I’ve always considered the Lexus LX and GX lineup luxury forward vehicles that became popular for adventure travel after the fact. I thought buying a used LX or GX and outfitting it for overlanding was somehow cracking the code, creating an extra-fancy Land Cruiser—an idea that brilliantly pushed the limits of normal consideration. Over the past decade, I’ve learned to appreciate the concept and have been impressed with what adventurous Lexus owners have come up with.
Without a doubt, Lexus has been watching, too. The new 2024 GX 550 is a winner fresh out of the box that addresses many overlanding needs and embraces an adventurous consumer. There is always room to nitpick with any new vehicle, usually based on personal preferences or nostalgia. Still, the big picture here is that Lexus has put a lot of work into a complete overhaul, developing a whole new GX platform. When a vehicle manufacturer works to make a product for and inspired by their customers, the initiative and effort alone is something to be appreciated.
GX 550 First Drive Impressions
I had the opportunity for a first drive of the 2024 Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+ in southern Arizona. My top-line takeaways from driving the GX 550 leave little to be criticized or desired. I spent the day driving the new Luxury+ and Overtrail+ on a mixed course of on-road pavement and off-highway dirt tracks. The overall combination of usable space, passenger comfort, performance, capability, and driver experience impressed me with the thoughtful attention to detail invested in the 550.
Six Variations of the GX 550 Share the Same Foundation
There are six different variations of the 2024 GX 550: the Overtrail, Overtrail+, Luxury, Luxury+, Premium, and Premium+. They all share the same GA-F Chassis, 3.4L V6 Twin Turbo engine, 349hp, and 479 lbs.-ft of torque, with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is an estimated 15 city / 21 highway mpg. They all feature a newly developed high-mounted double-wishbone front suspension, a four-link with coil spring rear suspension, and a larger and stronger rear axle housing than previous years. A button controls a Torsen limited-slip center differential with a full locking feature, and the Adaptive Variable Suspension constantly senses and adjusts to conditions. A Drive Mode Selector includes ECO, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Sport+, and Custom options. All have adjustable seats, heads-up displays, dual climate controls, and spacious interiors. Full details can be found here.
The GX 550 Overtrail and Overtrail+
The Luxury+ was a joy to drive, as you can imagine, but I was most excited to spend time with the Overtrail+. Significant differences from the Premium and Luxury models start with the Overtrails’ 18-inch wheels with 33-inch tires. An electronic locking rear differential and the Electronic Dynamic Suspension System (E-KDSS) help maintain traction. Drive modes include Crawl Control, Downhill Assist, Hill-start Assist, and Multi-Terrain Select, featuring dirt, sand, mud, snow, and rock settings. Towing capacity ranges between 7,601 with the Luxury+ to 9,063 lbs with the Overtrail. Another difference is that the Overtrails are slightly taller with the fitment of roof rack rails, and slightly wider, with the wheels pushed out further adding stability and reducing fender overhang. The wheels are nearly flush with the fenders
The larger, more boxy design is more than just looks; it has increased interior volume and usable space. It provides hard chine corners and sharper angles for the driver to reference. Knowing where the corners, front end, and back bumpers are feels intuitive in the GX 550 and facilitates maneuverability. The hood design incorporates raised bolsters on either side and a low spot in the middle. The low spot helps the driver see over the hood, and the raised sides coincide with the wheel track and can help with tire placement, all inspiring confidence.
Balance and stability were excellent on and off the highway, and both felt like the 550’s natural state. It is impressively sure-footed both on paved twisties and rocky, rutted trails. The Active Variable Suspension is responsive and tunable between the selectable drive modes. The new E-KDSS enhances articulation by 2.45 inches (62mm) over the Premium and Luxury models and 3.39 inches (86mm) over previous years. This is all on the GA-F chassis, which has been made lighter and 20% more rigid thanks to a new front cross member, new welding technologies, and strategically placed reinforcement plates called Non-Linear Tailor Welded Blanks. Steering input, acceleration, and braking all felt directly connected to the platform, with little to no play or delay. In fact, during controlled testing, acceleration in Sport+ mode and moderate to heavy braking significantly shifted items we had sitting on the back seats. The new Lexus GX 550’s 479 lb-ft of torque, which is +150 over the previous GX 460 model, comes on strongest down low between 2,000 and 3,600 RPM. It was surprising for such a large vehicle to move and respond so actively.
Luxury on the inside, the seats are 10-way adjustable, heated, cooled, and messaging with multiple settings, so whether you prefer a laid-back position or a high upright seat, the GX 550 is comfortable while sitting in traffic or exploring down the trail. The amount of information available to the driver seems endless. A generous dashboard, heads-up display, and 14-inch center-mounted touchscreen provide anything you want to know while driving or navigating. To top it off, the GX 550 is well-insulated and quiet inside. Roof rack, road, and engine noise are pleasantly low; however, Sport+ driving mode does pipe in brappy exhaust notes through the sound system.
GX 550 Considerations
There were a few things that raised questions. For instance, the ground clearance seems average for the category at 8.9 inches, but the Overtrails do come with hard-mounted side rail door sill protection. The other thing is that the front bumper is not winch-ready, and there was no talk about fitment. However, the lower skid plate is removable, and the front bumper sensors are located above a main seam. In theory, the lower portion of the front bumper could be removed and replaced with an aftermarket winch-ready solution. We’re also still looking at a 17 mpg average with a 21-gallon fuel tank and manufacturer-recommended 91-octane premium gasoline for an effective range of around 350 miles.
GX 550 Storage
The back seat is spacious, and the rear cargo area will easily accommodate a refrigerator-freezer, drawer system, boxes, bags, and more. It is nice to see an SUV in this category that can handle all the adventure gear that goes along with its passengers. Roof rails are standard on the Overtrails. Payload figures haven’t been released yet, but we can expect between 1,300 and 1,700 pounds based on curb weight and GVWR.
The Lexus GX 550—Made for Drivers
While driving the GX 550 Overtrail+, it occurred to me that Lexus designed it with driving enthusiasts in mind. From the placement of controls, user interfaces, available information, sight lines, camera angles, the seating, the feel of the steering wheel, driving modes, suspension, throttle response, brake modulation, steering inputs, and feedback, it all works really well together to enhance the driving experience. I look forward to seeing all the adventures the new GX goes on in the coming years.
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