We purchased this to replace our trusty Genesis Silver B with cast-iron grates. After 10 years of frequent use, I was looking for something with more flexibility and capacity. I also had grown tired of the rust issues with the cast iron grates (yes, I know about 'seasoning'), but wanted to retain the high heat advantages that cast iron offers. The Summit S-470 has more than met my expectations. If you plan to feed a small army, consider the 600-series, but for most backyard uses the 400-series has *plenty* of usable grill area.
* High-quality stainless construction. Unlike the lower-cost Weber grills and virtually *all* of the competitive alternatives, the Summit grills are made mostly of 304-grade stainless steel. This has much higher nickel content, and as a result is substantially more corrosion resistant (and more expensive). The easiest way to identify cheap stainless is that it is magnetic (so take a magnet when you compare grills). Improved corrosion resistance means that the exterior will remain beautiful for years, and the grates will last indefinitely.
* 7 independent burners on the S-470 (in addition to the side burner). Four main burners, one searing burner, one burner for the built-in stainless smoke box, and one infrared burner on the rear cover. All except the infrared burner run front-to-back. With most of them active, the grill reaches >700 degrees F in ten minutes. This provides incredible flexibility. Extremely high direct heat, completely indirect heat, crispy skin on rotisserie, lots of smoke at low heat, only part of the grill at high heat, etc... - no problem. You are limited only by your imagination, not your tools.
* Extremely thick (9.5mm) grates provide excellent searing and heat retention. These work at least as well as the cast-iron grates on our old grill, but are much easier to maintain.
* High double-wall lid. This makes the grill space under the warming rack actually usable! The double-wall substantially improves performance in cold or rainy weather, and requires less gas to keep the grill hot under all conditions.
* Pop-up rotisserie. It is extremely easy to use, and quickly folds away in a weather-protected stainless pocket. Other thoughtful touches include obvious hanging storage areas for the spit and spikes in the cabinet.
* Rodent-resistant cabinet. The cabinet has double-walled doors with secure magnetic latches, lots of ventilation, and no gaping holes.
* Very Expensive. Even on sale, the S-470 is about 3x the cost of a Genesis grill. Only you can decide if the extra flexibility is worth the extra cost. In our case I expect to get 15+ years out of this grill, and the cost is comparable to some good-quality kitchen appliances. However, the very high cost is the main reason I give this grill only 4 stars.
* Side burner has limited heat range. Presumably to prevent blow-outs that would cause safety issues, the range on the side burner is only hot to very hot. Simmering at low heat is basically impossible. For my next trick I plan to try adding a thick solid burner plate, but for now the side burner mostly does not get used.
* Lighted controls are mostly a gimmick. Fortunately they are LEDs, so corrosion should not be an issue and the batteries last for many hours. However, the lights only work on the four main burner controls, and are irritatingly bright when you happen to glance at the gap between the knob and the cabinet while reaching for the control. I added some white shrink tubing to the end of the LEDs to eliminate the latter issue, but overall the lighted controls offer limited benefit.
* Several other reviews mention a design flaw in the Summit grills which allows rainwater to flow from the back of the grill into the grease pan (making a big mess in the floor of the cabinet). Fortunately there is a simple fix. On our S-470 I put an aluminum flashing on the rear of the case using one of the bolts on each end of the grill box, similar to the way Weber handles water flow on the front. A 12" wide roll of aluminum flashing was only ten dollars at Lowes, and I cut it with scissors to fit. Now even if I forget to reinstall the cover, no water drips into the grease pan. This is not an issue with the Weber Genesis grills because the lid design is completely different (but one of the trade-offs is much lower interior space). Weber really should make something like this a running production change.
* Do *NOT* buy the Weber-brand grill cover. I like most of Weber's stuff, but their covers are very poor quality. Buy the Veranda BBQ Cart Cover
instead. The 'Large' size fits the Summit 400-series perfectly, and the construction and design are far superior to the Weber covers.
* These puppies use LOTS of gas! I am very glad that we were able to easily pipe natural gas to a convenient location. I can hardly imagine how fast we would be running through propane at >3x the cost!!
* If you are evaluating the stainless Genesis models, you really should consider the S-450 or S-470. The construction is substantially better and the finish will be much easier to maintain. Basically I would recommend sticking with the less expensive porcelain models, or stepping-up to the Summit grills. In addition to better materials, the front-to-back burners offer much more flexibility and control, and the side table is not covered with knobs.
* Check pricing. I buy a lot of stuff at Amazon, but we were able to find this grill for substantially (~20%) less at another reputable online vendor.
* The natural gas hose is quite thick and heavy, is apparently armored inside the PVC exterior coating, and comes with a good-quality brass 1/2" quick-disconnect. The connector on the end of the quick-disconnect is a female 1/2" IPS thread (i.e., standard steel pipe thread), so you need a male 1/2" IPS thread on the end of your supply line. Be sure to put a "O W G" (Oil/Water/Gas) rated ball valve immediately before the hose connection, and only use pipe dope or Teflon tape rated for use with gas.
* In California, galvanized pipe is *required* for outdoor gas use. According to PG&E, the western gas supply has very low levels of sulfur, so the old concerns about flaking and corrosion inside galvanized pipe are not an issue here in California.
* For rare situations where you need more grill capacity, consider the relatively inexpensive Rib-O-Lator. This is essentially a ferris-wheel with stainless trays, and will hold an amazing amount of food (and still leave parts of the grill available). There is at least one Rib-O-Lator (or Rib-O-Wheel) YouTube video with the Summit S-470, and the tall lid clearly helps. We use it mostly for ribs (surprise!), and ours fits easily inside the bottom cabinet when not in use.
* Not 100% made in USA. Several of the boxes inside the crate were clearly labeled "Made in China," including the rotisserie and both tables.
* Remove the door handles and the doors from the cabinet before removing the protective plastic coating. The doors snap-out easily if you depress the top pin, and the plastic coating is much easier to remove completely if the handles are not in the way. Each handle is held on by two Phillips-head screws and is very easy to reinstall.
* The crate weighs about 260 lbs, but if you remove the various boxes from inside the cabinet and fire-box, two people can remove the shell from the pallet. After that, you can easily roll the grill on any hard surface, and assembly is straightforward. The most tedious part of "assembly" was removing the protective plastic coating and collapsing all of the cardboard debris.
Updated July 2010
We use this grill about two or three times a week, and remain very happy. I would definitely buy this again. I've added some photos to illustrate the modifications referenced in the original review. Note that if you regularly use the smoker, the exterior stainless will inevitably get discolored near the right-side and front edges of the cover.