Lexus GX 470: Icon Vehicle Dynamics Front Suspension Installation

May. 01, 2017 By Josh Burns
The Icon suspension upgrades are all bolt-on upgrades, and it’ll take the garage mechanic roughly 3 to 5 hours to complete both sides. Of course if any of the work seems too daunting, reach out to your local 4x4 shop and have them perform the work for you.

Getting any vehicle, even a luxury SUV, up off the ground is crucial if you plan on actually exploring the unpaved world. As we noted in our story about why we’re building a GX 470, this SUV has better off-road chops in stock form than most would realize. But our goal is to take the GX 470 beyond stock performance, and the fact that it shares architecture with Toyota vehicles that have a lot of aftermarket support made this project a far less daunting task.

Since the Lexus GX 470 shares the same Prado 120 chassis as the Toyota 4Runner and FJ Cruiser, aftermarket suspension upgrades are plentiful. After sorting through the options, we decided upon a company right in our Southern California backyard, Icon Vehicle Dynamics. Icon produces suspension kits for trucks and SUVs for a wide variety of manufacturers. The company has worked with race teams in the desert racing and short-course off-road disciplines to test and fine-tune its products for performance and durability. After having been in a few vehicles equipped with their parts in recent years, we felt Icon was a great fit to upgrade the suspension performance on our GX 470.

A quick look at Icon’s website for GX 470 parts won’t yield any immediate results. Since the GX relies on the same chassis as the fourth-generation 4Runner (2003-09), almost all of the parts Icon offers for the 4Runner are compatible with the GX as well.

Icon Vehicle Dynamics offers plenty of suspension components for the GX 470, but you wouldn’t know it off-hand because they’re mostly listed under the fourth-gen 4Runner. For our GX, we’re using Icon’s Stage 7 kit, which includes 2.5-inch coil overs, new UCAs, 2.5-inch rear shocks with remote reservoirs, rear springs (replacing the air suspension system), and upper and lower trailing arms for the rear.

Since we’d be doing a big overhaul on the suspension, we opted for one of Icon’s complete suspension systems, specifically a Stage 7 kit. This kit not only will improve the performance of the GX’s suspension, but it also offers the ability to lift the vehicle up to 3.5 inches. The kit features an extended travel remote reservoir coilover front shock that offers height adjustability up to 3.5 inches. The bolt-on front coilover also features Icon’s CDCV, or Compression Damping Control Valve system, to allow the fine-tuning of the damping force with the simple turn of a dial on the remote reservoir. To accommodate the additional travel and larger 2.5-inch diameter coilover, the stock upper control arm is swapped out for Icon’s tubular uniball UCA that is not only stronger but can also accommodate the additional travel.

The CDCV system from Icon allows for the fine-tuning of the supsension damping force thanks to a small dial on remote reservoir.

Out back, our Icon Stage 7 kit also includes a V.S. 2.5 Series Remote Reservoir Rear Shocks that’s also fitted with the CDCV system. One of the best features of the rear shocks is its built-in “bump zone” that Icon says is designed to increase the compression valving in the final two inches of compression travel to help reduce that bottom-out feeling in the backend and for overall improved performance. The kit also includes new billet aluminum upper and lower trailing arms. The stock GX 470 is fitted with an air suspension system for the rear, which works well even on vehicles with mild lifts, but we’d be deleting the system entirely due to the vehicle’s age and replacing it with coil springs instead. Since we’d be adding a MetalTech4x4 rear bumper down the line (which will house our spare tire), we opted for the stiffer 3” rear coils from Icon. We also picked up a Rear Coil Conversion kit from MetalTech4x4 (though we’ll cover all of this in our next story).

We decided to tackle the suspension upgrades in two steps: the front and the rear. The front suspension swap is where we started first, as this process upgrading the front IFS is relatively similar to other Toyota suspension upgrades we’ve performed in the past. The installation should take most garage mechanics about half a day, and all of the parts are bolt-on upgrades. All of the necessary hardware is included as well.

MORE: Why We're Building a Lexus GX 470 Off-Roader

As is the case with any suspension work, start with the right tools – a properly rated jack and jack stands area a must. After finding the proper location to jack up the vehicle, set the jack stand in place and make sure the vehicle’s weight is safely supported. Then, remove the front tire to gain access to the suspension components.

After removing the front wheel, begin disconnecting the front sway bar (left) and the spindle from the stock upper control arm.

Separating the spindle from the UCA can be a little challenging sometimes, and it often requires some additional help in the form of a big fricken’ hammer (or a BFH). After removing the crown nut we flipped it around and reinstalled it back onto the bolt. So now when we give it a couple of strong whacks the threads or the nut itself won’t be damaged.  The nut will provide an impact point for the hammer but it also will support the spindle from dropping once it releases.

Once the spindle is separated it’s important to support the lower portion of the IFS suspension (the spindle, lower control arm, brake lines, etc.) so that none of the parts get damaged. The brake lines specifically are the most vulnerable to being damaged if not supported properly.

Getting the stock upper control arm out is a little tricky. One long bolt runs through both ends of the UCA, and once it’s loose you’ll need to remove it through the engine compartment. On the passengers side, the bolt can be removed through the engine compartment without much trouble, but on the driver’s side we did need to loosen the battery from the tray to open up more space to get the bolt in and out.

The new Icon Vehicle Dynamics upper control arms not only add additional strength and durability to the GX, but the uniball design also allows the upgraded Icon shocks the ability to use the additional suspension travel gained. The UCA’s use 1-inch PTFE lined uniballs that are fully greasable thanks to the zerk fittings.

Just above the stock coilover is a sensor that is mounted atop the shock housing that needs to be removed. After disconnecting the connection, we used an Allen key to loosen the sensor housing and remove it.

The 2.5-inch Icon front coilover not only provides additional damping and adjustability thanks to its remote reservoir and CDCV tuning, it also provides up to 3.5 inches of lift. We opted for a stiffer 700-lb. front coil spring on our shocks since we planned to install a MetalTech4x4 front bumper and a winch.

Icon includes sway bar spacers for each side of the sway bar mount. Icon also includes hardware to mount the front reservoirs in the kit, and that bracket sits between the included spacer and the frame.

This is where another set of hands is useful. After packing the bushing with grease and putting the Icon UCA together it was time to install it using the original, long stock bolt from the OE UCA. Finding the proper angle to reinstall the bolt through the engine compartment is a little tricky and another set of eyes (and hands) is ideal.

After the new UCA is installed the new Icon coilover goes in next. It’s typically best to set the top of the shock in place and hand-tighten the top bolt. The base shock mount on the lower control arm will need to be muscled in - again, another set of hands will help. Note: Keep the padding on the remote reservoir during the install so it doesn’t get dinged up.

After the shock is in installed, we secured the reservoir to the Icon reservoir mount we previously installed between the sway bar and spacer. On the passenger side of the GX you’ll note the reservoir sits directly on the windshield wiper fluid reservoir, and it’s a tight fit but it sits nicely tucked out of the way.

Next we reconnected the spindle to the Icon UCA (left), and then we reinstalled the brake line mount. After this we removed the tie-down or strap used to help secure the spindle and lower suspension components.

After installing the Icon suspension, the GX gained 3.5-4 inches. The height will reduce a bit after we install the MetalTech4x4 front bumper. Even still, we still have a little more room to crank the shocks higher if we need more clearance.

Icon Vehicle Dynamics

Metal Tech 4x4
503/822-1111 Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!