2024 Lexus GX 550 Prototype: A Refined and Modernized Off-Road Luxury SUV
Shizuoka, Japan – The first-generation Lexus GX was a surprise hit when it was introduced in 2004. Luxury SUVs with inefficient V8 engines and excessive off-road capabilities were flying off the shelves, and Lexus capitalized on this trend. The success of the first-gen GX paved the way for its continued popularity, and Lexus has stayed true to its winning formula ever since.
Now, enter the 2024 Lexus GX 550, a refined and modernized version of the outdoorsy luxury SUV. As a proud owner of the original Lexus off-roader, the LX 450, I was eager to test out the GX. With its similar size to my beloved 80-Series, the GX instantly appealed to me. So, when Lexus invited me to Japan to take it for a spin on an off-road track near Mount Fuji, I couldn’t resist. With both the first- and second-gen GXs being highly sought after in the secondhand off-road market, Lexus is all set to embrace outdoor adventure for the launch of the third generation.
– Vehicle: 2024 Lexus GX 550
– Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.4-Liter V6
– Output: 349 Horsepower / 479 Pound-Feet
– Drive Type: Four-Wheel Drive
– Ground Clearance: 10.9 Inches
– Base Price: $60,000 (estimated)
– On Sale: Early 2024
Acing the Pre-Test
Before we delve into the experience of driving the GX 550 prototype, it’s important to note that these vehicles were pre-production prototypes, sporting mismatched paintwork. Additionally, my driving was limited to a two-lap off-road course at Fuji Motor Speedway. An engineer accompanied me and guided me through the process, instructing me to keep the SUV in low-range four-wheel drive throughout. Nevertheless, the course did an excellent job of showcasing the GX’s superiority over its US-market counterpart, the 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser with the same internal designation, the 250-Series.
Exclusive to Lexus, the next-generation electronically controlled version of Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, called E-KDSS, will be a standout feature. The front and rear anti-roll bars are equipped with sensors that detect when a wheel encounters an obstacle at high speeds, allowing the relevant stabilizer to disengage, enhancing wheel articulation. Unlike the mechanically engaged previous version of KDSS, the electronic system can independently activate the front and rear sway bars, promoting precise wheel control while ensuring roll stability.
Out on the off-road course, featuring alternating undulations and dips, the GX 550 prototype demonstrated fantastic articulation. Despite the wheels dipping or drooping, the body remained level and composed. This remarkable suspension composure not only enhances traction but also enables the GX to handle deep ruts with ease, sometimes suspending the SUV diagonally on two wheels.
In such situations, the locking rear differential comes into play, helping maintain or regain forward momentum. However, the Lexus engineer riding shotgun recommended relying on the traction control system, suggesting that I maintain even pressure on the accelerator. As soon as the GX detected wheel spin, it applied brake force to the suspended tire, transferring power to the one with traction, effortlessly maneuvering the SUV over the obstacle.
The GX also incorporates the latest version of Toyota’s Crawl Control low-speed cruise feature. Thanks to a more advanced braking system and wheel speed sensors, the persistent ABS-pulsing noises and clattering found in the old GX have been nearly eliminated. Now, the driver can select a speed ranging from 1 to 5 kilometers per hour (0.6 to 3 miles per hour) and focus on steering around obstacles, while the SUV flawlessly handles throttle and brake application over rocks and ruts.
Even before the official unveiling of the GX in June, Lexus had recognized the affinity of its owners for outdoor activities and off-roading. The automaker initiated the Overtrail Project, exploring ways to make Lexus vehicles better suited for outdoorsy lifestyles. As a result, the RX, NX, and RZ Outdoor Concepts were created, featuring all-terrain tires and camping accessories. Furthermore, the Overtrail Project may lead to the introduction of Lexus-approved accessories such as body armor, off-road driving lights, roof and hitch racks, and camping equipment.
The first consumer product resulting from this project will be the GX 550 Overtrail and Overtrail+. These models will come equipped with standard all-terrain tires, the E-KDSS suspension setup, and a state-of-the-art terrain-view camera system. As Lexus continues to refine the SUVs from the pre-production prototypes I drove to the ones hitting the dealerships, the 2024 GX Overtrail promises to be an excellent option for outdoor enthusiasts. My brief off-road experience only heightened my anticipation, and I eagerly await the chance to get behind the wheel again early next year.
With its refined design and attractive cabin, even in pre-production form, the 2024 Lexus GX 550 Prototype is set to impress. Built on the legacy of the first-gen GX’s success, this modernized version with advanced off-road capabilities is sure to capture the hearts of luxury SUV enthusiasts. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting release from Lexus, as the launch date approaches.