2024 Lexus GX Prototype Off-Road Drive: It Wheels as Good as It Looks

Overlanders and off-roaders alike have been itching to know how the 2024 Lexus GX performs ever since it debuted in June. It has the classic, boxy look of a proper 4×4 and the specs seem great on paper, too. A torquey 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 sends twist to all four wheels through a 10-speed transmission, a two-speed transfer case, and a locking center differential, and it sports top-level features like Toyota’s magical E-KDSS suspension. It leans all the way into four-wheeling in nearly every obvious way, and in my time with the new GX, I learned it’s probably as great as you hoped for.

I say “probably” because it’s too early to call it just yet. I had limited seat time in the GX at a specially designed off-road course inside the Fuji Speedway complex. But while the test was brief, the course condensed a whole trail’s worth of challenges into a short distance.

From one obstacle to the next, the GX did all it was asked—nothing more or less, which is kind of the point. I’ll get to that in a bit.

2024 Lexus GX Overtrail Specs
Base PriceTBA
Powertrain3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 | 10-speed automatic | four-wheel drive
Horsepower349
Torque479 lb-ft
Seating Capacity5
Wheelbase112.2 inches
Towing Capacity8,000 pounds
Off-Road Angles26° approach, 24° break-over, 22° departure
Ground Clearance10.9 inches
Quick TakeSo far, so great with the most hotly anticipated off-roader in recent memory.
Score8.5/10

It started with a tricky articulation test that had the truck maneuver through deeply dug pits, alternating sides as it went along. Straight away, I knew this would be a good measuring stick for the new GX as I’ve wheeled its Toyota TNGA-F platform-mates through similar terrain and not been hugely impressed. See, the new Tundra TRD Pro and Sequoia TRD Pro can clear these purpose-built potholes just fine, but they often do it on three wheels instead of four. You really want all your tires touching the ground for maximum traction. Thanks to electronic kinematic dynamic suspension, which automatically controls the front and rear stabilizers independently, the GX crawls through craters like this with zero drama.

Koji Tsukasaki, chief engineer for the GX, explained to me that the new Lexus has a leg up on its Toyota-branded brethren. It’s the first time E-KDSS has been offered on a Lexus before; it was reserved for the 300-Series Land Cruiser sold elsewhere in the world. Not even our version of the Land Cruiser that we’ll get in the States will have it, which really sets the GX apart and helps it compete against the mightiest domestic four-wheelers.

There’s no doubting the Lexus’ aptitude whether you’re inside the rig or watching it from a spotter’s POV. It’s clear when you’re driving because it simply goes when you tell it to and it smoothly stops when you clear the obstacle and let off the throttle, an underappreciated attribute in itself. I felt the tires start to spin as I inched forward in 4LO, but only for a moment. I could see on the 14-inch infotainment display which wheels were delivering power to the ground, and with the 360-degree camera, I could judge and adjust the line I took accordingly. Soon enough, I was through this section and I never once wondered if I should have done something differently. I don’t think it would have mattered, honestly, because the GX was going to get me through it.

I spoke with Lexus International President Takashi Watanabe during my time at Fuji. There, he explained that composure and stability are higher priorities for the GX than raw feedback. It’s how Lexus elevates itself above, say, the new Land Cruiser that’s coming just down the line.

“On the extremely rough roads, according to the throttle input, you shouldn’t have to match your driver input according to what the car is doing,” Watanabe told me. “It shouldn’t be reactionary. If you push the accelerator, the car should move forward.”

“The end result we’re looking for is that reassurance, that stability,” Watanabe continued. “Of course, there are going to be customers who want that extra input. They want to be in control. They want to manhandle the car. But for us at Lexus, in those situations, you have to feel a sense of security. We want to lessen the load on the driver as much as possible, but you can still drive in those extreme conditions.”

In a nutshell, the Lexus is for folks who want to conquer the trail and still have energy left once they get to their boondocking spot.

Next was a bermed left-hander that simultaneously tested the 4×4’s suspension and turning radius. The GX is indeed wider than before, and if you’ve ever driven on tight, wooded trails you know bigger is rarely better in that sense. However, it doesn’t feel ungainly (and it certainly doesn’t look it). It maintains that rightly sized posture of the old GX, landing squarely in the sweet spot where it’s large enough to haul you and yours as well as y’all’s gear without being too huge for one-lane paths. The nearly flat windshield also gives you great visibility so you can stare directly down the hood at each of the front corners. It’s a refreshingly nimble machine.

The two-tone, early prototype pivoted around while still in 4LO with the rear differential lock engaged, proving its agility. It was then time to line up with a rocky ascent followed by an immediate descent where we’d be testing the vehicle’s Crawl Control function. I’ll come right out and say that the previous version of that feature was unusable. Just horrible. Thankfully, though, the new iteration that’s used in the 2024 GX has replaced the off-road cruise control’s jerks and creaks with smooth inputs. You adjust the speed with a five-position dial and let the truck manage the throttle and braking, meaning all you need to do is put your tires in the right place. And while this might sound like a lazy wheeler’s best friend, its usefulness is two-fold because it doesn’t rely on throttle pedal location when bumping over boulders. There are no sudden jerks, then.

While the climb was steeper in person than it appears in photos, it wasn’t wicked enough to test the GX’s skid plating. You could call it a testament to the truck’s ground clearance, which in a way it was, though I’ll save my judgment on that for when I take it on a hill that’s… hairier. The main objective was to test smoothness, both with the suspension and Crawl Control. I won’t hesitate to tell you that it passed in both of those categories.

As for how the 2024 GX performs away from this course, I can’t say. I also couldn’t tell you how it does when driving faster than 5 mph. The time will come for that, and rest assured, I’ll offer up a more detailed review when it does.

I’ll be dreaming of driving the Lexus up a mountain or something like that in the meantime. I can’t give it a ringing endorsement just yet, but I’m fairly confident it will impress in other situations just the same. If it’s as good as it seems, then Lexus may have hit the home run we all hoped it would with a rig this sharp.

Got a tip or question for the author? Contact them directly: caleb@thedrive.com

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