What's New for 2009
The 2009 Lexus GS 350 remains unchanged from the previous year.
Competition among luxury midsize performance sedans can seem tighter than an Olympic 400-meter relay. In the years since its introduction in 1993, the Lexus GS -- which was aimed at unseating well-established German marques in this segment -- impressed us with its sharp styling and impeccable fit and finish. But unfortunately, it lacked the athletic handling and power of its European adversaries.
Times have changed, and the 2009 Lexus GS 350 has nearly leveled the playing field. A capable 303-horsepower V6, available all-wheel drive, a luxurious cabin and plenty of standard and optional features are enough to keep just about any luxury-sedan buyer happy. It's not quite best-in-class in terms of handling prowess, but the GS's overall ride and balance make it an exceptional highway cruiser.
But as good as the 2009 Lexus GS 350 is, we must admit that the venerable BMW 5 Series still reigns supreme over the Lexus. Other alternatives to consider over the GS 350 include the Audi A6, Cadillac STS V6, Infiniti M35, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and even the new Hyundai Genesis. While these competitors offer similar comfort with comparable or better performance, the GS 350 remains a solid choice that is sure to live up to its exceptional reputation.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 GS 350 is a midsize luxury sport sedan offered with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. In typical Lexus fashion, the car is available in a single, well-appointed trim. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, a sunroof, leather seats, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats and a 10-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack and a cassette player. Factory options include rear park assist, adaptive headlights, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, ventilated front seats, a rear sunshade, 18-inch wheels with summer tires, a rear spoiler, adaptive variable suspension dampers and an upgraded 14-speaker Mark Levinson DVD surround-sound system with navigation and a rearview camera.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2009 Lexus GS 350 is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 303 hp and 274 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with a manual shift mode is the only available transmission. Acceleration is brisk; the GS 350 achieves zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. EPA fuel economy ratings for rear-wheel-drive versions come in at 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. All-wheel-drive models achieve 18/25/20 mpg.
In keeping with Lexus' reputation for safety, the 2009 GS 350 includes antilock brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, driver and front-passenger knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A pre-collision system, which is part of the optional adaptive cruise control, uses radar to detect an impending crash and responds by pre-tensioning the seatbelts and activating brake assist. In crash testing, the Lexus GS 350 received the highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact collisions from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 GS 350's interior is flawlessly assembled and surrounds its occupants in supple leather, genuine wood and aluminum trim. Four adults fit comfortably, and although the sedan technically seats five, the elevated rear center seat can make for a tight fit. Overall headroom is fine for average-sized passengers but might feel confining for taller occupants.
The display on the optional navigation system is easy to see, thanks to its high-resolution touchscreen, although the integrated audio system controls aren't particularly intuitive. Minor complaints include the highly polished wood trim that occasionally produces a troublesome glare, and the drop-down dash control panel to the left of the steering wheel impedes driver entry and egress if left open.
The 2009 Lexus GS 350's reserves of power, serene ride and respectable handling should easily satisfy most drivers. The capable V6 is civilized enough for the daily commute, yet possesses enough grunt for spirited driving. The GS confidently carves and corners, thanks to its rigid chassis and sophisticated suspension, but lacks the athleticism found in other sport sedans. Initially, we found the brakes had a bit too much grab, but they were certainly effective, as our testing showed the GS 350 could stop from 60 mph in just 114 feet. For those who expect to drive in inclement weather conditions, the all-wheel-drive option makes an excellent choice.