We can’t bring up Lexus without mentioning Toyota. In the same vein, we can’t talk about the GX without mentioning the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, even though that’s not exactly where the GX roots started. In November 1984, Toyota introduced a light duty Land Cruiser 70 Series. These little trucks carried the same engines and transmissions used in the 4Runners of the day, in cooperation with Hino in Japan. This short framed Toyota had a soft top option, and dare I say, resembled a Jeep in many of its styling cues. The small 70 Series hit a sweet spot for many consumers overseas, sparking the mid-sized Prado development that was just around the corner. As many of you know, Lexus was in its infancy stages at this point and focused solely on sedans with their soon-to-be-released LS 400 in 1989.
Fast forward to 2002 and Lexus already had two very successful SUVs in their lineup: the Lexus RX and LX.
The Lexus GX 470 or J120 was launched in 2002 under a 2003 model year in an effort to piggyback off the success Toyota had been having for years with the 4Runner. The new midsize GX was modeled after the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, becoming the third SUV to enter the Lexus lineup, sitting right in between the Lexus RX and LX. The suspension shared its layout with the Toyota 4Runner, equipped with the rear air suspension, while adding Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC). The 4.7-liter V8 engine in the 2003 GX 470 was the same as used on the larger LX 470. The bullet proof engine combined with the pre-developed attributes from the 4Runner and Prado made the newly introduced GX a mid-sized monster from the start. But wait, this is a luxury vehicle, right? Overlanding wasn’t what it is today in 2003, and with the popularity of the 4Runner throughout the 1980s and 90s, the GX quickly became a luxurious, kid toting, family SUV that few would dream of taking off-road. Car and Driver stated at the time, “Mom and Dad up front go first-class, cosseted by leather and beautifully finished woodwork, while the kids get optionally DVD’d into back-seat bliss during those tedious interstate hauls to Grandma’s house.” That sums up most people’s view of Lexus at that time.
Why void that warranty on your brand new Lexus when 4Runners are everywhere and cheap to boot?
Fast forward 9-12 years, and we now have a value proposition.
Finding a 4Runner that wasn’t used and abused is getting more and more difficult, and they don’t seem as affordable as they once were. Not to mention, half the kids that grew up in the 80s & 90s wanted one. At this exact time, GXes start to creep their way into Autotrader. What is this? Why the low miles, and why the low asking price? They are all V8s and all have full-time four-wheel drive! And look, the leather seats are intact with no rips or holes unlike the seats in my 4Runner (said every 4Runner owner ever)! With only 80,000-100,000 miles on the clock, these 2UZ-FE V8 engines were just now breaking in and most of these trucks had never left the pavement. The second generation GX had just hit the market in 2010 with the GX 460 and many of the early GX adapters preferred the new modern stance. It was out with the old and in with the new for many of these ex GX 470 owners, as overlanding enthusiasts across the nation started to take note.
What about parts? With many interchangeable parts, transitioning from the 4Runner to GX was easy when it came to chassis and engine upgrades. Soon, overlanding and off-road parts manufacturers started to jump on the bandwagon and it was off to the trails. Parts are everywhere now as new suppliers and overlanding companies are emerging on what seems like a weekly basis.
Fast forward to 2023 and the used vehicle market has changed. Is it as easy to find a mint GX now as it was 5-10 years ago? The answer is no. Are there still diamonds in the rough? Sure. Clean GX 470s and GX 460s, for that matter, are still everywhere, just not in abundance. Don’t be afraid of mileage while shopping around, and remember, many of these SUVs have never left the pavement and have been maintained really well. Ask for service records, ask for the CarFax. Just steer clear of the rust buckets and be sure to check the frame for any signs of rust. The techs at LTO would recommend looking for the 2004-2009 model years, as Lexus had, at that point, worked out a few kinks compared to previous years. Having trouble finding a GX of your own? Give us a call, we might just be able to help out with our LexTechs Car Finder service.