We’re taking a look at the best off road Lexus. The models are designed to spend a dirty good time on rocks, grime, sand, mud, and uneven terrain.
If you’ve planned on buying an off-road vehicle, you should consider the best off-road Lexus including Lexus GX 460, Lexus GX 470, Lexus LX 570, Lexus J201, and Lexus RX 350. These are solid models that are designed with off-road driving in mind.
If you’ve never driven a Lexus with off-road capabilities, you’ll probably be wondering how good and safe these Lexus 4x4 really are. Can they perfectly handle the treacherous terrain? What about the slippery ice and snow during winter? Do they have the features and extras to handle the toughest of off-road terrains? And can it really stand its ground against the off-road big boys? Well, let’s take a look at different Lexus models that are designed to perfectly handle off-roading.
Having road-tested a couple of Lexus models during my off-road escapades, I can assure you that I have considerable knowledge of these models. I’ve also done thorough research on these models to ensure that the information provided herein is factual and helpful. I’ve also derived information from various off-road platforms as well as authoritative websites including offroadium, road & track, and fourwheeltrends.
5 Best Off-Road Lexus
Lexus GX 470
The Lexus GX is a full-size luxury SUV that’s no newcomer to off-roading. A versatile model, the Lexus GX is not only perfect for suburban driving but is also more than capable of handling the remotest and most challenging off-road terrains right off the showroom floor. Having been in production since 2002, this vehicle was designed and built in the same style as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.
The Lexus GX comes in two models: the GX 470 and the GX 460. The first generation of Lexus GX, the Lexus GX 470, was built and offered to the U.S. market from 2002 to 2009. This was the only third SUV type vehicle to be built by Toyota under the Lexus name. This was, without a doubt, one of the most popular Lexus vehicles, which definitely endeared it to the off-road community, especially in terms of quality and performance.
Designed with a 5-speed automatic standard, the GX 470 sits on a full-frame just like the Toyota 4Runner. This is of great importance in the sense that the drivetrain is mounted to the full-frame, thereby separating the passenger compartment from the suspension. Its gear is a low-range type and works well with its 4WD constant utilization.
It’s available in one engine, a 263-270HP 8 cylinder engine with VVT-i. This is a 4.7-liter V8 engine that I must note performs incredibly well when off-road but seems to be a bit stiff on the pavement. In essence, this engine offers similar off-road capabilities to the Toyota Land Cruiser. The only difference is that it comes at a 30% discount.
With my experience in off-roading, I can tell you that two things make a vehicle capable of tackling off-road: ground clearance and traction. While most off-road vehicles come with a ground clearance ranging from 6 inches to 8 inches, the GX 470 takes things a little higher with a ground clearance of 8.3 inches. Our GX 470 also comes with an adjustable ride height control. This is essential in giving you an additional ground clearance in the rear. Again, it comes with standard leather upholstery, something that you won’t get in most off-road vehicles including the Wrangler.
In terms of space, the GX 470 has an optional third row that allows the SUV to seat 7 passengers. This is, of course, essential if you’re planning to go for an off-road trip with your family or friends. If you think that’s enough, think again! Believe it or not, the Lexus GX 470 is one of the most luxurious off-road vehicles you’ll ever come across. In addition to rear heat vents, it has a power moonroof, dual power front seat, power locks, power windows, and many more features that are either optional or unavailable in most off-road vehicles including the Wrangler.
To touch on its 4WD system, it’s important to note that this vehicle has one of the most excellent full-time all-wheel-drive systems, so you don’t have to shift from 2WD. Its low-range gear, as well as a hill descent control, will come in handy in extreme conditions. It also comes with an electronic locking rear differential axle that can be engaged with a simple button press.
While the Lexus GX 470 is no longer produced, there’s quite a number out there. Fortunately, its resale value is not as strong as that of a Toyota Land Cruiser but this is, of course, advantageous if you want to grab one for your off-road expeditions. For example, a typical Land Cruiser will cost you north of $32,000 while a GX 470 from the same era, probably with fewer miles on the odometer, will cost you around $22,000. With that being said, it means that the Lexus GX 470 can be very affordable and among the cheapest off-road vehicles.
The Epitome of Tough and Comfort
As we noted earlier, the Lexus GX 470 is one of the most comfortable off-road vehicles. And while you can be tempted to think that it’s not perfectly designed for off-road given its luxurious trimmings, this vehicle is the epitome of toughness and comfort. As an off-road enthusiast, you’ll probably be looking for ways to make your off-road vehicle even better. Well, the Lexus GX 470 has a strong supply of aftermarket parts.
Even though the GX 470 offers a luxurious interior and the perfect balance for off-road expeditions, you’ll need to upgrade its suspensions and fit it with beefy tires, steel bumper, tow hooks, and rock sliders for additional off-road protection.
Again, the GX 470 doesn’t have a diesel engine, which can be quite limiting if you love diesel cars. It also doesn’t come with rear door-mounted spare tires like their Prado sisters.
Off-Road Value Proposition
You’ve probably noticed that the popularity of the GX 470 has been skyrocketing amongst off-roaders. Well, its affordability on the used market is on a whole new level. It’s cheaper than a used Toyota 4Runner with a V6 engine. It’s also cheaper than a Land Cruiser and a Jeep Wrangler. Most of them have been babied by their previous owners so you’ll find them in superb conditions and perhaps with lower mileage.
As far as going off-road is concerned, the GX 470 offers a lot more off-road capabilities than you’d think. Its interior comforts are top-notch and under the hood features make it a much capable off-road vehicle. In addition to its reliability, inside luxuries, and smooth ride, the GX 470 is a very affordable car on the used market. This is a beast that can carry 7 passengers and can hold its own amongst some of the tested and true off-road vehicles such as the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner.
Lexus GX 460
In its 10-year existence, the Lexus GX 460 has gained small but very dedicated owners who are, without a doubt, off-road stalwarts. You’re probably wondering why the GX 460 might be the right choice to conquer the trails. Well, the GX 460 has conquered almost everything that Mother Nature has thrown at it.
What features do you always look at when choosing the best off-road vehicle? We have different preferences but for me and many other off-road enthusiasts, serious durability and high-travel suspension or ground reach are some of the most important features. Well, the Lexus GX 460 gives you exactly that plus many other adorable features and functionalities that will make you love your off-road expeditions.
Thanks to its 4.6-liter V8-powered engine, this vehicle offers a smooth ride while providing a broad powerband. Its high-travel shocks and rear air springs are designed to soak up abuse from various off-road terrains without complaint. And even if you move from grime to rocks, the GX 460 will still be a capable monster thanks to its short overhangs and 360-degree monitor. I’m talking about a luxury SUV that is at its best when you drive it quickly on loose surfaces. In essence, the GX 460 is a lot tougher and more willing to take on the off-road challenges than arguably other luxury SUVs.
Whether you’re planning to take the Lexus GX 460 to the semi-arid areas of Nevada and Colorado or down south to the tropical land of Costa Rica, the GX 460 has exceptional off-road features. The fact that it’s almost similar to the Land Cruiser Prado and is built with a body-on-frame tech makes it very durable while giving it a proper ground clearance and a sturdy platform for towing.
It’s also designed with a multi-view camera system, which you’ll appreciate while driving through the off-road terrains as it will help you through and over various obstacles. It also comes with a Crawl Control, which is a five-stage type of off-road cruise control. This can only be enabled when driving in low range but is vital when driving on steep inclines, which you’ll obviously encounter during your off-road escapades.
That’s not all; the GX 460 is designed with additional shielding to protect the fuel tank, a transmission cooler, as well as the very important Multi-Terrain Select. This enables you to select optimal power settings for various terrains including mud, sand, rock, gravel, and snow.
If you go for the latest model, you’ll realize that this vehicle is designed with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) to enable it to automatically adjust to jagged surfaces. This is done when the non-compressed suspension cylinder is filled with fluid that smoothens the ride.
Is It the Right Off-Road Vehicle for You?
From its design and additional features, which are incredible, the GX 460 is built for off-road enthusiasts looking for a real off-road machine that will enable them to go on a wild streak exploring the beaten path right from the showroom. Its off-road capabilities don't interfere with its very luxurious cabin.
Believe it or not, the interior of the GX 460 will make other off-road vehicles such as the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner, and FJ Cruiser look like a drunkard who showed up at a black-tie party in shorts and sandals. This vehicle is the epitome of off-road ruggedness and luxury woven into one. It’s a testament that you should never compromise on luxury just because you’re looking for a vehicle to conquer the mountains and the beaten paths.
Despite its luxuries and off-road capabilities, I must admit that the Lexus GX 460 has some glaring weaknesses that must be highlighted. The body-on-frame design of this SUV is a major problem on pavements. You’ll feel the body roll even if you set the Sport mode and your tires will probably squeal if you take corners with a lot of zeal. Again, you’ll easily notice that the six-speed automatic transmission is a real struggle when trying to gear uphill.
The interior also has various weak spots such as the infotainment system, which isn’t up there with the best. Most of its buttons are either slow or redundant and the touchscreen is very old school. A great alternative to this car would be the Land Rover Discovery just in case you aren’t inspired by its cabin but still want an unrelenting vehicle for your off-road escapades.
Off-Road Value Proposition
If safety, capability, and luxury are some of the features you’re looking for in an off-road vehicle, then the Lexus GX 460 is an ideal option. This is an all-encompassing versatile vehicle that weaves comfort, utility, and affordability into one. With a few refinements here and there, this vehicle will be a monster on the off-road but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it to the beaten path off the showroom floor.
Lexus LX 570
As an off-road fanatic, you probably know that the Toyota Land Cruiser is an off-road icon that has long held the reputation of being arguably the toughest off-road SUV in the world. Land Cruisers are a common figure in various off-road circles but they’re no longer produced. Perhaps as a replacement, Toyota has been producing Land Cruiser’s luxurious corporate cousin with a nicer body, more luxury, and unrelenting off-road capabilities: the LX 570.
Offering a unique combination of luxury and off-roading features, the LX 570 may have an outdated feel as far as its body-on-frame design is concerned but this is just a minute drawback. This luxury SUV comes with a naturally aspirated 5.7-liter V8 mated engine and an incredible 8-speed automatic transmission, which can easily attain 383 HP and 402 pound-feet of torque.
If you’re wondering how big the Lexus LX 570 is, then you have to look at its size. This huge SUV is 16.5 feet long, 6.4 feet wide, and 6 feet tall! Factor in its enormous spindle grille and you can bet that the LX 570 will be ready to tackle various terrains.
Given its features, there’s no doubt that the Lexus LX 570 is built for off-roading. It’s a four-wheel drive and has a locking differential, as well as a low-range gearbox for rock crawling. Although it’s a thirsty beast, the LX 570 has some of the best safety features around such as surround-view cameras and blind-spot monitoring. I have to admit that these are some of the features that you’ll get if you’re going for the latest LX 570 model, which, of course, remains a classical off-road beast.
You’ll agree with me that this Lexus model is an off-road magician. You’ll be in awe at what it can do whether on the rocks or in the dirt. You’ll not only be impressed by what it can do during your off-road escapades but rather by how it goes about conquering the remotest areas. I know many critics will presume that you can take any car off-road but the difference is simple: some of these cars won’t keep up. But because the LX 570 isn’t just any other car, so you won’t be torturing or breaking it. This is because it’s designed exactly for off-roads.
I’m talking about a vehicle that’s designed with center differential lockers, terrain controls, height controls, crawl modes with speed selection, AWD control such as 4Low, second-gear start function, and tight-turn assist. It is such features that stand out on the LX 570 and makes it a beast of the off-roads. Save for the dirt that might be oozing from the ground, these are features that may enable you to drive on dirt roads without realizing that you aren’t on tarmacked roads.
A friend of mine drove the Lexus LX 570 in El Dorado Hills and came across a place known as “7-Mile.” This is a stretch of the road that brings a combination of dirt, gravel, and mud puddles. While he noted that most cars would conquer the 7-Mile area, it was the ease with which the LX 570 conquered the area that impressed him. He noted how comfortable the LX 570 was at moderate speed. Thanks to the 4Low features, the steering wheel remained vibration-free and the tires remained undramatic over mud puddles.
One of the noticeable drawbacks of the Lexus LX 570 is its thirsty nature. This is a beast that will be on its worst fuel behavior and may not be favorable, especially if you’re planning to go off-road on a budget. Its price is also shocking given its terrible infotainment, which feels like it was made in 2008. This includes a couple of plastics that only feel out-of-place and the entire cabin has an old design, especially when compared to modern SUVs. The ground clearance could also be better,
Off-Road Value Proposition
You probably have an LX 570 that you do not use for your off-road escapades. Well, let me put it to you categorically that you’re wasting a true engineering marvel. The quality of the Lexus LX 570 is everywhere from the lavish and leather-filled interior space to the metallic trim. You’ll appreciate the bank-vault aptitude of the interior, especially when driving over rocks and through the dirt.
We’re talking about a big car that probably has the capabilities of doing a Fast and Furious stunt with no modifications. It’s remarkably quiet and there aren’t many SUVs that can actually do what the Lexus LX 570 can do. Its rivals such as the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 may be more modern and perfect for the pavement but they aren’t suited for the off-road and exposure to heavy elements like the Lexus LX 570. Drive this monster on the off-road and you’ll be glad that such brutish vehicles are still in existence.
Let’s be honest here. When thinking about the rough, rugged SUVs, Lexus isn’t probably one of the models that will come to your mind. But given the success of the Lexus LX 570 on the off-road landscape, it only makes sense to start throwing a glance in the direction of Lexus. Although driving through the beaten paths in an off-road vehicle may seem unique in some parts of the world, the hobby of off-roading is becoming more and more popular in the United States.
To tap into this trend, Lexus created a one-off off-road vehicle: the J201, which is the epitome of bringing poise into your off-road escapade. Based on LX 570, the J201 is built on the same chassis and the underpins of Toyota Land Cruiser, a vehicle that’s long-famed for going to the world’s most inaccessible locations.
The Lexus J201 has some bonafide features that make it an absolute off-road monster. Most of these features are practical and meant for the wilderness. From its giant roof rack, suspension lift, full-size spare tire, off-road tires, and water cans, it gives you almost all the amenities that you’d want in an off-road vehicle. To start, this SUV is designed with a jacked-up suspension that lifts it further by activating the onboard hydraulic lift.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re planning to climb the rocks or go deep in the water, this SUV is designed with heavy-duty front and rear bumpers, as well as an underneath plating, to protect the tires from punctures that may be caused by sharp objects and rocks. The J201 has upgraded front and rear brakes that are of great importance for hauling down any extra weight added to the vehicle.
Under the hood, the J201 has a 5.7-liter V8 engine with a power boost Magnuson supercharger, which gives it 550 horsepower with a 550 lb-ft of torque. The power of the vehicle is routed through performance ARB air-locking differentials, which enhance off-road traction.
You’ll love the overall comfort. It retains the luxury of the Lexus LX 570. The roof rack is designed by Prinsu Design with a super low profile. It’s also structured with two locking boxes to hide the MaxTrax recovery boards. On the exterior, it has rock sliders, CBI off-road bumpers, and skid plates, which protect the vehicle against challenging terrains.
It’s Only a Concept Thing
Despite its incredible features, the J201 is a concept car that only made a public appearance at the 10-day Rebelle Rally, which is the first women’s off-road navigation rally raid. Unfortunately, the chance of having the J201 mass-produced is zero. But if you want one, you can pay Expedition Overland to build one just for you.
Lexus RX 350
The Lexus RX 350 is one of the first legitimate crossover SUVs that were designed by Lexus. It’s probably one of the most preferred Lexus models perhaps because it's cheaper and gives you more capability than its Toyota Harrier counterpart. Although the midsize luxury SUV segment is overcrowded, the Lexus RX 350 holds its ground and won’t disappoint you if you’re planning to take it on some rough terrain.
Designed with a 3-liter V6 engine that offers 220-HP, this SUV gives you the option of choosing between the standard front-wheel drive or AWD. The fact that you’re planning on taking it off-road makes its ground clearance a significant feature. Well, its ground clearance stands at 8.2 inches, which is peculiarly much better than the ground clearance of the Lexus GX 460. This is essential in giving you better visibility and making the underbelly of the vehicle a lot safer and free from any damage that might occur during your off-road trips.
Although the RX 350 has sharp styling, this vehicle is very comfortable on the inside. It offers a smooth and quiet ride with everything on the interior made to make you comfortable. Of course, I can’t say that it offers a plush interior than the Audis and Mercedes but its interior is plush enough to serve you just right during your off-road escapades.
Without taking anything away from this reliable car, I have to admit that its safety features aren’t top-notch but they’ll still serve the purpose. The standard driver-assist, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beams, and the front automatic emergency brake, as well as a couple of airbags, might just be enough for your safety while on the beaten paths.
The RX 350 is also equipped with a standard 8-inch infotainment touchscreen that can use Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa to ensure that you’re entertained during your off-road escapades. It also has a 360-degree parking camera system, a wireless charging pad, and a head-up display.
I know I’ve mentioned that the RX 350 is comfortable on the inside but that doesn’t mean that it excels in every department. For example, the second row of the vehicle is quite confined even though there’s plenty of space in the front row and storage cubbies. It makes you wonder what Lexus was thinking when designing the interior in terms of balancing comfort for all the passengers.
As a fun-seeking driver, I was very disappointed with its stiffer suspensions, which do not make handling quite enjoyable. This can be so limiting if you plan to drive it on rocky terrains, so I’d rather recommend that you change the suspensions to improve its handling.
Off-Road Value Proposition
The Lexus RX 350 is, without a doubt, equipped with lots of standard safety tech that will make your off-road trips much better. Although it’s comfortable, it has some shortcomings that I believe can be rectified with some off-road modifications. For example, the standard tires aren’t perfect for off-roading and it would only make sense to change them and soup up other areas of the car to make it more off-road worthy. All in all, this is a great car to tackle the not-so-rough off-road terrains.
Things to Consider When Buying an Off-Road Vehicle
Even though no one factor determines whether a vehicle will be prolific on the off-road, there are a couple of basic things that any vehicle that has the aspirations of going off-road should have. Let’s look at them.
The ground clearance of a vehicle should be of great importance when looking for your off-road vehicle. This is essentially how high the lowest point of your vehicle sets off the ground and doesn’t include the tires.
Your off-road vehicle should have enough ground clearance to protect the underbelly of your vehicle when you drive over obstacles such as rocks and hills. Of course, you’ll need to drive over such obstacles without sustaining any damage. In most cases, the standard ground clearance for off-road vehicles should be 8 inches.
There are certain situations when off-roading when you’ll require extra traction, such as when driving on rocky terrain or a steep. In such circumstances, the locking differential of your vehicle can come in handy as it helps in locking the axles together thereby providing 100% of available torque to the wheel to enhance traction.
A locking differential can also help the wheels to rotate at different speeds during turns. But when you need improved traction this feature can help in mechanically locking the axles so that the wheels can rotate at the same speed. As such, you won’t have many problems even when one wheel is off the ground, which is a common occurrence in off-roading.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and Four-Wheel Drive (FWD)
Having a vehicle with AWD, FWD, or both is a must for off-roading. These are important off-road lingos that you must be conversant with. You’re probably wondering what’s the difference between the two? Well, AWD is always active and power will be going to all four wheels at all times. On the other hand, FWD implies the ability of the vehicle to switch to a two-wheel drive when no extra traction is needed.
Like any off-road enthusiast will tell you, a good off-road vehicle should give you room to make some improvements in terms of capability and features. In other words, you want a vehicle that you can improve with some aftermarket extras not just to suit your off-road adventures but also to make it more personal and unique.
Whether you want bigger off-road tires, upgraded suspensions, bumper-mounted winches, LED lights, and many more, the type of off-road vehicle that you choose should be able to support these extras. In short, you should be able to make adjustments to your vehicle, and this is one of the most captivating things about off-roading.
About THE AUTHOR
Corey has been off-roading all his life, starting from a very young age on ATV's and dirt bikes. As he's grown older, his interests have focused more on larger off-roading vehicles like Jeeps and Toyotas. He lives for the slow and calculated crawl up (or down) steep terrain.Read More About Corey Brooks