Not hiding its age, but it really should. Full-size luxury SUVs are slow to change, and buyers understand this. The 2021 Lexus GX is no exception to this trend.
In fact, it’s the poster child for this lack of change, as it’s remained mostly unchanged structurally since 2010. It has been through a few refreshes to keep it up to date, but its age shows in its powertrain and tech features.
Off-road ready, but handling takes a hit. Once you step foot in the GX, all the drivetrain and suspension knobs and settings make it clear this rig is ready to head off the pavement. It’s no rock-crawler, but it has all the ruggedness it needs to tackle ruts, mud, gravel, and more. However, with a $54,275 base MSRP including destination, how much off-roading are you comfortable with?
Also, with a chassis tuned for off-roading, the GX’s handling and on-road comfort take a hit. While it rides smooth, the chassis allows a fair amount of body roll, limiting its handling on pavement. No matter what suspension settings you choose, there’s no way out to avoid this issue.
Buyers who want a better combination of off-road ability and comfort will find this in the Land Rover Range Rover Sport. And those who aren’t planning to hit the trails will find a more suitable match in the Volvo XC90.
Powerful engine, but you’ll never pass a gas station again. The Lexus GX boasts a classic SUV powertrain that pairs a 301-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 with a six-speed automatic transmission and standard four-wheel drive. This is a war zone setup designed to tackle off-roading and towing up to 6,500 pounds, which is all some buyers want.
However, most competitors have moved to more powerful and refined V6 and V8 engines, and some even offer forced induction, diesel, and electrification. For example, the Range Rover Sport’s engine lineup ranges from a 355-hp mild-hybrid inline-six to a 575-hp supercharged V8. Even the GMC Yukon has more refinement with its 355-hp 5.3-liter V8, 420-hp 6.2-liter V8, and torque-heavy 3.0-liter turbodiesel six-cylinder.
The other downside to the GX’s snarling V8 is its fuel economy, which sits at an EPA-estimated 16 miles per gallon combined. While there are no legit fuel misers in this class, the Yukon with the turbodiesel engine delivers up to 23 mpg combined. The Range Rover Sport's turbodiesel is even better at 24 mpg combined. Want to skip the diesel? The XC90 T5 with the four-cylinder engine delivers 25 mpg combined.
Decent cargo room, but it’s frustrating to access. The GX can take on up to 64.7 cubic feet of cargo with all its seats folded, beating the XC90 by 0.6. It does, however, fall short of the Yukon (122.9 cubic feet) by a long shot.
Despite hauling less than the Yukon, the GX hauls a fair amount for its smaller footprint. However, with a rear door that swings outward instead of upward, loading cargo can be frustrating.
Also, while the GX has a third row, its 29.3 inches of leg room render it useless for adults and older children. Buyers who intend to stuff adults in the third row will be better suited with the Yukon and its 34.9 inches of third-row leg room. Even the XC90 and its 31.9 inches of leg room is an improvement.
Final thoughts. Like its big brother, the LX, the 2021 Lexus GX focuses more on ruggedness than being a good family car. Some buyers will appreciate this, but a family looking for a commuter SUV has many other more suitable options.
Those looking for room for adults in all three rows will find this in the GMC Yukon. Those looking for more power and powertrain refinement will get this in the Land Rover Range Rover Sport. And those looking for an SUV that’s a little less fuel-hungry can look to the turbodiesel Yukon and Range Rover Sport variants or any version of the Volvo XC90.
Add to this a lack of features buyers expect on luxury SUV, like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a touchscreen, the GX is a questionable purchase for most SUV shoppers.
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