If there’s one cool place on Earth where the Lexus GX deserves to be driven, it’s the Costa Rican rainforest. The country’s off-road culture is evident from the moment you land—I saw about a dozen muddy Toyota Prados in my 40-minute ride to the hotel, and the Ticos’ laid-back vibe mixes well with this SUV. The Lexus GX is essentially a rebadged and better-equipped Prado, and the Papagayo Peninsula—with its plunging ocean cliffs and deep biodiversity—served as the location for the launch of the 2020 GX. For 2020, the vehicle received a minor styling update, an off-road package, and standard safety technologies.
Although we only drove the updated Lexus GX on pavement, we hope to go back later for some off-road fun. The bigger spindle grille, which looks good on the GX, is the most obvious of the exterior style updates. It gives the SUV more presence on the road and aligns well with the redesigned triple-beam LED headlights, standard for 2020. A new Sport Design package adds details to the grille surround, side mirrors, and 19-inch wheels.
Step inside, and it’s a different story. Although the GX got new premium materials, the technology and interior design are pretty old. The touchscreen and its infotainment screen look outdated, and the design of the center console is reminiscent of last decade’s cars. That stands to reason, as the current-gen GX launched in 2009 and has since received only a few updates—most of them styling.
If you can ignore the old tech, though, the rest of the interior might please you. The Rioja Red interior, with red leather and a black headliner, is new for 2020. That combination really stands out in the old-style cabin. The Premium and Luxury models get new wood and aluminum trim, which looks polished and complements the red interior nicely. The amount of leather inside can be overwhelming; most of the dash, door panels, and even the sides of the center console are covered in it. The three-row configuration is still standard, but the third row is easy to fold for a flat cargo floor. The second row can also be folded, but that won’t provide a fully flat layout, as the seat backs don’t go all the way down. With the addition of two USB ports (bringing the total to four), second-row passengers can charge their phones.
The new off-road package adds multiterrain select, which lets the driver choose different modes depending on the driving conditions (mud, sand, rocks, and moguls). The system regulates wheelspin by adjusting the brakes and throttle output. Also included in the off-road package: a transmission cooler, a fuel tank protector, and the multiterrain and panoramic view monitors, which display front, rear, side, and under-camera views on the infotainment screen; the latter view shows the terrain and tire location under the vehicle. Crawl control was available in the 2019 model year, but it’s now part of the off-road package.
Under the hood, the GX didn’t receive any changes. It still carries the 4.6-liter V-8 that produces 301 hp and 329 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed automatic. During our quick drive we noted that the transmission suffered from the same issues as the Tacoma’s tranny—put the shifter in drive, and the body moves forward even though you’re stepping on the brakes. Once you’re up to highway speed, though, the shifts are smoother and the cabin is quieter. The V-8 produces a good roar when you step on the throttle and go uphill. Given the GX’s big size, it showed some body roll on the twisty Costa Rican roads. There’s no denying the GX is showing its age, but it has also shown to be a reliable model—just like its cousins, the Prado and 4Runner.
Another addition for 2020: Lexus Safety System+, which comes standard on all trims. A pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, intelligent high-beams, and high-speed dynamic radar cruise control are part of the deal. Although these technologies aren’t up to date with what we’ve seen on more modern SUVs, they’re a step above what the GX had last year.
We hope to get back to Costa Rica soon to spend more time with the 2020 Lexus GX and try out its off-road package. And who knows—we might also bring a Prado and 4Runner along.
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