2024 Lexus GX 550 towing virtues and hassles

By automotive-mag.com 11 Min Read

The excitement surrounding the 2024 Lexus GX 550 seems warranted. It’s the first time in 14 years the nameplate is new.

One way the new GX improves over the outgoing model is in towing capacity, which improves from 6,500 to 9,063 pounds.

I hooked up 5,000 pounds of fiberglass walleye boat to see how well the GX tows.

During a week of towing boats with my dad, schlepping kids to activities, and running errands around town, livability concerns arose that either didn’t surface during my first drive or became more irritating while actually living with the GX.

Here’s a deeper look at the pros and cons of towing and living with the 2024 Lexus GX 550.

2024 Lexus GX 550

Pro: Lexus GX 550 can tow a lot well

During the launch of the GX 550 Lexus upped its maximum towing rating from 8,000 pounds to 9,063 pounds. The Premium+ seven-seater I had was rated to tow 9,041 pounds. That’s a lot of weight for an SUV with a relatively short 112.2-inch wheelbase (a longer wheelbase makes for more stable towing). For perspective, the 2011-2021 Grand Cherokee had a 114.8-inch wheelbase and was rated to tow up to 7,200 pounds with its optional V-8 engine. A Chevy Suburban has a wheelbase of 134.1 inches and is rated to tow up to 7,800 pounds.

I towed the 5,000-pound boat on a dual-axle trailer for 153 miles. At over 70 mph, I felt like I was in control, but during a passing maneuver on a two-lane highway I felt the tail wag ever so slightly. I was always aware the load was back there just like with the 2022 Toyota Tundra, which shares its TNGA-F frame architecture with the GX, and that made me even more cautious than I normally am. Tow mode knocked out the top two gears to ensure the 10-speed automatic stayed in the power band and delivered quick shifts at the right time. The twin-turbo 3.4-liter V-6 stayed out of boost for most of the drive, and when it did go into boost, the turbos would spool up to about 15 psi briefly, then back down to 5 psi before winding down and going back to sleep. I had the opposite experience with a Ford F-150’s twin-turbo V-6, which was almost always in boost while towing this same load.

I don’t think I’d advise towing 9,000 pounds. How much should you tow with the GX? I’d say 5,000 pounds was pretty comfortable, 7,000 pounds would probably be fine but seems like a lot. Much more than that and you’d eat into the buffer zone that makes for comfortable towing without straining the tow vehicle.

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

Con: Towing with the Lexus GX 550 also has its annoyances

To put a hitch in the receiver two plastic push pins first have to be pried out of their holes on the bottom of the rear bumper. This can be done with a key or a flat-head screwdriver. Most other vehicles use simple twist-and-pull pins that require nothing more than a finger. The two plastic covers then have to be removed. The first cover slides down, then the second cover slides down and out to reveal the receiver. Make sure a 4.0-inch hitch pin is on hand because anything shorter won’t clear the double-walled receiver design. No other manufacturer uses a double-wall design. The Toyota engineering team told me it’s for strength. Hooking up the trailer lights also requires crawling on the ground to find the plug on the left side of the receiver under the bumper. Hope that trailer isn’t parked in the dirt, mud, or wet grass.

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

It’s dangerous that Tow Mode doesn’t disable the rear automatic emergency braking. The vehicle will sense there’s something behind it—like a boat—and slam on the brakes. If someone is in the boat it could throw them out and onto the ground. A button on the left side of the dashboard turns off the system, thus allowing the GX to back up with a trailer hooked up. This should happen automatically when Tow Mode is engaged.

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

Pro: Lexus GX 550 arguably presents value

The base 2024 Lexus GX 550 Premium costs $64,250 including a $1,350 destination charge. That’s $5,125 less than a comparable Land Rover Defender with a turbo-6 and $8,620 less than a comparable Land Rover Discovery. It’s also $6,585 less than a Grand Cherokee L Summit. My Premium+ tester started at $69,250 and its final price was $71,455 thanks to optional extras such as a $500 head-up display, a $200 Cold Weather package, a $375 Digital Key with a card key, and a $620 Traffic Jam Assist system. That’s still a few thousand dollars less than a comparable Defender, and even a V-8-equipped Grand Cherokee L Summit. However, my father noted that the Grand Cherokee L Summit is nicer inside, rides better, gets similar or better fuel economy, and is quieter. 

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

Con: Lexus GX 550 drinks gas, but not when towing

The 2024 Lexus GX’s twin-turbo 3.4-liter V-6 produces 349 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque and is EPA rated at 15 mpg city, 21 highway, and 17 combined. The GX won’t win any efficiency contests, and the V-6 is barely better than the outgoing V-8. I averaged 16.3 mpg in 80 miles of mixed suburban driving, a poor 16.1 mpg during 212 miles of highway driving into a strong headwind (aero matters), and 22.1 mpg over 74 miles of highway driving without the headwind.

Towing isn’t an efficient activity. But while towing 5,000 pounds for 153 miles of highway driving, the GX averaged 10.9 mpg. That’s better than Ford’s twin-turbo V-6 in the F-150, which averaged 8.1 mpg while towing this boat, and it seemingly comes down to the Lexus engine not staying in the boost as often. It’s also slightly better than Jeep’s V-8 in a Grand Cherokee, which averages about 9.5 mpg with this boat. However, it’s worse than GM’s large 6.2-liter V-8, which averaged just over 12 mpg with this load. 

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

Pro: Lexus GX 550 can go low

Every GX comes standard with full-time four-wheel drive, a locking center differential, and a 2-speed transfer case. The full-time four-wheel drive does add some drag to the driveline, which would affect fuel economy, but when towing it provides more confidence and stability when changing directions or maintaining forward momentum. The 2-speed transfer case is important because not all boat launches are created equally. At a steep and slippery boat launch, 4Lo splits the power 50:50 front to rear to ensure traction to pull the trailer out of the water. Overtrail models add a rear locker, but that’s overkill for a boat launch though quite useful while off-roading.

2024 Lexus GX 550

2024 Lexus GX 550

Con: Lexus GX 550 feels cheap and loud

Opening and closing the doors of the GX is akin to banging around a tin can, much the same as the 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser. The comparable Land Rover Defender sounds more substantial than the thin and hollow sounds of the GX. 

When driving down the highway above 70 mph the hood’s thin metal deforms from the wind and the center section bounces up and down. A lot of wind noise comes off the side-view mirrors, upright A-pillars, and windshield, which just adds to the stress of towing. Raised voices and more than 35% radio volume are needed to drown out the wind noise. Once I stopped after hours of highway driving, my ears were thankful for the break. Is this luxury? Where’s the sound deadening?

The 2024 Lexus GX 550 does an admirable job of towing, and its pricing presents some value against the competition. But it’s loud on the highway, feels and sounds kind of cheap, and hooking up a trailer can be a pain.

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2024 Lexus GX 550 Premium+

Base price: $64,250, including $1,350 destination

Price as tested: $71,455

Powertrain: 349-hp twin-turbo 3.4-liter V-6, 10-speed automatic transmission, full-time four-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 15/21/17 mpg

The hits: Tows a lot, value pricing, good fuel economy while towing

The misses: Sounds cheap, loud inside, pain to hook up a trailer, still thirsty overall

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