New & Used Lexus GX: In Depth
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The Lexus GX is one of the brand's two truly off-road-capable SUVs, and its rugged hardware is paired with luxury trappings to create something that's capable off-highway but keeps occupants comfortable wherever it goes.
The GX is the little brother of the Land Cruiser-based LX and shares much of its platform with the current Toyota 4Runner SUV, as well as the recently discontinued FJ Cruiser.
The GX sells in lower volume than the perennial best-selling Lexus RX, and it's smaller in footprint than the Lexus LX. Its few rivals include vehicles such as the Land Rover LR4 and Infiniti QX80. Unlike the LX with its rear jump seats, the GX offers a conventional third row of seats that can fold into the floor when not in use.
MORE: Read our 2015 Lexus GX review
The first generation of Lexus's GX was launched for the 2003 model year, offering the legendary off-road capability and toughness of the Toyota 4Runner, now fitted with a thick layer of luxury features that included leather upholstery, wood trim, and of course the comforting Lexus showroom experience. That 2003 Lexus GX 470 shared the same 4.7-liter V-8 engine that was fitted to the full-size LX sport utility at the time, driving all four wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission.
The early GX also featured adaptive suspension with adjustable roll bars, to let the driver choose between on-road comfort and off-road agility. Although it was marketed as a three-row, eight-passenger vehicle, the third-row seat was notably small and far from practical over long distances for two adults--let alone three. Options in the early GX line included a Mark Levinson sound system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The latest version of the GX was launched for the 2010 model year. The design is upright and bluff like before. Though it shares underpinnings with the 4Runner, its design is wholy separate, and instead shared with the Land Cruiser Prado model that is not sold in the U.S. Today's GX features a 301-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 engine (hence the slight name change and numerical demotion) mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Performance is only adequate, however, since the Lexus GX is one tall, heavy vehicle with the compromised aerodynamics to go with its shape. A variety of electronic systems supervise its off-pavement behavior, helping it do surprisingly well. Systems include standard adjustable roll bars; adaptive suspension and height adjustment for the rear shocks; various modes to control rock crawling and hill descents; and electronic simulation of a locking differential, using the anti-lock brakes.
Soon after the 2010 launch of the second-generation GX, Consumer Reports hit the truck with a rare "Do Not Buy" warning. In testing, the publication found that the luxury truck's stability-control system didn't perform as expected during emergency maneuvers, producing heavy oversteer in certain situations. Toyota later discovered a flaw in the stability-control programming and issued a fix for the GX, which led the magazine to lift its embargo.
That brief snag aside, the GX is a safety-conscious vehicle with a solid list of safety and accident-avoidance equipment. Eight airbags come standard, located in the front, at the sides of the front seats, and in curtains along the sides, plus knee airbags for the driver and front passenger. Other standard items include a lane-departure warning system, active head restraints, and a rearview camera. Additional cameras for the front and sides are available as part of a package and prove helpful in off-road and mall-lot maneuvers alike.
Inside, the GX offers lots of standard and optional features, including available heated and ventilated seats, three-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, and power folding for the rearmost row of seats. In part because of its height, the GX uses a swing-out rear tailgate with an integrated flip-up glass portion. It is not power operated but does hold itself in place nicely when opened to any angle.
The Lexus GX 460 was lightly refreshed for 2012, with additional chrome accents and body cladding, plus a new wheel finish in high gloss. Other changes through the 2015 model year have been minimal--save for the refreshed front end, which now wears the Lexus family's spindle grille.