2024 Lexus GX First Drive Review: New Tech, Old Soul, Instant Classic

The 2024 Lexus GX may not be the fastest, the most technologically advanced, or even the plushest luxe SUV on the road right now. But it only took a day of driving to convince me that it’s the best. For those of us who understand the spiritual essence and romance of a classic sport utility vehicle, but also appreciate some aspects of modern automotive technology, the new GX is simply the ultimate adventure machine.

After a little spin around some Arizona neighborhoods and over a few dirt roads, I could feel that the Lexus GX is a proper truck. There’s a tautness over bumps, a tilt in turns, and just a general sense of gravity that comes with driving a body-on-frame vehicle with a heavy driveline. If you like trucks, it just feels … cool. But make no mistake: That posture won’t appeal to everyone. Frankly, I think you’d be liable to get fatigued driving this before you would in something like a Mercedes GLS or BMW X5, X7, or any other highline SUV that’s big but more dynamically optimized for on-road driving.

The Lexus GX is not uncomfortable, it just has a somewhat lumbering nature (even with 300-plus turbocharged horsepower). Strip away the acoustic isolation, modern display screens, and motivation to merge, and this thing kind of reminds me of my beloved Mitsubishi Montero.

That is what makes this vehicle so special, and so much fun. It’s got enough hard-body visceral energy to remind you of that old 4Runner you had back in the day, but also modern safety tech, driver aids, and the ability to use the passing lane.

2024 Lexus GX Overtrail+ Specs
Base Price (as tested)$77,250 ($80,915)
Powertrain3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 | 10-speed automatic | four-wheel drive
Horsepower349
Torque479 lb-ft
Seating Capacity5
Wheelbase112.2 inches
Towing Capacity9,096 pounds
Off-Road Angles26° approach, 24° break-over, 22° departure
Ground Clearance10.9 inches
Quick TakeThe ultimate JDM adventure vehicle. A golden-era SUV with just enough tech from the present.
Score9/10

What Is This ‘Lexus Land Cruiser’ Really?

The GX is a large-medium sport utility (five to seven seats) slotted below Lexus’ flagship SUV the LX. It has major design elements and proportions in common with the new-for-’24 U.S.-spec Toyota Land Cruiser and is built on a platform largely shared with pretty much every four-wheel drive Toyota sold in America.

Andrew P. Collins

Like most heavy trucks built in the last century, it boils down to a steel frame with a car body bolted onto it and a big engine connected to a transfer case and overbuilt-looking axles. But you also get double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link setup in the rear, contributing to good handling and responsiveness (especially for a vehicle this size).

One thing you might read as you flip through reviews of this SUV is: “Yeah but it’s still just the Land Cruiser Prado, not the hardcore Land Cruiser the rest of the world gets.” It’s true that in other markets, there is a larger (and in some ways beefier) Cruiser while the U.S.-spec truck is technically lighter duty. But don’t waste any time thinking about this. The architecture and construction of the 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus GX are suited for serious adventure. With high-tier tires and a trained driver, I’m confident one could follow pretty much any other production 4×4 anywhere.

Where Are the Lexus GX’s Weaknesses?

The only real dents in the GX’s armor are characteristics endemic to its design. It’s a little tippy in a hard turn, it’s not going to be very frugal on fuel, and the cost of entry is high for the on-road performance you’ll get. For example, you can get a new BMW X5 in the same price neighborhood with a magnificent inline-six and superior handling capabilities. In a rugged off-road setting, that Bimmer would be far more likely to lose traction or take damage … but where are you really going to do most of your miles? If you live in California or a four-corners state (Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico), the GX’s off-road prowess could be put to work regularly. But on the eastern seaboard, the rugged nature of the GX is a little harder to justify. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll still be a fun truck to own as an enthusiast. But realistically, most drivers will get more opportunities to appreciate the engineering of an on-road bias unibody sport utility vehicle.

To put a finer point on it: The GX seems like a great choice if you’re going to run real all-terrain tires and at least occasionally leave the pavement for more than a few minutes. If you enjoy the sense of being in a truck that I described earlier, a GX will be fun to drive. But I think it’d get tiring after some time. Commuters and highway road-trippers would most likely be happier in something more compliant. And frankly, I think this truck looks a little wack with the 20-inch wheels you see on the luxury-spec trims.

There was only one build-quality factor that broke the spell of perfection for me, though—the hood had quite a bit of flutter to it as we moved along the highway. And though I didn’t notice at first, once I saw it, I had a hard time un-seeing it. Not a dealbreaker, but too apparent to overlook.

Size and Specs

There are six versions of the 2024 Lexus GX: Premium, Luxury, and Overtrail, with a “+” version of each.

The Overtrail is the cool one, with aggressive wheels, fender flares, and off-roady accessories. The others can get third-row seats and a prismatic panoramic sunroof. But you don’t need the off-road trim to leave the pavement. Putting a set of good wheels and knobby tires on any new GX would unlock a lot of off-road capability.

The specs that are going to matter most are size, weight, and power. Those are all pretty much the same across trims.

Lexus

The GX is 197.05 inches (about 16.4 feet) long, almost the same length as a new Land Rover Defender 110 or seven inches longer than a G-Wagen. For more context, an old third-gen 4Runner is about a foot and a half shorter and the last-gen GX was just about five inches shorter.

Curb weight is around 5,700 pounds, just a hair heavier than the previously mentioned Defender 110. The engine is a 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 claiming 349 hp and a healthy 479 lb-ft of torque from 2,000 to 3,600 rpm. The 0-60 mph time is 6.5 seconds and it’s supposed to be able to tow 8,000 pounds. Fuel economy specs are 17 mpg in combined driving, 15 city, and 21 highway which is acceptable considering the other specs. Some of the test pilots claimed they were squeezing 25 mpg out of the thing on 45-mph side streets, which I guess could be possible if you get lucky with traffic lights and barely breathe on the gas pedal.

Prices are from around $60,000 to over $80,000, making it generally less expensive than a G-Class or Defender in comparable specs. Though of course there are plenty of excellent other SUVs on the market for that money if you’re not dead-set on off-roading. You could even get into a low-spec Porsche Cayenne, for example. Of course, that’s a completely different look and vibe.

Personality in Exterior Design

The “Boxy SUV” shape is like a superhero movie—you kind of know what to expect before you even see the trailer. But sometimes you get just the right new spin on an old story, and suddenly you’re sucked back in. The Lexus GX is like Thor: Ragnarok when it first came out—all the warm fuzzies of nostalgia with a fresh injection of fun distinctiveness.

The silhouette is aggressively basic; it’s got the aerodynamics of a Minecraft character. However, the design also has an assertive flair that I think owes a lot to the judicious application of chamfers. Daniel Golson, a friend who’s an editor at Jalopnik, taught me this word as we were inspecting the GX’s bodywork together at Lexus’ launch event. I was saying how much I loved the visual transition zones and big creases where the sheet metal changes direction, and he told me that the design element has a name.

It seems chamfers are discussed more in woodworking than in body panels, but the effect is powerful on the sides of the GX. From the long flair running alongside the body to the scalloping in the hood, the Lexus truck’s body is really serifed out in a super pleasing way.

The Overtrail’s fender flares and skid plate are worked into the factory design very smoothly, too. It toes the line between “bolt-on” and “baked-in” which makes it look simultaneously tough and smooth. The three-dimensionalness of the taillight blade and front bumper venting add to the visual depth nicely.

Function and Form in the Cockpit

Andrew P. Collins

We’re long past the days of activating four-wheel drive with a heavy manual lever connected to the transfer case. While SUVs from the ‘90s and prior required you to yank a shifter like you’re planting a flag in enemy territory to get into low range, today’s 4x4s simply have a knob or a button that tells electronics to do the hard work. As such the Lexus GX’s transfer case is electronically controlled, but it still provides a nice haptic experience in activating it with a thoughtfully designed switch.

I could speak similarly to a bunch of the GX’s functions. The pull-yourself-in grab handles are robust and all the buttons look purposeful. There’s an aesthetic of industrial elegance that feels consistent with the legendary Japanese 4x4s of the past. And some really nice touchpoint materials inject just the right amount of modern luxury.

The rear cargo area is decent but not huge—a big hump from the bottom eats into the space and eliminates the flat floor. The third-row seats are strange. If you get them, they’re not easy to remove. And they have an electronic recline function that gives you about a centimeter of tilt, which, why? As a six-foot person, I wouldn’t want to ride back there for more than 30 minutes but kids should be OK.

On-Road Driving Behavior

The GX has very light steering, the wheel almost feels like a nicely upholstered frisbee as it flies through your grip. Acceleration is more than sufficient from a stop, plentiful with some momentum. We were only puttering around side streets mostly, but the 3.4-liter twin-turbo engine is ready to motivate this vehicle of nearly three tons.

The camera setup is showing a pretty standard view here, but it can also display “under” the vehicle as you move forward in another mode. Andrew P. Collins

The boost will also help this vehicle maintain performance at high elevations, which is good news for people who plan to take their GX skiing or drive it in those mountainous western states I mentioned earlier. While a naturally aspirated V8 can be down on power once you get a few thousand feet above sea level, turbochargers largely negate the detrimental effects of thinner air at altitude. You should be able to get around most people westbound I-70 from Denver … as long as you’ve got an open lane, that is.

Andrew P. Collins

Braking seemed fine around town. But there’s an undeniable stiffness to the GX’s ride, especially in the rear. Patrick Rich, a longtime overlander who was reviewing the vehicle for The Autopian, said ”it’s got that Land Cruiser stink-bug” as we were riding together. He meant that the back of the vehicle sits visibly higher than the front; something you’ll see on many unladen trucks and SUVs if you look for it. If you don’t want to run air suspension, that’s inevitable—if you’ve got a truck on springs that’s built to take a beating and haul significant payload, it’s got to be a little stiff when it’s empty.

Lexus was also proud to mention that the new GX will be claiming a 9,000-pound max towing capacity, which is impressive. That should give you plenty of headroom to pull a sub-25 foot boat, two horses, or a car on a dual-axle trailer.

Off-Road Driving Abilities

Unfortunately, the off-road demonstration course Lexus commissioned on Arizona ranchland got so saturated with rainwater it was largely unusable—so keep that in mind if you see any other reviews this week claiming extreme trail testing.

That said, the axles, drivetrain, and certainly the frame of the GX look more than capable of contending with very rough terrain in the hands of a competent driver.

The camera coverage is excellent, and I love having a hard key (down and to the left of the screen) to toggle this screen quickly. Andrew P. Collins

And we did get to try out a few of the GX’s high-tech wheeling toys, which worked beautifully. The first thing you’ll appreciate off-road is how easily the vehicle cycles in and out of low range. There’s no complicated dance of buttons, high-resistance lever, or long waiting time staring at blinking lights. Just pop the main shifter into neutral, flip the switch, and the transfer case does its business almost instantly. Even compared to other modern off-roaders like the Raptor and Defender, the Lexus’ drivetrain responsiveness is distinctively impressive. Same goes for differential locking—it’s video-game quick.

That would be a huge advantage in keeping yourself from getting stuck—decisive action is always preferable when you’re desperate for traction!

Then there’s the crawl control system, which is kind of like off-road cruise control. If you had one of the last Lexus GXs, you might have had to retrofit this functionality. But now it’s baked right into the control suite and it works very well. You simply set your speed with a little knob, and the GX picks its way over hairy obstacles with zero pedal input.

I particularly like that if you do need to give it a boost of throttle or brake, you can instantly override the crawl control system but it re-activates just as immediately when you get off the pedal. It makes for a really intuitive interface. I said we weren’t able to test the GX’s abilities to its extremes, but we were able to put it over some pretty nasty axle twisters and I was pleased to see how well crawl control negotiated them. When resistance got so heavy it stopped the truck, it was able to figure out on its own just how much power to apply to eek us through without jolting or jostling us.

Then there’s E-KDSS, Lexus’ electronic kinetic dynamic suspension system. Whew, what a phrase! This is replacing KDSS, a hydraulic version of the system—I’ll explain what that is and why electronic control is better.

Supplementing the truck’s shocks, sort of, KDSS basically means there are dampers (like little shock absorbers) connected to the sway bars. This effectively allows for a bigger range in flexibility in the vehicle’s suspension system—those dampers can stiffen when you want minimal body roll and loosen up when you need more suspension travel.

In previous versions, the front and rear of the KDSS were hydraulically connected as one system. With E-KDSS, the dampers are still hydraulic, but they’re individually electronically controlled. So what the left-rear is doing isn’t necessarily affected by the right-front. I think you’d need to drive both back to back to really appreciate whether or not the electronic system feels appreciably better. But in theory, this corner-isolating system should be superior in all situations simply because it allows for more precise damper control. This video demonstrates the concept quite nicely:

The sway bars themselves are remarkably large—the front one in particular looks like a dang sewer pipe. That should allow it to manage a huge amount of force, which I guess you need if you want responsiveness out of a vehicle this size.

A Closer Look Underneath

The metal skidplate has a little plastic protector with “LEXUS” sunken into it. I think it looks cool—and I’m guessing it was cheaper to make the text in a piece of plastic than it would have been if it were right in the metal. Andrew P. Collins

If you’re into off-roaders, I’m guessing you’ll be curious about what the new GX looks like from underneath. For the rest of you: These are the best angles to get a sense of a 4×4’s serviceability and vulnerability to trail damage. As far as I could see, many of the vehicle’s drivetrain components look relatively easy to reach, and critical systems look stout.

The Early Verdict

I’ve been absolutely smitten with the design of this vehicle since it dropped months ago, and after a short drive I’m flat-out in love with the Overtrail off-road trim of the new GX. Based on both style and substance, I think the new Lexus GX annihilates the Mercedes G-Wagen and Land Rover Defender in the world of high-brow, low-range capable vehicles. The Defender is more comfortable on-road, and the Merc is much more plush and flashy inside. But the GX just perfectly understands the “tough truck with class” assignment better than anyone else right now.
I often think to myself “if I were a millionaire, I’d love to throw an unlimited budget at my old Montero to create the ultimate JDM off-roader.” But now I’d just buy one of these, load it up with JAOS accessories, and ride into the sunset.

Andrew P. Collins

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