Lexus GX review - the baby LX packs in serious punch!
Most Lexus models are based on Toyota cars and the two Land Cruisers - big and small - lend themselves to the Lexus portfolio as the GX and the LX, respectively. One would be surprised though that in a crossover/SUV dominant market like India, the GX is the only SUV from the Lexus lineup that is missing. The outgoing GX has been around for 14 years and was based on the Land Cruiser Prado, that was briefly sold in India.
So maybe it's safe to assume that Lexus had been waiting for the all-new GX to arrive to give its India launch a thought. The model was shown earlier this year, and we had a chance to drive it in Japan on a curated off-road course. While we would have liked more quality time with the car and some on-road driving too, the off-road drive provided a good insight into what the GX offers.
The GX looks imposing, to say the least. It carries over the LX styling theme so nicely that the uninitiated won't be able to tell the difference between the two until they see the badging. The Toyota Land Cruiser 250 and 300 do a comparatively better job at creating a distinction between the two model lines - with the 250 going old school and the 300 looking sophisticated. On the other hand, the luxury-focused Lexus brand makes the GX look just as stylish as the LX, despite the smaller size.
It wears all the Lexus typical elements. The harpoon-shaped DRLs and the spindle grille dominate the front end. The latter follows a more subtle design theme compared to the LX but looks imposing nonetheless. The tailgate gets a seamless lightbar and spaced "Lexus" lettering in place of the logo. While the front and rear look luxury-focused, the side profile gives off the GX's off-road intent with the angular wheel arches with chunky cladding, the prominent roof rails and the squared wing mirrors that feature a unique vertical turn blinker. Opt for the Overtrail trim and you get chunkier bumpers and big off-road tyres that measure 33 inches in diameter but are neatly tucked away behind the flared wheel arches to ensure that the aerodynamic efficiency of this boxy SUV isn't hampered.
Step in and you are welcomed to a large cabin for four. The seats are well-cushioned and large in size to comfortably ferry its passengers. Massage functions are also available for all four. The second row is spacious despite the dark cabin making things appear cosy and tight. There is no panoramic roof, but there is plenty of headroom, even for six-footers.
All seats are upholstered in vegan leather. The front seats get subtle olive green inserts and have softer cushioning for better comfort on off-road drives. Compared to Toyota, the GX also features more sound-deadening material to make the cabin more silent. You will hardly hear the engine or the dirt and stones that are hitting the wheel wells. The dashboard is dominated by a massive 14-inch screen but there are enough switches to maintain the old-school feel and ease of use. The instrumentation is all-digital too and extremely detailed while being easy to read. The dashboard has a flat profile to go with the off-road intent and the visibility all around is superb. You even see the two contours of the bonnet which further aids in getting a good judgement of the car - both on and off the road.
Speaking of judgement, four cameras stitch their feed for a 360-degree view and, on the move, they create a transparent bonnet view when needed to give you a clear vision of any obstacles around the front axle. This feature is particularly handy when driving off the road and into tricky terrain, especially if you don't have a spotter handy.
Off-road driving is a big talking point for the new GX and apart from the new design and cabin, most efforts for the car are centred around this aspect. For beginners, there is a new ladder frame chassis that is mated to modern electronically controlled suspension. It is called the E-KDSS or electronic kinetic damping suspension system in Lexus-speak. It uses electronically controlled stabiliser bars on the front and rear suspension and depending on off-road on tarmac driving conditions, the system can unlock or lock these stabiliser bars respectively, to either allow extreme wheel articulation on uneven surfaces or keep the vehicle flat, comfortable and sporty on flat or winding roads. With the help of this system, the wheels can move more freely than before and extend further for better traction. It not only gives the car better off-road capabilities, but more importantly, it also reduces the vertical movement of the cabin and the passengers remain more at ease.
We often drive such vehicles of custom-designed off-road courses, but the one we drove on for this test had quite extreme gradients for its articulation course and it is astonishing how effortless the GX feels when driving in such conditions. Apart from the new suspension and suspension geometry, there is a new drive mode selector which makes things easy for the driver. It is divided into two functions - Drive Mode and Multi-terrain Select or MTS. Rotating the mode selection knob with the Drive Mode switch engaged will cycle between the road modes - Eco, Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus - which alter the engine and gearbox responses, suspension behaviour and steering feel. Press the MTS switch and the same rotary knob will allow you to cycle between the off-road modes and optimise the off-road hardware for sand, deep snow, rocks etc. Depending on the terrain and incline, you can use these off-road modes with low as well as high-range 4WD. Leave it in auto and it will do its own thing pretty intelligently - just like the new Defender but with more grace despite the big size.
The car we drove comes with a 3.5l V6 petrol but a hybrid is expected to join the line-up next year and could be the variant of choice for India to distinguish the GX from the competition. The petrol engine puts out 350PS and 650Nm, but while using the off-road modes the power delivery is smoothened out while keeping the throttle response crisp. Therefore, you can articulate the throttle nicely for precisely measured power and torque in slippery driving conditions. And when you want to unleash all the power, the Sport mode will allow you to do just that on the tarmac. The all-wheel-drive system will distribute torque to ensure optimum grip for acceleration and handling and the new suspension with its revised geometry promises a sportier and flatter ride than before.
There is also a Crawl Control function (part of the Downhill Assist Control). By pressing the DAC switch and using the Mode selector knob, you can set the crawl speed from 1kmph to 5kmph. The system will then distribute torque, brake the necessary wheels and even keep altering the hydraulic pressure of the brakes to ensure that the wheels with traction help the vehicle to gracefully crawl over slippery terrain like rocks, slush and wet pebbles or foliage - and contrary to the name on the DAC switch, the function works both ways - uphill as well as downhill.
The engineers have also worked on a new electronic power steering to make it convenient for off-road use. When driving in any of the off-road modes, it lets enough feedback filter in to tell you of the obstacles at the front wheels, but at the same time, it minimises the kickback that one typically gets when driving on rocky or extremely uneven terrain. Couple this with the aforementioned suspension system and you get a rather comfortable off-roading experience - where you can traverse tricky terrain, but without the extreme side-to-side movement, head nods or jerks and kickbacks at the wheel. Some may think of this to be undramatic, but most will appreciate the luxury quotient attached to it.
With the off-road experience being so conformable, I expect the on-road experience to be even better and hopefully, we will be able to evaluate that in India by 2024. Lexus is contemplating bringing the GX to our soil and if launched, expect a price tag between Rs 2 to 2.4 crore, which pits it head-on against the Range Rover Sport, the G wagon and its own sibling, the Land Cruiser 300 - all of which is serious competition. But the GX means serious business and facing them shouldn't be much of a challenge!
Starts Rs 64.9 Lakhs
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