Full 2009 Lexus GX 470 Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Lexus GX 470 remains unchanged from the previous year.
Anyone in the market for an SUV that's adept at handling both city driving and off-road duties can certainly understand the Goldilocks syndrome. It seems that the ride is either too soft or too firm, the size is too big or too small, the interior is too utilitarian or too plush -- you get the idea.
But there is one possible "just right" option -- the 2009 Lexus GX 470. This SUV is based on the platform shared by two off-road masters -- Toyota's 4Runner and FJ Cruiser. As such, the GX 470 exhibits remarkable prowess when experienced off pavement. Factor in the innovative features and luxury that Lexus is known for, and occupants can be assured of a polished and smart cabin. Plus, being a midsize SUV, maneuvering the GX won't feel like piloting the Titanic when it comes time for navigating tight parking lots.
The 2009 Lexus GX 470 isn't exactly a new design -- it debuted for the 2003 model year and hasn't changed much since. Its closest competitor is the newer Land Rover LR3, a vehicle that can't match the Lexus' reputation for superior reliability.
Most traditional SUV owners rarely, if ever, take to off-road trails; if you're a member of this very large club, a car-based crossover SUV is going to be a more appealing choice. Consider alternatives such as the Acura MDX, BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class, which offer more interior versatility and better road-going manners. But if you're looking for a choice that's versatile enough to please a modern-day urban Goldilocks, or even a backwoods family of bears, the GX 470 will no doubt satisfy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Lexus GX 470 is a midsize luxury SUV offered in one very well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive variable suspension, heated outside mirrors, lighted running boards, leather seats, heated power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof and a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel. There's also an 11-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack.
The GX 470's main option is a navigation system paired with a premium 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system and Bluetooth. Also offered is a GX 470-specific Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that adjusts for more off-road suspension travel or less body roll in regular conditions. Other optional equipment items include a rear-seat entertainment system, satellite radio and a 50/50-split third-row seat with rear air-conditioning. A sport package enhances the interior and exterior with various trim pieces and includes KDSS.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Lexus GX 470 is powered by a 4.7-liter V8 producing 263 horsepower and 323 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is the only available gearbox, and it routes power to all four wheels via a dual-range transfer case. Towing capacity is 6,500 pounds when properly equipped. EPA fuel ratings come in at 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 15 mpg in combined driving.
As you'd expect from Lexus, the 2009 Lexus GX 470 is well stocked with safety equipment that includes antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and roll-sensing side curtain airbags for the first and second rows. Also standard are traction control, stability control, downhill assist control and hill-start assist control. The Lexus Link communications system is an optional add-on. Another is a rearview camera, which is included with the navigation system.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the 2009 GX 470 is typical Lexus, which is to say, outstanding. Occupants are enveloped in supple leather and rich wood trim. Materials quality is first-rate, most surfaces are soft-touch and all components are assembled with Swiss-timepiece precision. The GX 470's lengthy features list translates into a somewhat busy-looking control panel, but these controls are easy to use, thanks to intuitive placement. Gauges are easily read, as is the optional navigation system. This system comes with a high-resolution display, voice activation, iPod integration and phone book synchronization via Bluetooth.
With a maximum cargo space of 78 cubic feet, storage is about average for SUVs of this size. The 60/40-split second-row seats fold down but not flat, and the optional third-row seats fold up and to the sides. Although having the option of third-row seating is advantageous, comfort is sacrificed, as the space is fairly cramped.
Rather than opt for a typical fold-down tailgate, Lexus inexplicably employed a side-hinged rear door. This configuration makes cargo loading difficult (especially when parallel-parked). The situation is worsened by the fact that the door is hinged on the passenger side, blocking curbside access when opened.
Because the 2009 Lexus GX 470 soldiers on as a body-on-frame SUV, it has a more trucklike feel than some of the newer car-based crossovers. Despite this, the GX manages to impress with a refined, smooth ride and sure-footed handling. The standard adaptive variable suspension and rear adjustable height control further enhance versatility and convenience by allowing the driver to select a stiffer or softer suspension tuning for various conditions. These features also adjust the rear height by 1.2 inches for added off-road ground clearance or easier cargo loading.