Two super-similar off-roaders go head-to-head in the dirt

Toyota Land Cruiser vs. Lexus GX comparison test
  • The smaller Toyota Land Cruiser makes it a direct competitor with the new Lexus GX.
  • Both SUVs have similar off-road equipment, but different powertrains.
  • We pushed both vehicles off-road. Watch the video to find out which one comes out on top.

The Toyota Land Cruiser was recently resurrected as a smaller, more affordable SUV, and the returns from our first drive were mostly positive. But rather than push the new Land Cruiser further off-road on its own, we thought we'd bring its brother from another mother — the Lexus GX — for a proper test.

Not all versions of the GX are built-up enough to handle a head-to-head comparison against the Land Cruiser, but the GX 550 Overtrail+ comes with all of the off-road boxes checked. Both SUVs ride on the same TNGA-F platform, and their wheelbases are identical in length. This dimensional congruence — as well as the Land Cruiser First Edition's high price tag — makes this a comparison without caveats.

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Checking the vitals

Our Land Cruiser First Edition comes in at $76,825 including destination, with the Lexus ringing up for $80,915. Yet there are still plenty of differences to separate these two, starting with what's under the hood.

The GX uses a twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V6, while the Land Cruiser goes the electrified route with a turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four paired with an electric motor. The Lexus offers 349 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque, while the Land Cruiser trails just slightly, with 326 hp and 465 lb-ft.

Both SUVs have a full-time four-wheel-drive system, but while the Land Cruiser has an eight-speed automatic transmission, the GX steps things up to a 10-speed gearbox. Both vehicles also come with a very similar set of off-road technology goodies: crawl control, downhill assist control, Multi-Terrain Select drive modes, Multi-Terrain Monitor camera system, and center and rear locking differentials.

2024 Lexus GX off-roading

These SUVs' philosophies digress when it comes to the suspensions, where the GX adopts Lexus' electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (E-KDSS), while the Land Cruiser goes for a lower-tech solution with a disconnecting front stabilizer bar. E-KDSS functions similarly, but without requiring driver intervention, and the system functionally connects and disconnects the front and rear stabilizer bars as road (or off-road) conditions require. This is intended to make the GX capable of double duty: being stable and comfortable on the street while maintaining a high degree of flexibility while off-road, especially at lower speeds.

Speaking of low speeds …

We put both vehicles through a set of three slow-speed obstacles to see if any cracks would start to appear: a ziggurat, a hill climb, and a slow crawl over a set of concrete pipes.

The ziggurat proved to be a stern test for suspension flexibility. It didn't seem that the different suspensions afforded either one a big advantage when it came to flexibility, though it was much easier to load the Land Cruiser on the steps than the GX thanks to its superior approach angle (31 degrees vs. 26 degrees). Despite the GX offering nearly an inch more ground clearance (8.9 inches vs. 8.0 inches), we had to be much more careful to keep its nose from scraping on the steps. This would turn out to be a theme throughout the day.

Toyota Land Cruiser off-roading

On the hill climb, the SUVs climbed up a steep incline with deep holes and ruts. We set each into low-range four-wheel drive, locked the center and rear differentials, and disconnected the front stabilizer bar in the Land Cruiser while the E-KDSS system in the GX did its own thing. In both vehicles, power delivery was buttery smooth. We were able to drive at about one-third throttle depth and each SUV climbed up the hill without any drama.

Both SUVs' crawl control systems — think of crawl control like low-speed cruise control for off-roading — also impressed us. In many other previous Toyota and Lexus vehicles we've tested, including on this same hill, crawl control was notoriously noisy with tons of mechanical clicking and grinding. But in both of these rigs, even with the different powertrains, those noises had vanished and the system worked nearly silently — a great improvement.

The concrete pipes were the toughest test we threw at these two, combining the attributes we tested earlier. Both SUVs eventually made it over the pipes, but it was a much simpler exercise in the Land Cruiser; in addition to its superior approach angle, it also had rock rails and more shielding on its underbody. The GX's skid plates were not as robust and it had side steps that we wanted to avoid hitting lest they snap off. Though the capabilities of these trucks seemed to be very similar at low speeds, the GX was much more stressful to take through each obstacle.

2024 Lexus GX off-roading

Both rigs feature the same off-road camera system that debuted on the Toyota Tundra, which provides several different exterior views, all of them useful. There's even a setting where you appear to look "through" the hood of the SUV and down on the front tires, so you can see exactly where you're steering. The system worked tremendously, though its only shortcoming was that we couldn't determine how tall obstacles were, and with the GX's low nose, it necessitated the use of a spotter. Never go off-roading alone.

High-speed testing

Each SUV comes with a sand setting accessed via the Multi-Terrain Select controller, though it's worth noting that the Land Cruiser offers five different settings while the GX only has three. With this turned on, the traction control is deactivated so you can let the rear hang out to help you get through and around corners.

Though their power outputs were closely matched, from behind the wheel it was no contest. The GX's V6 proved eager to rev and its 10-speed transmission kept the engine firmly planted in the powerband. Getting the rear end of the GX to rotate going into a corner was easy; we could grab plenty of power with quick throttle inputs and the big all-terrain tires bit down into the sand. Even with large ruts forming on the course through the day, the GX didn't care — it just plowed right through everything.

2024 Lexus GX interior

During our paved track testing, the Lexus proved to be much quicker — despite the two SUVs weighing similar amounts (5,568 pounds for the GX, 5,629 pounds for the Land Cruiser). The Lexus accelerated to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, compared to 8.3 seconds in the Toyota. The Lexus had more power, sure, but it was also easier to access. The Land Cruiser simply wasn't as eager to sprint off the line.

The Land Cruiser's transmission constantly felt like it was a gear too high, and there was a big delay between throttle inputs and the power being delivered. It felt like turbo lag, which we did not expect. But since the electric motor only produces 48 hp and 184 lb-ft, it wasn't able to provide enough grunt to fully make up for the turbo-four's delayed responses.

There was also the issue of the Land Cruiser's Michelin LTX Trail all-terrain tires, which were much less aggressive than the Toyo Open Country A/T IIIs found on the GX. The Toyota's tires just weren't digging down into the sand enough and instead kept us floating over the top of the silt, which made steering and braking much more difficult to control.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser interior

We have a winner

The GX's superior powertrain performance does come at a cost: fuel economy. It's only rated at 17 mpg combined versus the Land Cruiser's 23 mpg combined. But even with that caveat, we would totally pay the price premium to drive the Lexus home. It's got an extra layer of refinement at every point, from how it drives on the street to its quiet and comfortable interior.

That being said, there are things about the Toyota we prefer. Its climate control settings are easier to use and we prefer the Land Cruiser's styling (though that's obviously subjective). Plus, if your goal is to buy one of these as a sort of blank canvas, then the Land Cruiser provides a much better starting point. You can start with a Land Cruiser 1958 — which costs $57,345 — and still get most of the good off-road equipment and build it up from there. If you want to go off-road, you pretty much have to go with a Lexus GX Overtrail or Overtrail+, both of which are quite expensive.

2024 Lexus GX front 3/4

Of course, both the Land Cruiser and GX should watch their backs since a brand-new Toyota 4Runner is lurking in the background. The new 4Runner will have the same 112.2-inch wheelbase and TNGA-F platform as its larger siblings while offering more ground clearance and likely better approach and departure angles — plus a lower price.

Edmunds says

Guess another trip to the off-road park will soon be in order. But for now, at least, the Lexus GX reigns supreme.

Photography by Ryan Greger

Toyota Land Cruiser vs. Lexus GX