skip to content
Driving Line Mark Logo

Avoid the Toyota Tax with a Lexus? The Fourth Gen 4Runner vs GX470 as an Enthusiast Rig

The Toyota 4Runner is an icon among off-road and 4x4 fans around North America. It’s been an enthusiast favorite since it’s debut in the 1980s and the current fifth-generation model is both as popular and fashionable as ever.

But since the early 2000s, Lexus has offered what’s basically its version of the 4Runner in the form of the GX—and while it may never have the same name recognition as its Toyota counterpart, some consider the GX a superior machine. And for many years it delivered more for the money as a used purchase.

Lexus GX470 in Mud

Recent years have seen the GX jump in price (even before the current spike of all used car values), so the main question these days is whether the Lexus-badged SUVs still provide the same bang for the buck.

For this article we'll look at the earlier models: the fourth generation 2003-2009 Toyota 4Runner vs the first generation 2003-2009 Lexus GX470.

A Tale of Two Toyotas

At its heart the first-generation Lexus GX470 is a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, which shares much of its platform with the fourth-generation Toyota 4Runner (known as the Hilux Surf overseas).

Lexus GX470 Side View

Both models first appeared for 2003, and along with a shorter, taller body and more luxury appointments, the GX has a number of mechanical differences from the base 4Runner.

Most fourth-gen 4Runners were sold with the 1GR-FE 4.0 liter V6 engine, but Toyota's 4.7 liter 2UZ-FE V8 was also available, making the only generation of 4Runner to offer a V8.

Toyota 4Runner V8 4th Gen

V6 4x4 models have a part-time system while V8 4x4s have a full-time setup. The GX470 meanwhile comes only with the 2UZ-FE V8 and standard full-time four-wheel-drive. 

Popular for a Reason

It's never been a secret that the GX shares the 4Runner's reputation for capability and reliability but in a more luxurious-branded package. They've always held their value relatively well, but for a long time they were priced the same or perhaps even cheaper than a comparable 4Runner.

Lexus GX470 on Nitto Ridge Grappler Black

Finding a V8 4WD fourth-gen 4Runner has always been a challenge, and they naturally bring the most money of the breed. GX buyers have things a little easier as all GX470s have the same V8 powertain.

Lexus GX470 V8 Engine

With that said, the 4.0 V6 in the fourth-gen 4Runner is still a great engine and that actually makes similar power to the V8 but with less torque and in a less refined manner. It's also a little better when it comes to fuel economy. 

Toyota 4Runner 4th Gen Silver

Either engine should be stout, though there have been head gasket issues on the earlier 4.0 V6s and the timing belt is an important maintenance item on the 4.7 V8.

No Bad Choice

Ultimately, it'll come down to personal preference. It's hard to go wrong with either one, and you might do better in your search by keeping your options to both models. If you are dead set on a V8 though, a GX470 will probably be easier to find.

Lexus GX470 Rear View

Other things to note: the GX470 has more headroom than a fourth-gen 4Runner and its interior materials are of a higher grade. It has a nicer audio system as well—but that can be a double-edged sword because it's also harder and more expensive to upgrade or repair if it fails.

Lexus GX470 Interior

On the other hand, plenty of people prefer the 4Runner's traditional rear hatch and roll-down rear window vs the GX470's hinged rear door, which takes some getting used to.

4th Gen Toyota 4Runner Interior

No Longer a Bargain, But Still a Value

The biggest change recently is that demand for used GX470s risen significantly. No longer a hidden gem, most GX sellers "know what they have" and prices have risen accordingly.

On the plus side, being a Lexus means you might be more likely to find a GX470 owned by the original owner with full maintenance records, while your typical 4Runner may have been treated more like a - well, Toyota.

4th Gen 4Runner Rear View

It's also common to find modified GX470s for sale these days, already fitted with lift kits, upgraded wheels and tires and other accessories. The same goes for 4Runners as well.

There's nothing wrong with purchasing a pre-modified example and in many cases can save you a lot of money if those mods were in your plans to start.

Lexus GX470 on Nitto Ridge Grappler

Just make sure it uses quality parts and that the owner had some idea of what they were doing. The worst thing you can do when buying any vehicle is to unknowingly take on someone else's poorly executed project.

What to Pay?

While values for both the GX470 and fourth-gen 4Runner have climbed across the board, there's still a large variation in prices.

A 2WD V6 4Runner can be had as cheaply as $5,000 depending on condition, with a V6 4x4 will typically going between $8,000 and $10,000. The highly desirable 4WD V8 model are typically priced in the $10,00 to $12,000 range.

Toyota 4Runner 4th Gen Rear View

A GX470 can be as low as $8,000 or $9,000 for a high mileage early example, up to $15,000 (and beyond) for a newer model with lower mileage. 

And speaking of mileage these are 12-18 year old Toyota products, so "low mileage" is a relative term. If you want something with 100,000 miles or less you're gonna be looking for a long time and paying a hefty premium.

Lexus GX470 on Nitto Ridge Grappler

It's much more common to find these rigs with anywhere between 150,000-250,000 miles, with many going even beyond that. And yes they might be reliable overall, but anything with that age and mileage will likely need at least of bit of refreshing and maintenance. Definitely consider that when coming up with a budget. 

4th Gen 4Runner Gold

Both the GX470 and fourth-gen 4Runner may no longer be the bargains of off-roading that they used to be, but they are still fantastic platforms with tons of aftermarket support. They still provide a lot for the money, and you can have a nice, reliable and fun off-road machine for a fraction the cost of a new vehicle. 

However, if your budget is higher and you are looking for a newer rig, the fifth gen 4Runner and its counterpart the Lexus GX460 are two equally great choices to consider, and we'll look at those in part two. 

  • Learn more about the evolution of the Lexus GX right here.
Return to beginning of article

Recommended For You

Loading ...