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2009 Lexus GS 350 ReviewThe Good
The 2009 Lexus GS 350 combines the best of both a sport sedan and a luxury cruiser, offering responsive handling, a firm yet comfortable ride, and a plush interior with comfortable seats and all the latest high-tech gadgets and safety equipment.The Bad
Some taller drivers will find headroom tight in both the front and back seats of the '09 GS 350, and a number of owners report problems with the sedan's high-performance brakes.
The CarGurus View
Longtime Lexus fans will find a lot to like in the 2009 GS 350, including all the expected bells and whistles, as well as refined styling cues and luxury amenities that have made Lexus a highly respected automaker for many years. It has its drawbacks, including a lack of headroom for taller drivers and reported problems with its brakes, but overall, drivers will find the GS 350 a competitive vehicle when compared to similar sedans from Europe and a good overall value.
At a Glance
After receiving some minor styling tweaks for 2008, the Lexus GS 350 luxury sedan rolls into 2009 virtually unchanged, other than the addition of acoustic glass for the windshield. Now in the fourth year of its current design (although a new engine and the 350 designation debuted in 2007), the rear-wheel-drive GS 350 competes in the midsize luxury/sport sedan segment, which includes the Mercedes-Benz E350, the Infiniti M35, the BMW 535i, the Acura RL, and the Cadillac STS, among others. While the GS 350 excels in overall reliability, good fuel economy, and its smooth ride, it has a smaller cabin that some of its competitors, which can make it a tight fit for taller drivers.
Thanks to its winning combination of sporty performance and luxury features, the rear-wheel-drive GS 350, along with its stablemate, the GS 460, was selected as a U.S. News Best Car for the Money for 2009. The 2009 GS 350 comes in Base and AWD trims.
A 303-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine, designed to produce aggressive acceleration as well as low emissions, drives both trims. In fact, the GS 350 has received certification as an Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle, which means it meets high standards for hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions. Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which increases torque at lower speeds and horsepower at higher speeds, helps to improve performance and ensure good fuel economy of 19/26 city/highway mpg.
The engine links to a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with intelligence, which provides smooth shifting and enhances fuel efficiency, according to the automaker. The transmission's intelligence also enables it to learn the shifting patterns of drivers and make adjustments to shifting timing accordingly. In addition, thanks to the transmission's sequential shift feature, drivers can shift manually by nudging the gearshift forward or backward.
The GS 350 AWD trim comes equipped with an all-wheel-drive system, which defaults torque to a 30/70 split front to back, but can shift to 50/50 when road conditions demand more traction. The system provides optimal traction and control in all road conditions.
Ride & Handling
Over the years, Lexus has continually refined the ride and handling of its sedans, and the GS 350 demonstrates the automaker's success in those areas. Well-balanced and smooth as silk, the GS 350 exhibits the best of both a luxury cruiser and a sporty sedan, giving drivers complete control on wet, dry, or rough roads. The GS 350 especially excels on twisty roads, where its responsive handling and firm but comfortable suspension make for confident driving.
The GS 350 rides on an independent front and rear suspension with double wishbones and gas-pressurized shock absorbers in the front and a multi-link configuration with gas-pressurized shock absorbers in the rear. An optional Adaptive Variable Suspension offers drivers a choice of Normal or Sport modes and automatically adjusts the suspension to ensure a comfortable ride on all types of road surfaces, depending on the mode selected. In addition, electronic speed-sensing rack-and-pinion steering ensures responsive handling, though some reviewers find the steering a bit dull.
The GS 350 delivers a quiet ride with few squeaks or creaks, thanks to unibody construction and a sound-absorbing windshield, and its V6 engine provides plenty of power for just about any type of driving.
Cabin room remains one of the GS 350's few drawbacks. While taller drivers will find plenty of legroom in the front seats, headroom might be tight. The same holds true for the rear, with tight headroom and legroom that may become tight if the front seats are pushed back. However, the GS 350 gets very good marks for its comfortable seats, which will pamper occupants over long distances. Interior storage spaces are adequate but not overly accommodating for busy families.
Cabin & Comfort
The GS 350 comes equipped with a plush, inviting cabin with leather-trimmed doors, wood accents, stainless steel scuff plates on the door sills, and an easy-to-read instrument panel with gauges designed to reduce glare and provide optimal visibility. Standard features include 10-way power-adjustable heated front seats, leather upholstery, a wood and leather steering wheel and shift knob, a power moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a 10-speaker audio system with an automatic sound levelizer and an in-dash 6-CD changer. The interior also includes golden or dark-gray birdseye maple or red walnut trim on the center console and door.
Bluetooth wireless connectivity and a 10-speaker premium sound system with an automatic sound levelizer and an in-dash, 6-CD changer come standard. Drivers can opt for Sirius satellite radio and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. Other options include a voice-activated DVD navigation system with a backup camera, ventilated seats, an electronic park system, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Some drivers find the wide array of buttons and controls on the dash initially overwhelming and a little tricky to navigate, but most find the buttons easy to operate once familiar with them.
In addition to its cabin, which can be tight for taller occupants, the ES 350 has limited cargo space, with a small trunk opening and rear-wheel arches that intrude into the trunk space. Cargo space checks in at 12.7 cubic feet, which comes up short when compared to the Infiniti G37's 15 cubic feet of space.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the GS 350 the highest possible rating of Good for protecting passengers in the event of frontal and side-impact crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not
tested the GS 350, so those ratings are not available.
Electronic traction control, electronic stability control, and four-sensor antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, which adjusts the amount of fluid pressure on brakes to improve control during braking, all come standard on the GS 350. A full range of airbags, including dual-stage front, knee, seat side-mounted, and side curtain airbags, also comes standard.
Optional safety features include a pre-collision system, which uses radar to anticipate an unavoidable collision and makes safety adjustments, such as tightening the front seatbelts, to help protect the occupants.
What Owners Think
The 2009 Lexus GS 350 competes well with the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, thanks to its solid feel and good response, according to a number of owners. It also provides a sporty ride as well as good overall value, owners say. The car's exterior styling, luxurious interior, and sound system all get good marks. However, a number of owners have reported problems with the GS 350's high-performance brakes, which tend to squeak noisily when applied. In addition, headroom for drivers over 6 feet tall remains a problem, owners note.
CarGurus owners like the GS 350's sporty handling, smooth performance, and interior comfort, as well as its reliability. However, CarGurus owners give the GS 350's fuel economy a thumb's down.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.
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