Lexus’s GX SUV has been around for a very long time, and although it doesn’t follow the same formula as most modern luxury crossovers—it’s built on a separate frame, like old-style, pickup truck-based SUVs—its charms lie in its off-road capability and a quiet cabin. Speaking of its cabin, the GX offers space for up to seven thanks to three rows of seats, so families can explore nature or take road trips in relative comfort. A 4.6-liter V-8 is the only engine choice and, while it isn’t particularly fuel-efficient, it makes 301-hp and drives all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Where the GX shows its age the most is in its available technology features. An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard, but the software interface isn’t as up-to-date as in more modern Lexus models such as the LS and ES sedans or the UX subcompact SUV; it even lacks common connectivity features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But aside from the Land Rover Defender, the GX is one of few options remaining in the mid-size luxury SUV segment that can legitimately be used off-road.
What’s New for 2021?
Lexus has made few changes to its aging GX SUV for 2021, but it has added a Premium Plus trim between the mid-range Premium and top-spec Luxury models. It comes standard with a power-operated third-row of seats and a Mark Levinson premium stereo system. The GX’s infotainment system now offers Amazon Alexa compatibility. A heated wood-and-leather steering wheel is now optional on the Premium and Premium Plus models.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The 2021 Lexus GX continues to offer just one engine: a 4.6-liter V-8 that generates 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque. This powerplant is teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Lexus’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is standard, and this setup aims to boost traction during off-road adventures. During our testing, the GX cruised from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. We’ve tested rival models that are much quicker, however. An Audi Q7 with the available V-6 made the sprint in 6.1 seconds, and a BMW X5 xDrive50i covered the same distance in a scant 4.2 seconds. The GX exhibits relatively smooth handling on paved streets, but it is in its element when taken off-road. Its sturdy underpinnings and 8.1 inches of ground clearance make this SUV an excellent choice for buyers who need a vehicle that’s at home in the great outdoors. A 6500-pound towing capacity bolsters its versatility.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Lexus gave the GX its last full redesign all the way back, and this is perhaps one reason for the somewhat dated appearance of its cabin. The interior is home to wood and leather that looks appropriately deluxe, but there are also some hard plastics that seem out of place in a vehicle in this price range. Front-row passengers enjoy pleasant accommodations and a lofty seating position, but the second-row seats are surprisingly flat and hard, and the third row is a cramped space best left for kids. To its credit, the GX does a great job of keeping road noise out of the cabin, and the interior remains tranquil even when the vehicle is being driven at high speeds. This Lexus provides 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row and 46.7 cubic feet behind the second. With the second and third rows folded, cargo space jumps to 64.7 cubic feet. This is less room than you’ll get in rival models such as the Audi Q7 (14.2 cubic feet behind the third row, 35.7 cubic feet behind the second