Updated: May 11, 2022
My personal daily driver was a 2012 Lexus GX 460. I feel like it has been the forgotten Lexus SUV until recently. The Lexus NX and RX are extremely popular crossovers with plenty of comforts, technology, and features.
On the other hand, the Lexus LX is currently the flagship Lexus SUV with a legendary reputation for reliability and dependably thanks to its Land Cruiser underpinnings. Then, there's the Lexus GX. It gets average at best gas mileage, has outdated features, and drives like a truck. So, why do I like it so much and why is it still selling well?
The Lexus GX – Is It Just a 4Runner?
The first-generation Lexus GX was known as the GX 470. It had the legendary 4.7L 1UZ V8 engine. It shared its underpinnings with the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado overseas or the J120 platform. The Land Cruiser Prado is a well-regarded SUV and is trusted by many for its incredible dependability and off-road prowess.
When Toyota brought the Prado here to the U.S. they brought it in a tuxedo under the Lexus GX nameplate in 2003. The J120 platform also shares a lot of components with the 4th gen Toyota 4Runner. Many often think that the GX is a 4Runner in disguise, but they don't share the exact same platform, just similar components.
Fast forward to today, the Lexus GX 460 which is the 2nd generation and started in 2010, still shares the same platform as the newest Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. The new platform is known as the J150 platform and again, shares components with the latest 5th gen Toyota 4Runner. So is the GX just a 4Runner? Not quite, but it is technically a Land Cruiser
Interior & Driving Experience – Dad Mobile
When I bought the Lexus GX, it was just me, my fiancee, and our dog. Truthfully, the Lexus GX is more than enough room for us. The 2012 GX I owned was equipped with a bench seat in the 2nd-row so I can seat up to 7 passengers comfortably. With that being said, the 3rd-row is tight and only recommended for small children. I was able to fit in the 3rd-row at 6ft tall, but I wouldn't want to ride back there for more than 30 minutes.
As for the driving experience, the Lexus GX is a body-on-frame SUV. If you don't know what that is, it basically rides like a traditional trunk. While quiet most of the time, the ride can be jarring if you're used to the Lexus RX or other crossovers. Keeping the theme of tradition, my 2012 GX has features that would likely be found in a 2005 BMW. You won't find any driver assistance technology in the early GX's, not even blind-spot monitoring, so it's certainly outdated, much like the 4Runner.
Even upgrading to the 2022 Lexus GX, you'll find that there's much more to be desired from a $50,000+ luxury SUV, especially if you're used to the offerings from other rivals. However, even though the Lexus GX is dated, I still love it and if you prefer a back-to-basics luxury SUV, you'll love it too.
Why Is the GX Popular?
Like the 4Runner, when compared to other crossovers, it's seen as outdated and doesn't drive as nice. However, that's part of the appeal. In the days of advanced technology, large screens, and computerized everything, the Lexus GX is a breath of fresh air. It has just enough features to keep you comfortable, but not enough where you'd feel overwhelmed.
My 2012 GX 460 had Bluetooth streaming audio, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and ventilated seats. But, it didn't have driver-assistance technology, just a simple backup camera. While the 2022 Lexus GX now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, among other upgrades, it's still lagging behind some competitors as I've mentioned. But, that's okay.
Lexus offers the RX if you want the latest technology and a more car-like driving experience. The GX appeals to those that want a rugged and truck-like SUV. It's a traditional body-on-frame vehicle and it certainly rides like one. But it also has an optional rear air suspension system that assists you with towing comfortably, its high seating position allows you to feel like you're the king of the road, and most importantly it's off-road capable.
I keep mentioning the 4Runner, but it's hard not to when the 4Runner community has completely taken off. It went from dwindling sales to being one of the hottest vehicles on the market today... and it hasn't even seen a major update since 2010. But, like the 4Runner, the GX is extremely reliable and off-road capable. Many GX owners find themselves starting their research for a 4Runner.
But then they quickly realize that the used market for the GX is cheaper, has a V8 (compared to the 5th gen 4Runner), and it's just as capable. I certainly was in the same boat, but a comparable 4Runner to my GX was just way more expensive. Then, I found the GXOR (GX Off-Road) community and absolutely fell in love with the GX.
The current generation Lexus GX uses a 1UR V8 engine producing 301 hp and 329 lb-ft of torque. Honestly, it has more than enough power for most occasions. But, it's certainly not fast.
Lexus rates the 2022 GX at 19 mpg highway, 15 mpg city, and 16 mpg combined. When I owned the GX, I did a mix of highway and stop-and-go traffic and I'm getting just around 17.5 mpg. If I was driving on the highway and cruising at around 60-70 mph, I was able to get around 22 mpg which is pretty good when you consider that it has a V8 engine and boxy design.
It's important to note that unlike its Toyota cousin in base trims, the Lexus GX has a full-time 4WD system with a Torsen limited-slip center differential across each configuration. In my personal experience, the 4WD system was incredible. When I got behind the wheel, I felt like I could take on almost anything, snow or shine.
I would've trusted my GX to go across the country and back when I owned it. The 2012 Lexus GX 460 I owned had just over 98,000 miles and I had it when it was at 78,000 miles. I ended up trading it in it at just over 100,000 but in the 20,000 miles or so that I put on it, it needed nothing but regular maintenance. Outside of oil changes, at around 80,000 miles, I replaced all the original struts that were on it and had the transmission fluid, front/rear differential fluid, and transfer case fluid all drained and filled with OEM Toyota fluids.
Then at 96,000 miles, the radiator cracked where it met the hose. Apparently, this is a common issue, and it wasn't the end of the world to replace it. It was just alarming to see small drops of pink coolant on the ground. Aside from that, I just got the oil changed every 5,000 miles and have it fluid filmed once a year since I'm in the midwest. The only known issues with the GX 460 outside of the cracked radiator are seeping valley plates and failing secondary air injection pumps. The seeping valley plate is rare, but it does happen on 1UR engines and there's a bypass system available when the secondary air injection pump fails. Mine was replaced by the Lexus dealer right before I purchased it. If you want a reliable luxury SUV with plenty of off-road capabilities, you can count on the Lexus GX.
What Do You Think of the GX?
Yes, the Lexus GX is outdated and if technology is what you want, there are better options. But what makes the GX so special is its off-road capabilities and its old-school driving experience. If you're okay with not having the best of the best tech and you like to go off the beaten path once in a while, take a look at the Lexus GX. What are your thoughts on the GX? Is it too outdated for you? Do you not see the appeal? I'd love to know what you think!