What's New for 2009
The 2009 Lexus GS 460 remains unchanged from the previous year.
There was a time when those looking for a luxury sport sedan with a decent amount of performance were confined to a short list of German cars. Back in the early 1990s, however, Lexus became essentially the first automaker to challenge the status quo with its midsize GS sedan. Those earlier GS models impressed with sharp styling and impeccable fit and finish, but they lacked the athletic handling and power of their European adversaries.
The GS has improved over the years, however, and it's now a prime choice for a luxury sport sedan. The 2009 Lexus GS 460 has a 4.6-liter V8 capable of an impressive 342 horsepower, as well as an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission. While the 460 lacks the all-wheel-drive option offered on the V6-powered GS 350, this more powerful sedan does get a few exclusives, including an adaptive suspension and an optional active stabilizer system, both of which combine to add a whole new dimension of performance handling.
But despite these additions, we still don't think the GS 460 provides the same stellar levels of road feel and driver engagement found in some competing vehicles. Those looking for a higher level of cornering prowess may want to look at the BMW 5 Series or the Infiniti M45. Jaguar's new XF is another strong contender. But overall the 2009 Lexus GS 460 is still an excellent alternative to the usual suspects, thanks to its deft combination of luxury, performance and quality.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 GS 460 is a midsize luxury sedan and is available in a single well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive HID headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats and a 10-speaker audio system with a six-CD/MP3 changer, an auxiliary audio jack and a cassette player. Factory options include satellite radio, rear park assist, rain-sensing wipers, a rear sunshade, the active power stabilizer suspension system, adaptive cruise control, a rear spoiler, and a sensational 14-speaker Mark Levinson DVD surround-sound system with navigation and a rearview camera.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2009 Lexus GS 460 is a 4.6-liter V8 engine that produces 342 hp and 339 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control routes power to the rear wheels. Acceleration is brisk. The GS 460 achieves 60 mph from a standstill in only 5.4 seconds. EPA fuel ratings come in at 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined, which is above average for a car in this class.
In keeping with Lexus' reputation for safety, the GS 460 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 is integrated into the adaptive cruise control option, which uses radar to detect an impending collision. This will pre-tension the seatbelts and activate brake assist if it thinks a crash is imminent. In crash testing, the Lexus GS 460 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
As you'd expect from any Lexus, the 2009 GS 460's interior is flawlessly assembled, and genuine wood and aluminum trim add a luxurious feel to the cabin. Although the GS technically seats five, only four adults fit comfortably, as the elevated rear center seat is narrow and can feel cramped. Overall headroom is a bit limited and may be confining for taller occupants. The display on the optional navigation system is easy to see, thanks to its high-resolution touchscreen. However, we found the integrated audio system controls a bit finicky. 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 460 artfully balances sporting performance and luxurious comfort. With the standard adaptive suspension set to Comfort mode, the ride quality is decidedly plush and compliant; in Sport mode, damping is distinctly firmer. Opting for the active stabilizer suspension delivers significantly less body roll during cornering. Adding to the GS 460's considerable handling prowess are 18-inch Z-rated performance tires that adhere tenaciously to the pavement.
Initially, we found the brakes had a bit too much bite and took some getting used to -- but they were certainly effective when needed. Whether one is commuting leisurely or pushing the limits of performance, the GS 460's cabin manages to remain eerily silent, insulating passengers from the powerful V8 as well as the world outside.