RockSolidToys has been the leading innovator in late model Toyota 4wd vehicle conversions. We have been the forerunner in transfer case swaps, solid axle swaps and 2wd to 4wd conversions. The Toyota platform is ripe with vehicles here in the States that are great off road vehicles. The Tacoma, 4Runner and FJ Cruiser are all fantastic offroad vehicles in stock form. However, one of the best offroad vehicles the Toyota Corporation has made has been largely forgotten about until just recently.
Enter, the Lexus GX 470. This is the ubber luxury version of the Toyota Landcruiser Prado sold elsewhere in the world. Countries like Australia, Africa and South America are regions you can find the Prado in. The Lexus version of this vehicle was sold here in the US and Eurasia starting in 2002.
So.... why did I choose a Lexus GX 470 for our next RST project vehicle? It was simple really. I have a 2004 4Runner that I was going to swap and daily drive but my son adopted it so I was looking for another 4Runner when I came across a Lexus GX 470 on Craigs List that was cheaper than a 4wd 4Runner with a 4.7L V8 and had less miles on it. Something clicked and I started looking for a suitable GX 470. ( Thats right folks. I did not know much about the GX before this and it wasn't even on my radar. Is that really that hard to believe? ) Two weeks later and with the use of a broker, I found the GX I wanted with the color I wanted and the options as well.
Now, lets get to the meat of this blog. What don't I like and what do I like about the Lexus GX 470.
1. First of all, the Lexus GX 470 has a 4.7 L V8 stuffed under its hood. Hence the name 470! Now come on. Who doesn't want a V8 rumbling under their hood? Don't lie... you know you do. With 235 horse power and 320 ft lb of torque, which we are really looking for in an offroad vehicle, is nothing to sneeze at. Especially since it's low in the RPM range. This is one of the biggest reasons for choosing the Lexus. All of them come with the 4.7 liter V8 with the Lexus tune. Put a nice muffler on it to make it rumble and it sounds just like a small block Chevy. Not bad. That's the first like.
Now the first thing don't I like about it.? That air bag rear suspension. Now some people love it. The ride is nice and the height of the rear can be adjusted with the push of a button. However, when the system goes down, and it will, it can be expensive to repair and can leave you sitting on the rear bump stops until you do fix it. Then there is the fact that most of us want to lift the vehicle to fit larger tires and gain more ground clearance and there just isn't much out there for the air bags. That is why we are swapping over to the tried and true coil spring setup from 4Runner and FJ Cruiser.
2. The next thing I like about this vehicle is the fact that it has a fully boxed frame. These things are built very well being designed after the Landcruiser Prado. It's a very sturdy platform and will be a great point to build from.
The second thing I don't like about it is a give and take. For an offroad wheeler like myself, the AWD system just doesn't work. ( I was corrected on this one by some folks. It's really a "full time 4wd" system instead of AWD. To me it's semantics since many auto makers use both names for differing systems. Take VW and Audi for example along with Porsche. Their AWD system is explained this way. "an AWD system always has three differentials, a front/center and rear", Just like the system found in the "full time 4wd Lexus GX".). The Lexus T case uses a Type 3 Torsen center differential very similar to and made by the same company as those found in the Audi and VW AWD setup. However, in the way I was corrected the individual stated that the Lexus has a locking center diff and a low range, which is true, and that's what made it full time 4wd as opposed to AWD. Funny, so does the VW Touareg in it's 4-motion AWD system. So now that we and the Auto makers can't agree on what full time 4wd and AWD are, semantics, we'll move along.
The FJ Cruiser T case is a part time 4wd top shift transfer case and will be the case we'll be using in this build while the Lexus T case is a forward shift T case. Which means it shifts from the tail housing of the transmission instead of from the top of the transfer case. Anyway, it's great for those that wheel in inclement weather all the time but for me a true part time 4wd system with front and rear differential lockers is the only way to go. Better gas mileage and less wear and tear on crucial parts having power sent to them all the time. From time to time I can feel the front wheels grabbing for power that is reminiscent of front wheel drive cars. We'll be changing all of that here soon.
3. I love the interior of the Lexus GX 470. The leather in these things is great and the seats are super comfortable. Unlike some, I actually like the wood grain in it. I know it can be a bit much to some but for me, I like it. I love that the middle and rear seat passengers have their own overhead AC vents instead of vents that come out of the center console pointed at the floor like it's sister the 4Runner. It just works so much better. I like that both shifters have real leather boots around them to give it that extra luxury touch. The quality of the materials used seem very good as well.
What I don't like are some of the placements of switches and dials. Take for instance the out side mirror switch and light dimmer switch. They are tucked down and behind the steering wheel. It could have been much more ergonomically correct to have the mirror switch on the door arm rest where you don't have to move your body to reach it. Not to mention the fact that you have to look around the steering wheel to even see it. The front seat heater switches are pushed froward and under the dash in the center console. Could have put them right in the middle of the console instead. And then there is the clock control switch sitting on top of the dash facing up and the only way to see what your looking at is to lean forward and look down at the buttons. Just a bunch of little over sites that bug me.
4. I like that the GX470 is a Landcruiser Prado with luxury bits thrown in the mix. That means the main body structure is narrower than that of the 4Runner. Yes, it
has wide fender flares but those are plastic and can be easily replaced. The narrow body makes putting on sliders that not only protect your frame, but can now also help to protect your body with out having to stick out past the widest point of your vehicle.
I don't however, like the fact that Toyota was lazy when it came to mounting the rear door on the GX470. The Prado rear door opens from the left side of the vehicle to the right side because it is sold primarily in countries that drive on the right side of the vehicle. But here in the states we drive on the left side of the vehicle so when you park on the curb and open that massive door you have to walk around it to get into the rear of the vehicle from the curb. A small thing but annoying none the less. The FJ Cruiser, which was primarily built for the American market, has the door opening in the proper direction for those that drive on the left side of the vehicle.
The next thing that I don't like seems to plague a lot of Toyota products from the early 2000's and that is the illumination of switches and such. For some reason, Toyota choose to use some of the cheapest micro bulbs on the market which have failed as soon as two years after purchasing the vehicle new. Half of the switches in my 2004 GX 470 are out, yet in the 2001 ford F150 that I sold to purchase this Lexus had all of the lights in the interior still working after 290,000 hard driven miles. That truck was driving hard and put away wet and yet every light in it still worked. My Lexus was garaged and pampered it's entire life, that is until I take the torch to it, and yet half of the bulbs are burnt out. For a company that prides itself in quality that is one area they should have spent the extra 2 penny's to get the better bulbs. There is nothing worse than getting into a nice quality car and then at night you can't find the switches because half of them are burnt out.
5. Lastly, even though I have an issue with the micro bulbs, I have to say that the overall quality of the GX is fantastic. That 4.7 L motor will keep on purring even when abused and the A750f 5 speed automatic transmission is simply one of the best. Shut the doors on this thing and it's solid. Drive down the road and you can tell that your in a very well built vehicle.
Are there area's that can be improved upon? Of course. No car is perfect. But if you're looking for a medium sized SUV to either drive on roads or build to be an offroad beast, the Lexus GX 470 is probably the best bargain for your dollar and is still a little known product that is cheaper to get than an equally equipped 4Runner. But trust me, that wont be for long. The prices on good used GX's have started to rise because most of us who know about the GX also know that it was mostly driven by soccer moms and Real Estate agents who never saw a dirt road.
Stay tuned as we take this GX to the next level.
For more information please contact us by email or give us a call at 714-460-3491 during regular business hours.