At first glance, the new Lexus GX 550 is completely new, yet still familiar. The polarizing dropped beltline mixes with a new take on the spindle grille and geometric wheel arches, hinting of FJ Cruiser and Land Rover Defender from certain angles. Overall, the design catches the eye, creating a squared-off SUV that looks sophisticated yet rugged, and an upright greenhouse that suggests exceptional visibility.

The original GX joined the Lexus lineup in 2002 as what many considered a more luxurious, three-row, and V8-powered Toyota 4Runner. The GX has grown as a major adventuring platform in recent years thanks to its availability in the used market, creature comforts, durability, and impressive out-of-the-box capability.

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Lexus, having recognized this previously unforeseen customer base, has made sure the ’24 GX 550 satisfies the needs of an audience that made Lexus a mainstream name in vehicle-based adventuring communities. Those who became first-time Lexus owners in the secondary market now have a new Lexus option to replace their beloved GX 460s and GX 470s as they get older.

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Based on Toyota’s global GA-F body-on-frame platform that also underpins the Lexus LX 600, Toyota Land Cruiser (international 300 series), Sequoia, Tacoma and Tundra, the GX had good bones to start from. Toyota’s popular Land Cruiser Prado, on which the previous GX was also based, is rumored to be offered in the States on this new chassis soon as a more affordable GX. 

The GA-F uses a strong but lightweight ladder frame with a newly developed double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear that locates a solid rear axle. Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) continually adjusts damping for road conditions and every GX now has Electronic Power Steering (EPS), which Lexus says increases steering feel.

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The twin-turbo 3.4L V6 has an output of 349 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque and is backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive with low range.

All GX 550s offer a two-speed, full-time four-wheel-drive system, with a Torsen limited-slip center differential that incorporates a locking feature. The sole powerplant at launch is Toyota’s excellent 3.4-liter, twin-turbo V6 with 349 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. Lexus says a hybrid powertrain will be announced in the future. The 3.4L is backed by Toyota’s 10-speed automatic transmission.

Interior and Tech
The interior of the GX continues its upright exterior design theme with the dash, which feels more truck-like and utilitarian in shape and layout—if not in materials. The dash has a short throw from the base of the windshield and is situated lower than before, aiding in visibility. However, our brief moment in the driver’s seat had us noting the long hood with a dropped center that could affect forward visibility in technical terrain.

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The GX550 interior is luxurious and modern with specially designed seats to hold you in place when off-roading.

Other available niceties in the GX include a driver’s 12.3-in Multi-Information Display (MID), a heads-up display (HUD), and a standard 14-inch multimedia touchscreen display that offers plenty of redundant physical controls around the center stack, crucial for any vehicle that sees rough roads. We also appreciated the physical four-wheel-drive controls on the center console near the shifter where they are easy to reach. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard.

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The front row occupants are treated to sumptuous thrones, while second row passengers get either a bench seat or captain’s chairs depending on the vehicle configuration. An optional third row is available, but without it the cargo area is enormous. We see all sorts of options for fitting slides, boxes, and large fridges if you don’t need the extra passenger capacity.

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Much like the exterior design, the GX 550’s dash is bold and upright, with plenty of secondary buttons that complement the 14-inch touchscreen.

The GX offers plenty of ports for charging devices, including a 120V AC inverter. Lexus has also increased storage space over the previous generation, including an optional cool box in the center console and up to 12 cup holders. A 10-speaker stereo is standard, while the upgrade is a magnificent 21-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system.

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All of the GX’s four-wheel-drive controls are conveniently placed on the center console near the gear selector.

Overtrail Off-Road Package
Selecting one of the new off-road packages, either Overtrail or Overtrail+, will net you underbody protection, 33-inch Toyo Open Country AT3 tires on unique 18-inch wheels, and a rear locker. Other available off-roading technologies that are available include Multi-Terrain Select (MTS), Crawl Control, Downhill Assist Control (DAC), and a 3D Multi-Terrain Monitor system. Electronic-Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (E-KDSS) is also available for improved wheel articulation.

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Overtrail trims have 18-inch wheels wrapped in proper 265/70R18 Toyo Open Country A/T III rubber.

For a vehicle that seems to have gotten so much so right, some of the specs on paper are a bit underwhelming. When compared to the Land Rover Defender 110 or a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, two vehicles it is likely to compete against, the Lexus’ approach/breakover/departure angles are 26 degrees/24 degrees/22 degrees, compared to the max angles of 37.5/27.9/40.0 for the Land Rover Defender 110 (air suspension) and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk (air suspension) at 35.7/22.3/30.0.

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Lexus did not disclose ground clearance numbers as of this writing (nor did they share curb weight or payload), but said it was greater than the previous generation’s 8.1 inches. Here the Land Rover comes in at 11 inches and the Jeep enjoys 10.9. Towing is 8,000 pounds for the GX, 8,200 pounds for the Defender, and 6,000 pounds for the Cherokee. That being said, specs aren’t everything and we can’t wait to see how the GX performs out in the real world.

Lexus’ brilliant move to offer the Overtrail package not only has the brand catering to adventurous luxury SUV buyers, but also allows Lexus to potentially add it to the LX 600. This would give our U.S. spec 300-series model commensurate off-road capability to the internationally available Toyota Land Cruiser.

Aftermarket Support
From an upgrade standpoint, we see the major challenges to be winch integration and room under the hood for accessories. E-KDSS will also likely be a limitation for suspension upgrades; however, knowing that it shares the GA-F platform, suspension choices should be able to come fairly quickly for non-E-KDSS models. A new GX on 35s seems like it would be the right size, right capability, and right choice to experience the backcountry in total comfort, and our guess is that the aftermarket industry is as excited about his vehicle as we are.

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Gone is the GX’s annoying swinging rear door, replaced with a hatch that has lift-glass capability; however, we would have preferred a split setup with a lower tailgate portion.

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Without the third-row option, the GX has a generous cargo area behind the second row, even with the seats up.

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The second-row folded down provides plenty of quick-access space for hauling extra gear.

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Fold-and-tumble second row seats could make sleeping on the load floor a non-starter for taller people.

Our Take
Dare we say that the Lexus GX 550 is the modern-day Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX450 80-series replacement? Hear us out—the new GX overlays the shadow of the 80-series nicely, with the identical 112.2-inch wheelbase, optional three rows, and an overall height within two inches (74 vs. 76 inches). The GX body is seven inches longer and the new vehicle is a more accommodating seven inches wider (with mirrors).

It’s exciting to see Lexus go all-in on the GX replacement, but we are even more excited about a potential Toyota Land Cruiser Prado version. We see the GX as the perfect choice for someone who wants a luxury rig with out-of-the-box capability. However, the prospect of a more affordable Toyota version being announced for the U.S. and carrying the Land Cruiser badge, with a potentially more aftermarket friendly design, has us clutching our checkbooks for a bit longer.

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This article originally appeared in OVR Issue 04. For more informative articles like this, consider subscribing to OVR Magazine in print or digital versions here.