2024 Lexus GX 550 First Drive Review: Lego (Over)Land

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

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Seriously cool looks


Major towing and off-road prowess

Punishing third row

Friendly on-road

No hybrid (yet)

I had two favorite Lego sets growing up: a pizzeria, and a bridge crossing complete with off-roady truck.

This explains a lot. The crippling addiction to pizza isn’t exactly relevant here—but that yellow truck? I loved it. Way before I had a license, that was the first vehicle I really tinkered with. Throwing on race car tires for that street truck look was fun, as was crafting bed covers. But it was the stock setup that fascinated me. The articulated suspension and knobbly tires screamed adventure.

For 2024, Lexus has tapped into that innate sense of exploration with a thoroughly reimagined GX. In a landscape full of car-based crossovers, this newly boxy body-on-frame SUV promises a heartier off-road experience than just about anything else in the luxury space—but now with better manners when you’re on tarmac.

What’s new?

The whole dang thing, for the first time in 15 years. This new GX rides on the TNGA-F platform, the hearty body-on-frame setup that underpins… well, everything BOF in the Toyota and Lexus portfolio now except for the 4Runner. Tacoma, Tundra, LX, soon-to-arrive Land Cruiser… in fact, it’s the latter that now most closely pairs with the GX. Peep that side profile for the clear connection, with angular wheel arches and that two-step window line being a perfect match.

Not that Lexus hasn’t made this blocky shape its own, mind you. Familial rectangular headlights house the expected L-shaped lighting signature, framing an evolution of the spindle grille that seemingly takes the Predator references to heart; it has fangs now! Similarly, the new model adopts the latest Lexus design cues out back, with a full-width taillight bar and the brand spelled out above it. Lexus was keen to mount the lights as high as possible for better trail visibility. Not every old tradition has been tossed, however: there’s still a separately opening glass section. Some things are sacred.

Where the GX starts to distance itself from its proletariat sibling is in the powertrain and cabin. I’ll cover the latter in more detail below, but at launch in Canada and the US, the GX comes with just a single engine and transmission combo. The corporate twin-turbo V6 found in the flagship LX sits under that broad hood, producing 349 horsepower and a huge 479 pound-feet of torque here. A 10-speed automatic sends power to a full-time four-wheel drive setup.

Class of one

In the ensuing years between GX generations, not only has the segment embraced crossovers—so has Lexus. The three-row TX arriving has given the brand a dedicated family hauler, freeing up the GX to lean into its off-road tendencies. While the Premium and Luxury trims continue on, a new Overtrail trim slots in between them. (Premium+, Luxury+, and Overtrail+ all ladle on additional creature comforts.) This new trim is the de facto flagship model, trading the Luxury’s enormous 22-inch wheels for 18s mounted on custom 33-inch all-terrain tires co-developed with Toyo. The Overtrail also unlocks two-tone exterior paint (plus the appropriately-named Earth hue), swaps in plastic fender flares, and gets a 0.2-inch hike to its ride height, totalling 8.86 inches (225 millimeters). A metal front skid plate is standard on Overtrail and will be available as an accessory for other trims. All GX models feature a locking center differential, but the Overtrails also add a second locker on the rear axle.

Every GX trim is capable of 26 degrees of approach. The Luxury trims score 21 degrees for departure; the Overtrail manages 22, while it’s the Premium that posts the best score at 23 degrees. That’s the same maximum breakover angle for the Premium and Luxury trims as well; the Overtrail ticks it up to 24 degrees.

Better manners on tarmac, friendlier off it

I’d love to tell you how the Overtrail conquered some gnarly Arizona trail, but an unexpected downpour earlier in the week closed off the more challenging portion of the off-road route. We tackled a relatively mild trail, but it was rugged enough to switch into 4LO and test out the 24.5 inches (621 mm) of wheel articulation. The GX makes short work of it all, and the rethought driving mode system is a huge boon for drivers. Drive modes, Multi-Terrain Select, and the downhill crawl are all activated by actual physical buttons, while one rotary dial makes it easy to flit between their various respective modes. MTS includes Dirt, Sand, Mud, and a new Auto feature, while also unlocking Deep Snow in 4WD High. Crawl control is adjustable by single km/h (0.6 mph), taking care of throttle and brake management.

In 4LO, the various cameras dotted around the Overtrail’s exterior give it not just a 360-degree view, but detailed looks under the front and rear bumpers. With the included transparent wheel overlays in this view, it’s easy to precisely place the GX on the trail to avoid obstacles. These underbody views disappear somewhere between 7 and 8 mph, mind you.

Lexus likes to talk a big game about LDS: Lexus Driving Signature, the brand-wide initiative to imbue each model with “linear connection.” I’m happy to report it really does translate to the body-on-frame-on-tarmac experience. Sure, the porky 2024 GX (5,710 pounds at its heaviest) doesn’t turn in with the quickness of a sport sedan. But there is a linear consistency right from the start, as the electric power steering is quick and accurate.

Body motions are kept in check as well. The Luxury+ and both Overtrail trims benefit from the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). Even without AVS, the Premium+, which Lexus predicts to be the volume seller, was perfectly pliant on the surface roads and highways around Tucson. Overtrails also add the E-KDSS system, an adjustable suspension that can disconnect the stabilizer bars as needed to eke out that extra wheel articulation. The real black magic here is that the OT is no worse on the road than the other trims, save for additional tire rumble.

No doubt there are people bemoaning the death of the 4.6-liter V8. But the 3.4-liter turbo V6 is a major contributor to that LDS feeling. Turbo power comes on early, that massive 479 lb-ft—roughly 50-percent more than before, and available earlier—keeping the GX feeling responsive. The 10-speed is a great match too, with smart programming and quick shifts ensuring drivers are always in the meat of the powerband. Fuel economy is even up, although only slightly at 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway, and 17 mpg combined. Those figures are somehow worse than the larger and more powerful LX. Thankfully, a hybrid model is coming some time after launch.

During the launch event, Lexus engineers announced improved maximum towing ratings. The Luxury trims are the relative lightweights, but we’re still talking between 7,601 and 8,020 pounds depending on seating configuration. Both the Premiums and Overtrails get a hair over 9,000 lb, with the Overtrail topping the charts at 9,096 lb. That makes this the new towing champ of the Lexus family, and the segment.

Swanky cabin for five (or more, technically)

Even in these pre-production models, the new GX cabin is a serious upgrade in quality and style over the outgoing model. The styling mirrors the exterior, all rectilinear ruggedness. Material quality isn’t going to worry the Germans, but outright luxury isn’t the point of the GX: this cabin feels heartier, like it’ll shrug off regular trail use in a way no X5 would. Fit and finish very much is typical Lexus too, with just one nitpick: the flimsy 4WD transfer switch. Other minor quibbles: the underutilized space ahead of the cupholders, and the lack of a USB plug in the passenger-side dashboard cubby feels like a wasted opportunity. Every trim gets the 14.0-inch touchscreen and digital instrument cluster; the latter is nice, but can wash out in the harsh Arizona sunlight.

The front seats are mega comfy and, for the first time on a Lexus SUV, offer available massaging. (The LX offers as much in the second row.) The Overtrail swaps in a unique, softer foam and slightly more aggressive bolsters: Lexus says it has done this to keep the driver more secure during bumpy trail work. Personally, I just love the Olive suede accents—more of this color everywhere please, Lexus.

Space is very good in the Overtrail+, which is what I start the day in. It makes sense: the new trims are strictly two-row affairs. Visibility is also excellent: the low shoulder line affords the GX plenty of glass. The hood rises up at the corners to easily mark out the extremities, while the tall side mirrors give drivers a clear idea of not just what’s beside them, but what’s close to the roof, too. Multiple glass options are available for the roof, including the fancy one-touch Dynamic Sky setup on the Luxury+. Don’t worry, there’s a no-cost moonroof delete on Overtrail for all your roof accessory needs.

The Premium and Luxury trims wedge a third row back there and it’s possibly one of the least comfortable examples on the new vehicle market. The short cushion is manually raised from the floor in the Premium+, but only by a few inches, so you’re left with a knees-at-chin seating position.

Dollars and sense

Considering the massive jump in features, safety, and general refinement, the 2024 GX is a comparatively better value than the outgoing model. The lineup begins with the $65,600 GX Premium, an increase of just $2,690 over the equivalent 2023 model. The gap widens with the Luxury however, which rings in at $78,600. Adding the + designation to the either trim balloons the sticker to $70,600 and $82,600, respectively. The new Overtrail trims literally slot into the middle, matching the prices of the Premium+ and Luxury trims.

The Defender is the main competitor, and while it slightly undercuts the Lexus in standard 110 form, that makes do with a less powerful four-cylinder engine. The most affordable six-cylinder model starts just shy of $70,000—or a little over if you want the three-row 130 model. That one can’t match the cool looks of the GX, but its third-row also doesn’t feel like punishment.

Final thoughts: 2024 Lexus GX 550 First Drive Review

The 2024 Lexus GX will continue to be a niche player in the mid-sized luxury SUV space: Lexus expects to move around 33,000 per year, only slightly more than the the last few years. The brand will happily point most three-row shoppers towards the family-friendly TX, after all.

I’m guessing those who don’t regularly use the way-back will be awfully tempted by the GX, however. It looks seriously cool, is a satisfying space to spend time, and doesn’t punish folks when driving on tarmac. It’s a real-life Lego truck, and that sense of adventure never gets old.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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