2024 Lexus GX 550 better in every way [First Drive]

It is a tough task to improve on a vehicle beloved by a rabid fan base, yet that’s exactly what happened with the 2024 Lexus GX 550.

This new generation of the Lexus GX sees so many improvements, including an entirely new powertrain, borrowed from the 2022 Toyota Tundra, a new exterior, interior, chassis and, well, literally everything else about the body-on-frame SUV.

Huge improvements over prior gen?

In order to understand how much the 2024 Lexus GX 550 has improved over the prior generation, you’ll need to understand the shortcomings of the prior gen.

For starters, the outgoing model wasn’t a great on-road driver especially compared to other Lexus SUV models like the RX 350 or competitors like the Land Rover Defender. To be fair, both of those are unibody SUVs and not body-on-frame giving them a distinct advantage on pavement, however, it is still a big difference.

Also, the powertrain wasn’t all that amazing. Often, it felt sluggish when I’ve driven the Lexus GX 460. That ​​4.6-liter V-8 engine produced 301 horsepower, 329 pound-feet of torque and was mated to a 6-speed transmission.

Finally, the GX 460 was pretty good off-road and the many GX off-road club members will attest to its prowess. The new Overtrail edition builds on this prowess with even more off-road capability including a rear locker among other things.

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2024 Lexus GX 550 is that good?

In short, yup. A day behind the wheel, and I was thoroughly impressed by the many changes for the new 2024 Lexus GX 550.

Granted, it should be considering the prior-generation was released 14 years ago and developed when President George W. Bush was in office. Yeah, it’s been a minute.

For starters, the new 3.4-liter V-6 turbocharged powertrain produces much more power off the line and the GX is anything but sluggish. With 349 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque mated to an 10-speed transmission, it represents 48 more horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque improvement plus four more gears for the transmission.

Oh, and there is a hybrid model coming that should have even more horsepower and torque.

Then, there’s the on-road improvements. The prior generation really felt like a truck, and this has a much more SUV-like ride quality. This is due to the new double-wishbone front suspension as well as improvements to the four-link rear suspension. Lexus says the rear has a “new suspension arms and shock absorber layout improving the axle movement resulting in better stability and ride comfort.” They got that right.

The adaptive variable suspension also plays a large role standard in Luxury+ and Overtrail/Overtrail+ models. It uses a linear solenoid actuator which controls the damping force switching levels to 650 levels and is continuously variable depending on the which of the selectable driving modes you select. Basically, it is automatically adjusts the dampers for a better driving experience on and off road as well as when you are cornering. Yup, they reduced the body roll when cornering for those trims, and it makes the body-on-frame SUV corner more like a unibody.

Next, the revamped interior looks like going from the stone ages to the computer age. There is a plethora of new luxury materials throughout, USB plug-ins seemingly everywhere, new infotainment screen integrated into the dash (not a tablet looking like an afterthought), a 10-inch available head-up display you can see in the sun and a 10-speaker sound system or 21-speaker Mark Levinson surround system for your tunes. Finally, the dynamic sky panorama glass roof with a dimming feature really brings the outdoors into the cabin.

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Plus, this interior has the new technology like a surround-view camera, a multi-terrain monitor showing where the tires are at to help you pick your own lines off-road and they kept the cool box option, replacing the center console storage area, for long days on the trail.

Also, there’s a wireless charger and it is probably the only real miss for the Lexus GX 550 since a cell phone doesn’t fit quite right in the slot and slides around a lot while driving.

Tye biggest hit, however, might be the vast improvement in visibility for drivers of all sizes including our 5-foot-tall Managing Editor Jill Ciminillo. This visibility is further enhanced by exterior bulges on the hood that line up with the tires helping for navigating off-road as well as parking spots.

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The rear storage area also sees some major changes with the swinging door replaced by a traditional tailgate, and Lexus smartly kept the option to open just the glass when needed.

If you need to tow, the GX 550 is, again, much improved. It now comes with a trailer brake controller, trailer sway controller and can tow upwards of 9,063 pounds in certain trims. The prior gen? Yeah, none of that tech and 6,400 pounds of max towing. Another big improvement.

Finally, the estimated fuel economy of 13/17/15 city/highway/combined MPG is about the only non-improvement coming in worse than the prior-generation of 15/16/17 city/highway/combined.

What about on the off-road trail?

I’ll admit when I first drove the GX 460, I couldn’t really figure out why anyone would buy it. Then, I happened to meet a GX 460 off-road club in Ouray, Colorado.

These club members gave me a lesson in the GX 460 and shared it was really just a shorter Toyota 4Runner with the same off-road equipment plus leather seats and a cool box. They put 35-inch tires on it and had a blast wheeling it around.

Will these same GX 460 members like the new GX 550? You bet, and the Overtrail/Overtrail+ editions are tailor made for them.

These trims offer a rear locker, a removable front bumper insert for easy modifications or replacement if damaged, and electronic KDSS system (better wheel articulation to keep tires on the trail not suspended in the air).

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It also drops the small third-row found in the other GX 550 trims, not a big loss, and offers plenty of storage space for gear and/or third-party storage options complete with a power outlet as well as speakers built-into the rear hatch. This is a good improvement when stopping, allowing you a covered spot with the hatch raised as well as listening to some tunes while you relax.

Finally, the GA-F platform, shared with the Land Cruiser, among others, is 20% more rigid than the outgoing model for improving steering, handling, quietness, driving quality, etc. You name it, the new chassis improves on the prior generation.

The bottom line

It isn’t often I walk away from a first-drive event thoroughly impressed by a new vehicle. This time, I was very impressed. It seems like Lexus took every criticism, fixed them and then went beyond them.

Sure traditionalists will bemoan the loss of the naturally aspirated V-8 engine and claim the new turbocharged engines are unreliable and useless. Our research into reliability doesn’t back up the unreliable claims, and one spin around the dealer parking lot will be an eye opener for many on how much more powerful this SUV is to drive.

It even made a believer out of one of the experienced team members responsible for setting up the off-road course. How much of a believer? He ordered two of them. One for him and one for his fiancé.

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