Gulfstream G400
Gulfstream G400

Gulfstream G400

The airframer’s latest attempt to offer a smaller, less-expensive alternative to its highly successful large-cabin jets looks promising.

When Gulfstream announced its $34.5 million G400 late last year, it occurred to me that I had seen this movie before—and it was not a huge box office hit.  

Sure enough. Between 2003 and 2007, Gulfstream manufactured 24 G300/G350 large-cabin jets—shorter-range and less-capable versions of its wildly successful GIV/GIV-SP/G450 series that saw the production of more than 900 units between 1985 and 2018. (The 350 had more advanced avionics than the 300.) Like the new G400, the G300/G350 was aimed at the “entry-level” large-cabin bizjet sector: customers desiring the Gulfstream imprimatur but not the price that typically goes with it. These were folks who’d ordinarily decide on a competing aircraft such as a Bombardier Challenger 604 or Dassault Falcon 2000 because they weren’t thrilled with the prospect of ponying up $5 million more for the airport ramp envy accorded a G450. 

Video: G400 Cabin Interior

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Video: G400 Cabin Interior

We look over a mockup that customers can examine at Gulfstream's new showroom in Savannah, Georgia.

Back in 2007, when I asked a Gulfstream executive how the G350 was selling, he deflected, saying, “If you really want one, we can build one for you.” It’s sort of the response you expect when delivering an off-the-rack suit to a bespoke tailor shop and asking for alterations: sigh, halting pause, and then with great reluctance, “Well, I suppose we could…”

Indeed, since the G350 and the pricier but more popular G450 were built on the same production line, a customer desiring the lower-priced option was looking at a two-year wait for delivery. Basically, whenever there was a lull in the G450 action, Gulfstream would build a G350 for you. So, if that aircraft was a movie, its Rotten Tomatoes score would probably be around 60 percent—not awful yet not great. 

Gulfstream G400 interior
Gulfstream G400 interior

But plenty good, nevertheless. The G350 featured a large cabin, coast-to-coast range, and a price only slightly higher than that of a super-midsize jet. Compared with its long-range G450 sibling, it had a maximum takeoff weight that was 3,000 pounds lighter and 550 nautical miles less range. Cockpit commonality was designed to appeal to existing customers who operated the larger G450 and G550. Overall, the economic case for the aircraft was compelling, which belied the fact that it laid a sales egg, probably for the same reason few people bought Cadillac Cimarron econobox cars in the 1980s: the stigma attached to arriving in the economy—excuse me, entry-level—model of a luxury brand, which suggested you were aspirational, not to the manor born.

So, it initially came as a surprise that Gulfstream would dust off the 20-year-old G300 playbook and expect better results with the new G400. Then again, maybe the second time’s the charm. The market dynamics are certainly different now, as is the technology that Gulfstream has to offer. 

The G400 is a shortened version of the airframer’s new-generation G500, a $49.5 million fly-by-wire symphony of computerized flight controls, modern avionics, and new fuel-efficient engines that Gulfstream first delivered in 2018. The G400 bundles all these G500 attributes into a package with a maximum takeoff weight that is nearly 10,000 pounds less and a cabin that is five feet shorter. (The aircraft overall is about 10 feet shorter at just over 86 feet.) The G400 also accommodates two to four fewer passengers, and its range is 1,100 nautical miles less than that of the G500. However, the price delta between the aircraft is $14 million. You pay a lot for the G500’s extra cabin space and range and slightly higher speed.   

And you still get a lot with the G400. It has the same generous, finished cabin cross-section as the G500: a little over six feet tall, about seven and a half feet wide, and 1,441 cubic feet of volume. The interior is available in three basic layouts with seating for nine to 12 with berthing seating for five. You also get forward and aft lavs, ample galley space, all the comforts and in-flight entertainment and connectivity features offered by the G500, and the same 175-cubic-foot baggage hold. 

Gulfstream G400 interior
Gulfstream G400 interior

With the G400, you get 10 big oval cabin windows—a signature design feature on all Gulfstreams. You get a cabin with 100 percent fresh air and a cabin altitude of just 3,255 feet while the airplane cruises at 41,000 feet. (Maximum altitude is 51,000 feet.) You also get respectable speed, 22 percent lower emissions, and compliance with Stage 5 noise standards from the pair of Pratt & Whitney PW812GA engines bolted onto the back. 

The G400 isn’t quite as fast as the G500, but it’s no slouch. It can fly New York to Los Angeles or London to New York nonstop: 4,200 nautical miles at Mach 0.85 or 3,950 nautical miles at Mach 0.88, and its top speed is Mach 0.90 (as opposed to 0.925 Mach for the G500). Fully loaded at 69,580 pounds, it can take off from runways as short as 5,000 feet. 

The G400 Symmetry flight deck boasts many of the features you’ll find on its larger G500 and G600 siblings: fly-by-wire flight controls with adaptive sidesticks, optional head-up display with a combined vision system that facilitates safe, low-visibility landings, and a predictive landing system that warns against runway overruns. 

The G400—which Gulfstream plans to begin flying in 2023—is competing against the same offerings from Bombardier and Dassault that the G300/G350 took on two decades ago. But while those aircraft have undergone some modernization over the years, their performance, features, comforts, and technology are not on par with the G400. Yet, they carry similar price tags. A new Bombardier Challenger 650 retails for $32.4 million, a Dassault Falcon 2000LXS for $35.1 million. And that’s why the G400, the sequel, might well have a happy ending. We’ll know in a couple of years. 

Gulfstream G400 at a Glance

Price: $34.5 million (2021 $) 

Crew: 2–3 

Passengers: 9–12

Top speed: Mach 0.90

Range: 4,200 nm (with NBAA reserves)

Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney PW812GA turbofans, 13,496 pounds of thrust, each

Cabin height: 6 ft 2 in 

Cabin width: 7 ft 7 in 

Cabin volume: 1,441 cu ft

Airplane length: 42 ft 5 in

Baggage capacity: 175 cu ft

Note: all data preliminary