New & Used Lexus GX: In Depth
Side Exterior View - 2016 Lexus GX 460 4WD 4-doorEnlarge Photo
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The Lexus GX is the little brother of the Land Cruiser-based LX and shares its platform with the current Toyota 4Runner SUV, as well as the recently discontinued FJ Cruiser. The 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.
With its truck-type platform, the Lexus GX has been relegated to niche product status, as buyers continue to move toward more car-like crossover SUVs. For that reason, the GX sells in much lower volume than the perennial best-selling Lexus RX. Its few rivals include vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover LR4 and Volkswagen Touareg. 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 2016 Lexus GX review
The GX is a safety-conscious vehicle with a solid list of safety and accident-avoidance equipment, though its older body structure means it might not do well in some of today's crash tests. 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.
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.
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, as well as a host 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 current generation of the GX was launched for the 2010 model year, with and upright and buff design like before. Though it shared underpinnings with the 4Runner, its design was wholly separate, instead shared with the Land Cruiser Prado model that is not sold in the U.S. At that time, the engine changed to the current 301-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 (hence the slight name change and numerical demotion), and the transmission became a six-speed automatic.
Soon after the 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 vehicle'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.
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 2016 model year have been minimal--save for the refreshed front end, which in 2014 adopted the Lexus family's spindle grille.