2009 Lexus GX 470 Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 21, 2009

A cramped rear seat and sluggish performance tarnish the otherwise rugged-lux credentials of the 2009 Lexus GX 470.

TheCarConnection.com's SUV editors drove the new GX 470 in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's SUV enthusiasts researched available road tests on the new GX 470 to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other car reviews might differ.

The 2009 Lexus GX 470’s luxury credentials include a big engine, a chromed-up look on the outside, and a high-class interior, but it is otherwise a Toyota 4Runner in disguise.

The interior of the 2009 Lexus GX 470 is sumptuous; the leather upholstery is rich, the instrumentation lights up with electroluminescent lushness, and the wood veneers look expensive. The styling of the GX 470, however, is greatly disappointing.

Performance is a bit disappointing, too. With 4,675 pounds to slog around, the 263-horsepower, 4.7-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V-8 has to work hard and can feel taxed. It's not quick, but there's enough thrust aboard to sustain speed in most situations. The V-8 is coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission that shifts silently and neatly. Lexus rates it to tow up to 5,000 pounds, but don't expect it to haul half that without straining. Fuel economy lags as a result of the heavy-duty use; it gets 14 mpg city, 18 highway.

Review continues below

There's good travel at every wheel with the Lexus GX 470's suspension. The solid rear axle uses control arms and (unlike the 4Runner) air springs with adjustable height control, while the front suspension is an independent system of double wishbones and coil springs.

On road, the GX is quieter than most other 4x4s. The steering feels good if not overly communicative, and ride motions are nicely controlled in normal traffic, but heavy crosswinds can be felt. Off-road, the GX470 is confident, thanks to its extensive electronic systems.

Shoulder room is scant throughout the cockpit, but front-seat occupants get enough space to feel comfortable—even though headroom can be surprisingly limited. Elsewhere inside the Lexus GX 470, there's not a great deal of space. The third-row seat is practically useless, and the second-row seat is well shaped, if not endowed with an overabundance of legroom. A DVD entertainment system, a navigation system, Bluetooth, and a Mark Levinson sound system are available.

A rear backup camera is included the optional navigation system. Stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, and front-seat side and head/curtain airbags are standard. The GX hasn’t been crash-tested, but the almost structurally identical Toyota 4Runner has so-so ratings from the federal government, with four stars for frontal impact and five for side impact. It fares well in the IIHS frontal and side tests, with a top "good" rating, though it flunks the rear-impact test with a "poor" rating.

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2009 Lexus GX 470

Styling

The styling of the 2009 Lexus GX 470 is uninspired.  

The styling of the 2009 Lexus GX 470 is unremarkable. Some would describe it as "conservative" or "anonymous," but neither applies in a positive sense.

Most comments regarding this 2009 Lexus are neutral and descriptive: Cars.com mentions its strong familial resemblance to other vehicles in the Lexus lineup and a "few more metallic finishes outside and inside differentiate this 2009 Lexus model from its former self." Road & Track states essentially the same thing: "On the outside, the [Lexus] GX 470's family resemblance is obvious. The signature grille leads the way for the tall body and narrow greenhouse look." In fact, very few sources have much to say about the appearance of the 2009 Lexus GX 470—good, bad, or indifferent.

The Lexus GX 470 is described simply as an updated version of the same SUV design that's been around for several years. MotherProof snipes that the Lexus GX 470 size and shape "makes me feel like I have a big butt" and would bump into everything in attempts to park. The SUV’s styling includes integrated fender flares and lighted running boards. Kelley Blue Book considers the flared fenders a "bold" touch that softens "contouring on its front and rear quarters."

ForbesAutos says, "the Lexus GX 470's comfortable and well-equipped cabin features leather upholstery [and] bird's eye maple wood trim." ConsumerGuide praises this 2009 Lexus's "well-appointed and high-quality cabin."

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2009 Lexus GX 470

Performance

Off-road handling—not on-road performance—is the 2009 Lexus GX 470’s forte.

Most reviewers rate the performance of the 2009 Lexus GX as about average.

ConsumerGuide reports that the Lexus GX 470 has decent acceleration, with a transmission that "downshifts promptly for good passing punch." Kelley Blue Book calls the Lexus GX 470's V-8 engine "spirited." Cars.com observes this 2009 Lexus is powered by a "4.7-liter V-8 [that] produces 263 horsepower and 323 pounds-feet of torque." According to Automobile, "The [2009 Lexus] GX 470 inherits its drivetrain from bigger brother LX470, including the 235-horsepower 4.7-liter V-8 engine and five-speed automatic transmission." Cars.com notes this engine and transmission combination allows the 2009 Lexus GX 470 to "tow up to 6,500 pounds when equipped with the optional towing package." Edmunds states that the 2009 Lexus GX 470 demonstrates "off-road competence" and lists a towing capacity of around 3.5 tons. In addition, this source mentions a "better reputation for reliability" than its competitors.

Official EPA estimates have the Lexus GX 470 achieving 14 mpg in city driving and 18 mpg on the highway. Fuel economy is low; ConsumerGuide's test drivers average less than 15 mpg. Furthermore, this source says the 2009 Lexus requires premium-grade gasoline.

On the topic of handling, ConsumerGuide reports that this SUV's truck ancestry becomes noticeable on rough roads, with a "slight bounce and occasional wobble." Lexus graciously provides four different adjustment modes for the suspension, but ConsumerGuide finds it "too floaty" on the Comfort setting and "too jittery" on the Sport setting. Semi-Comfort and Semi-Sport modes are "just adequately absorbent." According to Cars.com, the Lexus GX 470 is at its best in an off-road setting, and indeed some of the optional equipment is designed for just that purpose.

ConsumerGuide reports that the Lexus GX 470, built on a truck platform, has the trucklike tendency to lean when turning, but "doesn't feel tippy," largely thanks to the proprietary Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which allows each wheel to move more freely without affecting the others during off-road travel. However, the steering lacks "road feel." Sudden stops cause the vehicle to "nose-dive," but braking is solid.

Kelley Blue Book reports that the Downhill Assist feature and the Hill-Start Assist Controls are the company's solution to riding the brake. Intended for off-road travel, the Downhill Assist Control, as described by Cars.com, is actually a governor that slows the vehicle on downhill grades unless the driver touches the accelerator or the brake. Back in the days when people were actually taught how to drive a stick shift, the rule was to descend the hill in the same gear in which you climbed it—in short, shift into low going downhill and allow engine compression to slow the vehicle. Today, almost everyone rides the brake, which is not conducive to long brake life.

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2009 Lexus GX 470

Comfort & Quality

The dysfunctional third-row seat mars the high-quality interior of the 2009 Lexus GX 470.

Reasonable comfort for a mid-size SUV is found inside the 2009 Lexus GX 470.

MotherProof is taken with "the second row seating," which is "more inviting" than that of similar SUVs. The reviewer at MotherProof also points out that ingress and egress of the Lexus GX 470 is no easy thing, particularly for short adults and children. Very small children find it "impossible ... to step high enough to get in, even with the assistance of the running board."

Cars.com reports that the 2009 Lexus GX 470 has "seating for five is standard, but the [Lexus] GX 470 can seat up to eight when equipped with an optional third-row seat"—which Edmunds describes as "cramped." Kelley Blue Book reports that the Lexus GX 470 has three rows; "the second-row 60/40-split bench seat has the headroom and legroom to handle three average-size adults." The "power-adjustable front seats provide good comfort and support"; however, as with many vehicles reviewed by TheCarConnection.com, "significantly less space in all critical dimensions means the optional third-row 50/50-split seat might be best for children."

What our test driver reports that Edmunds does not is that the third-row seats do not, in fact, fold downward into the floor, but up along the sides of the cabin, where they "hang," taking up a significant amount of the 78 cubic feet of valuable cargo space. Edmunds goes on to point out that "curbside loading of the cargo area can be awkward due to the GX's side-hinged rear door that blocks access when opened." According to Kelley Blue Book, removing the third row can increase space in the 2009 Lexus.

In terms of quietness, Cars.com says that other than a "slight driveline drone, the GX 470 is quiet." According to ConsumerGuide, however, the Lexus GX 470's engine "rises to a muted growl in full acceleration," and wind noise becomes apparent at speeds in excess of 55 mph. Edmunds praises the interior materials, describing them as "well-appointed and high-quality." Kelley Blue Book also remarks favorably on the "well-isolated cabin...awash in supple leather and tastefully polished wood."

7

2009 Lexus GX 470

Safety

The 2009 Lexus GX470 has plenty of safety features, though it might not provide the protection of class leaders.

Reviewers note that the 2009 Lexus GX 470 has many standard safety features, as is expected for this class of vehicle.

The 2009 Lexus GX 470's electronic stability system and traction control help to maintain contact with the road surface, according to Edmunds. Kelley Blue Book also lists "anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake force Distribution" as standard safety equipment. Kelley Blue Book reports that driver visibility behind the wheel of the 2009 Lexus GX 470 is no problem, as "its large and fairly upright glass area helps optimize driver sightlines in all directions." Visibility in the Lexus GX 470 is aided by an optional "back-up camera...[that] improves rear visibility," according to MyRide.com.

The GX hasn’t been crash-tested, but the almost structurally identical Toyota 4Runner has so-so ratings from the federal government, with four stars for frontal impact and five for side impact. It fares well in the IIHS frontal and side tests, with a top "good" rating, though it flunks the rear-impact test with a "poor" rating.

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2009 Lexus GX 470

Features

An extensive list of high-end features accompanies the 2009 Lexus GX 470.

Lexus has done well in kitting the 2009 GX470 out with a vast list of standard features. But—budget permitting—there’s also the chance to add some exceptional options.

Edmunds reports that the company has been quite generous in the features it offers: 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, heated outside mirrors, illuminated running boards, leather seating, heated power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, moon roof, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and an 11-speaker stereo system with a six-disc in-dash CD changer and auxiliary audio jack for an MP3 player. Cars.com also reports that the Lexus GX 470 "powered front seats" and "an overhead console with an integrated HomeLink transmitter." And these are just the standard features available for the Lexus GX 470.

Kelley Blue Book notes that Lexus GX 470 buyers interested in driving performance "can put an enthusiast edge on handling with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), available alone or as part of the Sport Package that also includes interior and exterior trim enhancements." Additional features for the 2009 Lexus GX 470 are "the optional navigation system features voice activation, an improved high-resolution display and an input jack for connecting external devices," according to Edmunds. Should the buyer opt for the navigation system, a substantial upgrade to the stereo system comes with it. Other available options for this 2009 Lexus include rear air conditioning, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, and a folding 50/50 third-row seat. MotherProof is less than enchanted with one aspect of the Lexus GX 470: "as nice as it is to have that [optional] DVD player, this one is hard to figure out," and the CD changer is inconveniently located in the glove compartment.

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7.0
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Styling 6.0
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Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 7.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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