First Drive: 2024 Lexus GX

Tucson, ArizonaIt’s an automotive timespan that usually bears 7-or-8 model generations, but for the mid-sized Lexus GX, after nearly two-dozen years, the third generation is only just arriving.

During the last couple decades, a lot has happened within the SUV sandbox. For one, the premium SUV market has bloated to near saturation with the relentless flooding of new jacked-up wagons that compromise utility in the name of fashion, or more absurdly, for racetrack-ready performance.

2024 Lexus GX 550

Not so, the Lexus GX, which has evolved, pragmatically, if tortoise-like, while staying steadfastly true to its mission of providing rugged capability draped in finery. Patience is paying off for Lexus though, as consumers increasingly look to distance their SUVs from the legions of car-based soccer-parent buses littering every Whole Foods parking lot. Rugged machines (or at least those that look rugged) have exploded in popularity as buyers imagine themselves venturing far off the paved path, overlanding their way to a perfect mountain-top location to escape society for a bit. Want proof? The outgoing GX 460 just came off a record-setting sales year in Canada, despite its geriatric 13 years on the market.

The new GX 550 is poised to capitalize on its rugged lineage as Lexus has not only made the new machine quantifiably better in every utilitarian measure, but it’s also made it look the part, shamelessly cribbing the Land Rover Defender’s boxy style.

2024 Lexus GX 550

Joining the macho, square-jawed club of Wrangler, Bronco, Defender and G-wagen, the GX 550 ditches its flamboyant spindle grille and protruding air dam of last year’s model for a broad, blocky look suited to the desert or jungle, yet still unmistakably a modern Lexus. The front overhang is notably reduced, allowing for a better approach angle when coming upon obstacles to climb over (like rocks or logs), while the side glass greenhouse isn’t as tall as before. That grille is mercifully not painted body-colour as it is on the TX and RX, and it’s flanked by the squinty headlights from the Lexus LC 500 sport coupe. Watching the back-end of a GX 550 crawling around a desert trail, we were struck nostalgic by its resemblance to the classic Lexus LX 470 from decades ago.

Canadian GX 550s will be divvied among six different trims that follow two distinct styling paths and missions. The Signature, Premium, Luxury, and Executive variants get progressively fancier inside and out, but are geared toward a life spent crawling mall parking lots instead of rocky hills, especially with the upper two trims wearing 22-inch wheels and low-profile rubber.

2024 Lexus GX 550

In fairness, every GX 550 travels on a legendary Land Cruiser boxed frame and features permanent all-wheel-drive, a two-speed transfer case, and locking differentials, meaning even the cushiest GX is more capable off-road than darn-near anything else. But the Overtrail editions take things even farther off the beaten path.

Beyond simply looking much cooler with their chunkier fender flares and contrasting black roofs, the Overtrail and Overtrail+ variants wear gnarly-looking 33-inch all-terrain Toyo tires developed specifically for the GX and wrapped around 18-inch wheels. The adaptive variable suspension (AVS) that’s standard on the posh GX 550 Executive trim is also found in Overtrail editions, where it’s optimized for off-roading. When paired with the standard Electronic-Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, the new GX’s suspension offers notably better articulation (an area that the past generation GX was already adept at), greater ground clearance and improved approach and departure angles versus last year’s model. All of this helps the GX 550 drag its skid plates less when the going gets tough.

2024 Lexus GX 550

Those who like to do serious off-roading may lament the GX 550’s significant growth, spreading 3.8 inches wider and 5 inches longer than before, making the new rig trickier to navigate around tight obstacles (though still a whisker smaller than the Defender 110 in most measures). A large part of the GX’s past popularity has been the legendary durability of its V8 engine. When heading out on excursions, the peace of mind afforded by a proven drivetrain like the old truck’s 4.6L V8 helped owners trust that their Lexus would always get them back again.

The GX 550 follows the path of its LX 600 sibling, receiving the same 3.45 L twin-turbo V6, generating 349 horsepower (down from 409 in the LX) and 479 pound-feet of torque. Compared to last year’s V8, this represents an appreciable bump of 48 horses and a whopping 150 lb-ft of torque. Notwithstanding the old V8’s relative simplicity, fans of that heavy lump should at least give the new V6 a fair shake before grumbling about it. The new engine not only dispenses significantly more oomph, but it does so with far fewer revs and a livelier throttle response. By comparison, the old truck’s V8 and ancient six-speed automatic transmission feel downright lazy by comparison, plus the bigger engine was thirstier, too, although only by 1L /100 km Combined. Those wanting a more efficient off-roader will need to wait a bit longer for the upcoming GX hybrid.

2024 Lexus GX 550

The V6 is mated to a 10-speed automatic that keep the newfound power readily on tap but allows the GX 550 to still have the relaxed highway cruising demeaner the old truck did. Often transmissions with 9 or 10 gears tend to hunt relentlessly for the right cog, but even in the pre-production test units, this gearbox proved well-sorted and smooth in operation.

Not satisfied with simply being a legitimate off-road machine, Lexus is also fitting every GX 550 with a trailer package including heavy-duty receiver, trailer-sway control and trailer brake control as standard equipment. In Overtrail trim, the GX is rated to haul a class-leading 4,000 kg (9,000 lbs).

2024 Lexus GX 550

Inside, Lexus has offered enough configurations to suit almost anyone’s needs. Most GXes will be 7-passenger units, with top-trim Executive models replacing the second-row bench seat with a pair of captain’s chairs. In those rigs, the third row offers a little more head and leg room than last year’s GX 460, but it’s still a snug fit. Cargo space behind the third row actually shrinks a bit, but with all the seats folded flat, it’s slightly greater than in last year’s GX.

Anticipating the Overtrail’s popularity amongst the overlanding crowd who customize their rigs with everything from sleeping spaces, to fridge-and-freezer units, and storage for all manner of survival gear, the third row has been removed completely, freeing up space and lowering the rear load floor. The cargo hold is accessed with a liftgate now, replacing the sideways-swinging door found on all previous GX models, but the glass can still be opened independently.

2024 Lexus GX 550

Up front, the dashboard is flat and horizontal, giving a fantastic view out over the broad hood, shaped along its flanks to highlight tire placement when wheeling off-road. Of course, the massive infotainment screen can also display a 360-degree view around the truck, and using forward-camera memory, can create an under-truck view helping a driver place the GX precisely, even without a spotter.

The seats are supportive and comfy, and the controls are mostly familiar to other contemporary Lexus SUVs with large, easy-use knobs for climate functions, drive mode selection and volume control. In models below the Executive trim, many of the materials felt like they had been chosen for durability rather than luxury. This is especially the case with the Overtrail models, only available with faux leather seating.


Frankly, the emphasis on long-term durability and utility – whether for rugged off-road adventures, or serious towing – makes the practical interior finishes understandable, especially with the GX’s second and third owners often being the hardest on their machines.

With significantly more equipment, it’s understandable that the GX 550 sees a price bump, now starting at $83,500 (up more than $6,000 from 2023). Luxury and Executive models now both cross the six-figure threshold, while the Overtrail rings in at $92,500, and $101,850 for the Overtrail+ that gets extra goodies like a cool box, head up display and front massaging seats.

It’s taken nearly a dozen years for the GX to reach this next step in its evolution, and it’s a big one. While sure to be met with some skepticism by those who’ve loved the past V8 iterations, the new GX 550 is simply better than the old truck in every measurable way, while being more comfortable to boot. That it finally looks as cool as anything else in the segment should help ensure the GX sales continue to flourish. It was worth the wait.

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