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