Toyota Stops Sale of “Unsafe” Lexus GX 460

2010 Lexus GX 460

The latest skid off the road for Toyota occurred yesterday, when Consumer Reports magazine judged the 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV a “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk.” On CR’s test track the barge exhibited unacceptable lift-off oversteer when pushed hard in a decreasing-radius turn.

That means the car skidded sideways, tail out, when the driver eased off the throttle as the turn tightened. A CR spokesperson stated that the SUV entered the turn at over 60 mph. The electronic stability control system, featured on all such cars, should have acted more quickly to control the skid.

So Toyota had little choice but to withdraw the cars until a fix is found. And apologize, yet again.

The story is all over the major media and the automotive press (video of test here). Some in the car world are questioning CR’s judgment and testing procedures: Inside Line wonders whether the test is at all realistic, and in its test of the car, the stability control reacted early and aggressively.

Would drivers of a vehicle like this ever perform this kind of maneuver? Probably not, but according to CR, there are scenarios “in real-world driving” that could produce a roll-over. Yes, even for the soccer lacrosse moms driving these behemoths.

So, once again, Consumer Reports rides to the rescue of the unsuspecting motorist. We are frankly getting a little tired of their sanctimonious attitudes, which imply that all cars should behave blandly and totally predictably. One of their people said, “We want a car to be benign.”

That is the last thing an enthusiast wants. Add in the magazine’s pompous “arbiter of safety” stance, and it’s clear why most enthusiasts can’t stand CR or its recommended vehicles. Now, for a change, a 5,300-pound luxo-truck has become their target, and some are rejoicing. Here’s a comment (scroll down to NickR) on the withdrawal of the GX 460:

From a selfish point of view, I am glad. Every last one of these I have seen is being driven in a shopping mall, supermarket parking lot my some spoiled housefrau that can’t even see out of the godammed thing. It takes them 10 minutes to pull into a parking space and 20 minutes to get out.

Well, that’s kind of unfair, Nick, but we do sympathize. If the GX ever revives its market (5,000 sold in three months), we’ll be the first to conduct another lift-off oversteer test and sign up the lacrosse mom in the video to drive.

Why should we all strive to drive “benign” cars? Isn’t CR catering to the lowest common denominator of driver?

—jgoods

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5 Comments

  1. Teaching cars how to erradicate poor driving ability is stupid and nigh on impossible. Teaching drivers how to drive properly and react correctly to emergency situations would be far better. This GX is a classic case its been around in various forms for many years as its based on a Hilux/Fourunner putting extra doors ,seats luxury fittings and horsepower cant disguise the point that its a high riding pickup no amount of nanny electronics are ever going to make corner like a car and really if people are stupid enough to try driving these things fast on corners its that driver that needs tuning not the vehicle.Here all vehicles with a gross vehicle maximum weight require a class2 licence eg light truck the passing which requires knowing about high loads high centre of gravity vehicles and how this affects stability. Pehaps its time these large SUV type cars required a different licence to stop totally incompetent drivers operating them.

  2. @
    @ randy

    I appreciate both your comments; thanks for taking time to write.

    What I meant to suggest in the article was that it’s a sad state of affairs when drivers have to be protected from themselves and their errors–not to mention the risk to others on the road. I am not trying to cater to enthusiast drivers, who are very much in the minority. But we have a situation, particularly obvious in cars like the GX 460, where increasing weight, cost (including insurance), complexity, and “electro-nannies” are making cars into living rooms and insulating drivers from having to learn how to drive. Benign cars simply relieve the driver of the responsibility that comes with, well, driving.

    So do you take the protective, CR approach (which in a way seems necessary because of the sheer numbers of bad drivers involved)? Or try to be more proactive about driver training, along with real penalties to enforce the laws–in other words, change behavior? I’m for the latter, even though there are enormous problems in doing anything to change (for the better) the way people drive.

  3. Just to set the record straight, this test is called “dropped throttle in a turn” and is a standard part of the vehicle dynamics test suite. It’s an important test because the situation happens frequently in real world driving, such as when a driver drops the throttle on freeway ramp. Vehicles can react differently, some going into understeer (typical in front-drive cars) or into oversteer (common with rear drive or high CG trucks.) The vehicle’s stability system should react within a fraction of a second to this situation because if the yaw rate is not controlled, it will quickly build to an uncontrollable value and the vehicle is off the road.

    As to vehicles being “benign”, CR has it right. The vast majority of drivers will rate their vehicle control skills far higher than what they actually are, and these systems help make up the difference.

  4. We should all strive to drive “benign” cars because cars and driving have become absolutely necessary for too many people and too many reasons to treat them like the high-tech, somewhat risky new adventure enjoyed by the rich and/or daring they once were. Let’s face it, most drivers don’t know as much about and can’t handle their car as well as a race-car driver or even a good mechanic. And we know many people do other things while they’re driving these days. Do you want all those people on the road next to you driving cars that don’t include safety equipment that’s been proven to improve control and reduce injuries in emergency situations? Hard-core driving fans are welcome to customize the heck out of their super-high-performance cars and try them out on the track whenever they like, but I think setting those cars and drivers loose on everyday roads with average drivers will almost always cause frustration and danger, and I think most folks in the insurance biz would agree.

    CR does cater to the lowest common denominator of driver, but I think that makes sense. The vast majority of people – not necessarily car fans – will get a lot more “value” out of a car’s safety and reliability than its performance, and isn’t the potential impact of a bad traction control system in a particular car bigger and more worrisome than not being able to get from 0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds?

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