The Lexus GX Needs to Be Replaced

For some reason, I keep driving the Lexus GX. Last year, I went on vacation to Park City, and I rented a white Lexus GX using Turo. Later in the year, I went on a business trip to Dubai, and I rented a white Toyota Land Cruiser Prado from Avis, which is the foreign market equivalent of the Lexus GX. Then, earlier this year, I went on my honeymoon to New Zealand and rented a "4WD SUV" from Hertz, as I knew I’d be spending a lot of time in the car and tackling some off-roader trails. They gave me, once again, a white Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.

Anyway, during all this time behind the wheel of this vehicle, in various configurations (RHD diesel in New Zealand, LHD V6 in Dubai, LHD V8 in Utah), I came to the same conclusion each time: This vehicle needs to be replaced.

This is especially true in the U.S. market, where the vehicle is badged as a Lexus and sold with a $54,000 starting price. That’s big money, especially when you consider the following: It’s an old-school, body-on-frame SUV. The current design dates back to 2010. It still has ancient features, like a swing-out rear tailgate with no power tailgate option. And it’s using a 4.6-liter V8 that manages just 15 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway, which, somehow, manages to be even worse than the Chevy Tahoe, which is considerably larger.

Effectively, the GX 460 is a dinosaur. It’s old, it’s inefficient and it’s time for a replacement. There’s just one problem: People keep buying them. Lots of people.

If you check out the Lexus GX sales figures, you’ll discover promising numbers, with 34,000 units back in 2005 — its first full year on sale, when it was dubbed the GX 470. During the recession, things started to slip, but when the redesigned model came out in 2010, sales jumped back up to 16,450. And after a brief lull for a few years, sales are now stronger than ever. In every year since 2013, the GX has sold the same or more units than in the prior year, peaking last year at 27,200 units — up from 25,100 in 2016, roughly the same in 2015, 22,700 in 2014, 12,100 in 2013 and 11,700 in 2012.

The simple truth is this: The GX is ancient and inefficient. But people don’t seem to care.

Admittedly, I’m not being completely fair, because the GX was improved fairly thoroughly for the 2014 model year with new technology. But that’s still five years ago, and the GX has aged even more since then, in the face of many excellent, modern new competitors. And yet, the GX still sells, with its success roughly mirroring that of the truck-based, old-school Toyota 4Runner, which occupies a "down-market" position similar to the GX’s place in the luxury SUV world.

It seems that people like the solid feel; they like the body-on-frame design; they like the truck-like nature of the GX; and they like the SUV’s durability — even in spite of its flaws. And so, the GX needs to be replaced by every objective measure except one: the sales figures. And for that rather important reason, I imagine it’ll probably stick around for a while.

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