1,000 Miles In: How the Nitto Ridge Grappler Tire Has Transformed Our Project Lexus GX470
During the introduction story to our 2004 Lexus GX470 Project, I ran through the story of finding a deal on a high-mileage but one-owner example of this increasingly popular Toyota 4x4 SUV. Then I detailed how I chose new wheels and larger tires for this part-time daily driver/part-time adventure rig.
The tire of choice for this project was Nitto's Ridge Grappler and if you'd like to learn more about what it took to get our 285/70/17 rubber to fit on an otherwise stock GX470, you can find all the details in the original story right here.
And now that I've had the tires on the truck for about 1,000 miles of mixed driving that includes both commuting and occasional adventuring in the dirt and mud, it's been eye-opening just how much they've transformed the Lexus both functionally and aesthetically.
Here are some of my key takeaways:
Keeping the Luxury Alive
While the off-road community appreciates the GX470 most for its legendary Toyota reliability, its V8 power and its very capable 4x4 system, it's still a Lexus with all of the associated luxuries.
While looking for a budget 4x4 SUV for a mix of family hauling and fun, luxury features weren't high on my priority list, but I've still been impressed with the refinement and comfort of my 17-year old Lexus. It may just be 4Runner in a suit, but the suit isn't half bad.
Before I installed the larger, hybrid terrain Ridge Grapplers I was prepared to accept a noticeable trade-off in comfort and noise for improved off-road capability and a more aggressive look, but I've been blown away with how little sacrifice there's been in road manners.
Moving from the old all-seasons to the Ridge Grapplers, there's been only a negligible increase in noise, and the pleasant ride quality is still there. I've come to appreciate this a lot while hauling the kid to school or driving on the freeway.
Even in 100% stock trim, the GX470 is quite capable off-road, and its full-time 4WD system allows you to roll through all types of terrain without much thought—before you even get into the locking center differential and low range.
The larger, wider Ridge Grapplers have only improved the off-road performance giving me not just a more aggressive compound when tackling dirt, mud and sand but also a wider contact patch and additional ground clearance from their taller size.
I'm still a newcomer to the 4x4 world, and so far my adventures with the GX have largely consisted of playing around in dried-out lakes, climbing up and down sandy trails, rocky hillsides and sliding through rutted muddy fields after the rare California rainstorm.
To be honest, the Ridge Grappler tire might be overkill for this sort of newbie off-roading, but as I just mentioned there's very little trade off during the daily grind so it's a win-win.
And when the time comes to head higher into the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains to tackle more advanced trails I'm very confident that the Ridge Grapplers will be able to handle just about anything that's thrown at them.
Attitude is Everything
While there's no doubting the improved capability the Nitto Ridge Grapplers have provided and the way they balance off-road performance with on-road livability, it's hard to sum up just how much the new tires and wheels have changed the vibe of the GX470.
The GX470's chops are well known to Toyota enthusiasts, but it's easy to overlook stock GXs out on the road. That's not the case with my truck now, with the Ridge Grapplers and the new KMC Roswell wheels giving the gold Lexus a much-needed boost of aggression.
The wheels in particular have received a ton of compliments and questions. It's a modern aluminum wheel designed to look like a classic steel wheel without the weight - and the gray color works well with my GX's "luxury gold" body color. It's not a flashy wheel by any means, but when combined with the aggressive Ridge Grappler tread, the impact is significant.
Several months into life with my GX470 and 1,000 miles into the Ridge Grappler experience, it's hard to ask for much more. I've owned a lot of cars and installed countless aftermarket wheel and tire setups on them, and I struggle to find a wheel and tire combo that's transformed an otherwise stock vehicle as much as these have.
I've fallen in love with this rig, and can't wait to plan the next steps for this new project.
More From Driving Line
- Check out our history lesson here to learn more about how the Lexus GX became such a popular off-road platform.