Review: The Lexus GXOR Concept Is Everything the GX Should Be

This factory-built concept channels the truck’s rugged roots.

James TateWriterThe ManufacturerPhotographer Adam BrillPhotographer

We're about to let everyone in on a little secret, and there's a dedicated group of enthusiasts who aren't going to like us for it: The Lexus GX ain't the suburban grocery-getter it's been dressed up to be. Just start pulling off those lighted plastic running boards or sneak a peek underneath the big aero-optimized bumpers and the truth is revealed: This thing is built to take a beating. Known elsewhere in the world as the Toyota Prado (or the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado), the GX is an extremely capable SUV unlike any of the efficient, comfortable, and city-bound crossovers that dominate Lexus's lineup.

The GX uses old-school, body-on-frame construction, which tells you right of the bat what sort of duty Toyota envisioned for the Prado lineup. By opting for a separate frame, you're optimized for off-road capability while making notable sacrifices in other areas. Engineers knowingly take a significant hit in gas mileage, weight, maximization of interior space, ride quality, and more in the name of ruggedness and reliability in hard-core situations. And yet this is a truck that's marketed as a Lexus in the U.S.—what percentage of GX SUVs do you think have ventured onto anything worse than a pea-gravel driveway?

At least when driven by their original owners, anyway. The aforementioned small group of enthusiasts is changing that quicker than you might imagine—and its rapidly growing social-media presence has become large enough to catch the attention of Lexus itself, prompting the company to build the GXOR concept you see here and name it for the movement. So, GXOR clan, you can only be so mad at us—we weren't exactly the first to blow the lid off this info.

This writer spent time in the driver's seat of the GXOR concept while in the midst of test-driving GX460's for personal purchase—see you GXOR people online soon—and the experience showed a great contrast between the stock vehicle and the modified one, at least in terms of on-road manners.

That said, given the GXOR's capability off the beaten path and its aggressive looks, it's remarkable how simple it remains to just get in and drive. There's no pomp or circumstance, no special procedures, and no worry of unreliability. The experience in the cabin is still pure Lexus, with all of the luxury and comfort that brings. Other than some expected road noise from the knobby tires, the cabin is as isolated from the outside world as that of any other Lexus. There's some part of us that wants to have to flip some switches or prime some pumps in order to access this level of off-road capability, but that's weekend-warrior talk. If you're going to really overland, an uneventful vehicle is the perfect vehicle.

Sure, there's a rumble from the custom exhaust when the GXOR roars to life, but the drive experience is polished and simple, too. In fact, in some ways, the modified truck is posher than it was the day it left the factory. One of the most apparent differences is a dramatic improvement in ride quality, even on the road. Equipped with a custom Stage 6 suspension system from Icon, the GXOR concept soaks up bumps big or small with startling poise, and that's with a 2.5-inch lift, 18-inch Lexus F Sport wheels, and serious-duty 275/70R18 General Grabber X3 tires. This isn't uncommon when running a high-end off-road suspension system featuring external reservoirs, but it's the case here nevertheless.

You can't say it accelerates as quickly as the factory rig, though. There's a lot of gear bolted on—and into—the GXOR, and you feel it when you're on the accelerator despite the SUV having been re-geared with 4.56:1 Nitro Gears. In highway cruising, the 301-hp 4.6-liter V-8 doesn't struggle, but it does like a downshift more often than a stock GX. It's also likely the dual Aluboxes straddling the solar panel atop the Eezi-Awn K9 roof rack add some drag. Even so, we managed 16 to 17 mpg on the road to the Overland East expo. Gas mileage dropped on the trails, but the fun factor was high enough that we didn't think to calculate it.

The GXOR has ARB air lockers installed front and rear to complement the factory locking center differential. We encountered terrain that necessitated their engagement just once, on the training course at Overland East. There, the factory traction control wouldn't stop intervening when the truck was faced with some rough undulations ("Off" doesn't mean off, as is too often the case in modern vehicles), and the GXOR simply bucked in place. A quick push of the touchscreen on the A-pillar mounted sPod switch panel, though, and the rear ARB locker fired into action, allowing the GXOR to simply drive out.

Lexus reps report that they were completely blindsided by the massive interest the GXOR concept has been generating—and from driving it for a week, we have to agree. Enthusiasts who recognized the truck waved for us to stop, and people who merely saw a lifted Lexus seemed to universally celebrate the juxtaposition of it all. With overlanding increasing in popularity, there's a chance Lexus dips more than this mightily capable toe in the water in the future. Here's hoping.

 

Lexus GXOR Concept Specifications
ON SALE Nope
BASE PRICE ∞ moon dollars
ENGINE 4.6L DOHC 32-valve V-8; 301 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 329 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, 4WD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 14 mpg (combined, est)
L x W x H 192.1 x 74.2 x 82.0 in
WHEELBASE 109.8 in
WEIGHT 5,300 lb (est)
0-60 MPH N/A
TOP SPEED N/A
MODIFICATIONS
ENGINE BAY ARB high-performance compressor, manifold, and output port (for airing tires or using air tools)
Dual Optima deep-cycle AGM batteries
Redarc Dual Input 40A In-Vehicle DC Battery Charger
INTERIOR sPod Bantam controller with in-dash touchscreen
ICOM 5100A HAM Radio
Goose Gear custom rear drawer system
National Luna refrigerator
EXTERIOR Overland Solar 160w panel
Dual Alu-Box storage cases
EEZI-AWN K9 roof rack
Redarc Tow-Pro brake controller
Redarc Tow-Pro brake controller
CBI custom stealth steel bumper
Goose Gear custom rear drawer system
National Luna refrigerator
Overland Solar 160w panel
Dual Alu-Box storage cases
EEZI-AWN K9 roof rack
Redarc Tow-Pro brake controller
CBI frame sliders and full underbody armor
Warn 9.5 XPS winch
Safari snorkel
Rigid 50-inch LED light bar
Custom-mounted, quick-release MAXTRAX recovery boards
DRIVETRAIN Nitro 4.56:1 re-gear with master overhaul kit F/R
ARB air lockers F/R with differential breather kits
Custom Icon Suspension 2.5 CDC w/remote reservoirs and billet control arms with Delta Joints
18-inch Lexus F Sport wheels
General Tire Grabber X3 tires (275/70-18)
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