How Does the Lexus GX AWD System Work? Torsen Magic!

Lexus GX Overland Build GXOR

One of the best features of the Lexus GX470, GX460 and upcoming GX550 is the full-time four wheel drive system (technically “AWD” or “all wheel drive”). It applies power to all four wheels adjusting when needed to make sure tires have the best traction and aren’t spinning freely. It also makes the Lexus GX incredibly nimble offroad where loose gravel, rocks or tree stumps might cause lesser vehicles to slip slide away.

How Does The Lexus GX All Wheel Drive, Four Wheel Drive System Work?

Certain Lexus models come with a permanent four-wheel drive mechanism that can allocate power to all four wheels continuously, both on and off the road, without any input from the driver. This system includes important elements like an electronically controlled two-speed transfer case, which automatically manages the distribution of torque from the engine to the front and rear wheels. This process is facilitated by a patented torque-sensing Torsen center differential.

The center differential is crucial because, during turns, the wheels of a vehicle do not rotate at identical speeds. Therefore, in a full-time four-wheel drive vehicle, a center differential is essential to ensure smooth cornering on dry roads. It allows the front and rear axles to rotate at different speeds, avoiding any binding issues. The Torsen center differential, in particular, generally splits the power as 40% to the front and 60% to the rear wheels in most driving scenarios, and it can adjust this distribution if wheel slip occurs.

Furthermore, the center differential can be electronically locked to enhance traction when the vehicle’s wheels are stuck, or when driving on extremely slippery or uneven surfaces. Activating this lock involves pressing a button, which triggers a corresponding indicator light. Releasing the lock is as simple as pushing the button again after the wheels regain traction or when moving onto a surface with better grip.

The full-time four-wheel drive system of Lexus also offers a low-range mode designed for challenging off-road situations, such as steep hill climbs or descents, as well as navigating through sand, mud, or deep snow at very low speeds. To engage this low-range mode, the driver needs to shift the four-wheel-drive control to L4 while the vehicle is stationary, the brake pedal is pressed, and the shift lever is in neutral. An indicator in the gauge cluster confirms the activation. Returning to normal operation is achieved by stopping the vehicle, shifting to neutral, and moving the control back to H4.

A notable feature in Lexus’ full-time four-wheel-drive system is the four-wheel Active Traction Control (A-TRAC). A-TRAC applies gentle braking force to a slipping wheel, thereby transferring torque to the wheels with better grip. This system provides a consistent smooth on-road experience along with driver confidence, while also offering impressive off-road capability when required.

While the Lexus GX doesn’t come standard with front and rear locking differentials like some other offroad vehicles (like the Jeep Wrangler) it uses smart applications of power and technology to deliver impeccable traction on and off road. And if you really need locked-in traction for the most aggresive trails aftermarket systems are available to provide front and rear locking differentials on the Lexus GX.

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