Car Buyer Labs

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A silver 2020 Lexus GX is parked on a street with a city in the distance.

Cream of the Crop – The Top Lexus SUV

While the European manufacturers may have cornered the market for luxury sedans, if you are interested in the utility and comfort offered by a luxury SUV, then the Japanese manufacturers are the ones to look at. Lexus, in particular, has cracked the code when it comes to building quality vehicles that are both extremely comfortable and highly reliable. Because of these popular attributes, Lexus SUVs are currently the best selling luxury vehicles on the market, and the most popular among them, the Lexus RX, is even outselling its nearest competitors from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Acura, and BMW by nearly a two to one margin. But out of the five different models currently available, which one is the top of the line Lexus SUV? The competitors for this lofty position can be quickly narrowed down to the two largest and most expensive vehicles offered by Lexus, the Lexus GX and the Lexus LX.

Although all of the Lexus SUVs are extremely comfortable vehicles, these two stand out from the rest for their superior performance and versatility. However, a detailed comparison between these models will reveal that the Lexus LX enjoys an edge in its power, size, and features that makes it the undisputed king of the hill.

The Lexus Lineup

Today, Lexus offers no fewer than five different SUV models, with three of those also being available in hybrid variants. These range from the smallest, newest, and most affordable Lexus UX all the way up to the largest, oldest, and most expensive Lexus LX. By far, the most popular of these is the middle of the road Lexus RX, a two-row compact crossover powered by a potent V6 engine and with the option for an efficient hybrid powertrain. The second most popular model is the smaller Lexus NX, which also has options for either pure gasoline or a fuel-saving hybrid setup. However, the most popular vehicles are not always the most capable, and the battle for the title of Lexus’ ultimate SUV is between its two largest and most expensive models, the Lexus GX and the Lexus LX. These two vehicles stand out for their roomy interiors, powerful engines, and feature-rich designs. They are also the only two Lexus SUV models that continue to use a traditional body on frame design, making them surprisingly rugged off-road performers in a market segment that is otherwise dominated by unibody crossovers that are best kept on the blacktop.

A black 2020 Lexus GX is driving over rocks in a desert.

The Lexus GX

The Lexus GX is based on the same platform as the Toyota 4Runner and was first introduced for the 2003 model year. This makes it the third-oldest SUV produced by Lexus, after the Lexus LX and Lexus RX. However, the current Lexus GX 460 is far from being simply a Toyota 4Runner with some premium features. In fact, the only dimension shared by the two vehicles is their wheelbase. The body style and, more importantly, the powertrain are completely different. While the Toyota 4Runner is limited to a V6 engine, the Lexus GX 460 has a larger 4.6L V8 (for those of you new to Lexus model names, the number usually signifies the engine’s displacement, but there are exceptions to this rule). The Lexus GX 460 also has a standard Kinetic Dynamic suspension system for superior performance, no matter the terrain. Altogether, these upgrades over the already legendary Toyota 4Runner actually make the Lexus GX 460 one of the most off-road capable luxury SUVs on the market, something that can be further enhanced by the available Off-Road Package that includes real performance upgrades such as a transmission oil cooler and fuel tank skid plate.

However, the average driver might never suspect the rugged nature of the Lexus GX 460, as it is hidden behind a truly luxurious front. The well-designed interior is filled with high-grade materials sourced from around the world, including top grade leather and optional laser-cut Gray Sapele wood trim, while luxury features include items such as a tri-zone automatic climate control system and ten-way power front seats. The Lexus GX 460 is also filled with tech, including a standard 8” infotainment screen, as well as an available dual-screen rear entertainment system and seventeen-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround-sound audio setup. Finally, the safety of the vehicle has been improved for the 2020 model year by making the comprehensive Lexus Safety System+ suite of advanced driver assistance technology standard as well as adding bright triple beam LED headlights for better visibility.

A black 2020 Lexus LX is parked with mountains in the distance and shown from the side.

The Lexus LX

The Lexus LX is not only the first Lexus SUV, its 1996 introduction makes it among the very first modern luxury SUVs from any manufacturer and even predates the introduction of the iconic Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. Like the Lexus GX, the Lexus LX is based on a Toyota platform. In this case, the Toyota Land Cruiser. However, unlike the significant differences between the Lexus GX and the Toyota 4Runner, the Lexus LX 570 has many commonalities with the current Toyota Land Cruiser. Not only are the body styles of the two SUVs fairly similar, but the two vehicles even share the same 5.7L V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. So although, on the one hand, the Lexus LX 570 is a more physically capable vehicle than the Lexus GX 460, offering more power, more seats, and more cargo space, it is also not as mechanically unique of a vehicle.

Still, while the Lexus LX 570 and Toyota Land Cruiser may be quite similar mechanically, the Lexus LX 570 is a true luxury vehicle in terms of features and build quality. Stepping inside this flagship SUV, you will find the same premium interior materials and styling that is seen in the Lexus GX 460, although the Lexus LX 570 offers Dark Mocha or Espresso wood trims instead of Gray Sapele. But while the interiors of these two luxury SUVs may look similar, the Lexus LX 570 has the clear edge in terms of features. The most obvious of these is the much larger 12.3” split-screen infotainment display that dominates the dashboard of the larger vehicle, but the technology differences also include an available full-color head-up display for better driver awareness and a slightly more capable nineteen-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. In addition to its improved technology over the Lexus GX 460, the Lexus LX 570 improves its level of luxury with simpler features such as a four-zone automatic climate control system that gives its passengers more personal options and a center console cooler that can be used to store cold beverages for warmer days.

The First is Still The Best

While the current Lexus GX 460 is an incredibly luxurious and highly capable vehicle, it does not quite have the edge needed to unseat the Lexus LX 570 from its position at the top of the Lexus SUV lineup. If you do plan to regularly take your Lexus SUV off-road, then the smaller Lexus GX 460 is arguably the superior vehicle. However, not many luxury SUVs are actually used in such a manner, and the more powerful Lexus LX 570 will perform better on the highway while offering more space and more features than its little brother. So altogether, the venerable Lexus LX remains the top of the line Lexus SUV.