By Chris Chase; photos by Grant Yoxon,
While it can be argued that the last thing the world needed in 2004 was another SUV, Lexus needed a vehicle to fill a rather large gap between its car-based RX crossover and the big truckish LX SUV. Ideally, it needed to be able to compete with vehicles like the Land Rover Range Rover by offering V8 power, serious off-road cred and lots of luxury, but also trumping the Rover (at the time) with three rows of seating.
The Lexus GX 470 was that truck. Introduced in 2004, it borrowed its platform and running gear from the Toyota 4Runner. The sole engine choice, a 4.7-litre V8, was rated at 235 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque in 2004, but the addition of Toyota’s Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-i – Toyota/Lexus language for variable valve timing) boosted those figures to 275 hp/330 lb-ft in 2005. A five-speed automatic transmission was the only one offered. Other than the 2005 engine update, the only changes made through the first-generation GX’s run were a few minor exterior trim revisions in 2008.
Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption estimates for the GX were 15.3/11.4 L/100 km (city/highway) for all model years.
Like many Lexus and Toyota models, the GX’s reliability has been good, earning mostly above average used vehicle ratings from Consumer Reports. However, good is not great, and neither is the GX. A clunk from the drive-train in early models was caused by a sticking driveshaft slider yolk, a piece that allows the shaft’s length to vary as the rear suspension moves up and down. The root cause is a lack of adequate lubrication. As a result, lubing the driveshaft will fix the problem temporarily. A Lexus technical service bulletin (TSB) sets out replacing the driveshaft and rear suspension control arms with redesigned parts. Apparently, those new parts went into new models as of the middle of the 2006 model year, but a discussion on the issue at LexusOwnersClub.com includes some complaints about The Clunk from owners of 2007 models. Here’s another discussion on the same issue at ClubLexus.com.
The quality of some of the interior materials is suspect, as cracks in the dashboard panels appear to be common.
Leaky radiators are common. The problem begins as a pinhole leak, and it appears many are detected by alert technicians doing routine service, but this is definitely something worth watching for, as the radiator is an expensive part in these trucks.
If the front turn signals on your GX burn out frequently and the dealer tries to tell you replacement is difficult (read: pricey) because other items need to be removed to access the light, don’t believe them. A GX owner figured out an easy way to replace it at home for nothing more than the cost of the bulb. Also, note that buying the bulb from a Lexus dealer will cost far more than getting it at an aftermarket parts retailer; the bulb is a very common size/wattage.
Consumer Reports lists the audio system as a frequent source of problems, but doesn’t specify. The closest I can decipher from Lexus forums is that this is linked to out-of-date navigation systems.
Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tested the first-generation GX for crash safety.
Used GX values, according to Canadian Black Book, range from $24,275 for a 2004 model to $49,950 for a 2009 version kitted out with the Ultra Premium Package, which (in 2009) added navigation, backup camera, cassette player, rear-seat DVD system and a handful of other doo-dads. Note that the MSRP dropped significantly – by more than $6,000 – in 2009, so subjectively, the earlier models are a better deal, but feature content between the 2008 and 2009 model appears to be very similar.
If you can live without the GX’s creature comforts, try a Toyota 4Runner instead: its top Limited trim used the same V8 as the GX, but a 2007 4Runner is worth almost $7,000 less than than the Lexus. Where a luxury SUV capable of serious off-roading is the only kind of vehicle that will do, the GX’s main competitors tend to be few in number. The Land Rover Range Rover is great in the rough stuff, but costs significantly more, even taking into account the outrageous depreciation that British vehicles suffer. Otherwise, you can have luxury, or off-road prowess, but rarely both.
Even on-road, the GX offers loads of comfort, so this can be an enjoyable vehicle even if you don’t plan to venture off paved roads often. When shopping, watch for the infamous driveshaft clunk, keeping in mind that a knowledgable seller may have lubed it up prior to advertising it for sale, hiding the problem. This emphasizes the importance of have a vehicle checked by a mechanic – preferably one you’ve dealt with previously – before handing over any money to a seller. Look for a GX with detailed service records and look these over for evidence that the common issues listed above have been addressed. Then, ask the mechanic looking over the truck for you pay special attention to the driveshaft/rear suspension and the radiator.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) August 2010:
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Good spots to look for GX information include LexusOwnersClub.com and ClubLexus.com. PlanetLexus.com has a dedicated GX section, too, but it’s not as popular, and there’s a GX section at Toyota-4Runner.org, but it’s less busy still.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.
Chris Chase is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
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