Lexus GX 460 Owners: Relax, the Fix Is In

2010 Lexus GX 460

It’s Friday, and if you get to your dealer today, you just might be able to get the electronic stability control (ESC) fixed in time to run your GX 460 through the gymkhana this weekend. You know, spin it around the airport course and through the cones. Then you can test out whether the beast can handle a too-fast, drop-throttle turn on the freeway off-ramp.

We know Lexus owners love these kinds of maneuvers. Toyota wants you back in your helmet ASAP, so it has engineered a “relatively simple update to the ESC software” and is contacting customers to come into dealers for the one-hour repair.

If you are still too scared to drive the car, dealers will provide a courtesy car until yours is fixed. They will also have their unsold GXs back on the sales lot, with the fix installed, of course.

We told you about the imminent danger just after Consumer Reports called the SUV unsafe and put out the word not to buy it. We also thought it was an overreaction, although in light of all that’s happened before and since, Toyota acted quickly and responsibly.

It’s still an overreaction. The common driver’s reliance on electronic devices like ESC to get them out of trouble is a direct reflection of how badly prepared they are to drive big, overweighted, overpowered trucks like the GX. Some of you have argued that we have to accept that fact and protect them from their own irresponsibility. Because of the sheer numbers of bad drivers, that may be true.

Whether it’s even possible to improve or change driver behavior—through tougher licensing or insurance requirements—is really a moot point. But drivers should be responsible for the control of their vehicles.

Bad driving is the overwhelming cause of traffic deaths—about 34,000 last year, an average of 93 killed each day on U.S. roads. While the death rates are going down, as a society we seem quite willing to accept these fatalities for the economic and social benefits cars provide us. Some have begun to question these priorities.

It’s a terrible trade-off, not unlike the need to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The recent explosion—that blew away an oil rig, killed 11 people, and spilled untold quantities of oil that are now reaching the shores of Louisiana—shows signs of becoming the “most significant spill in recent history if the well isn’t secured.”

There isn’t any immediate fix on the horizon for capping the well. Luckily, Toyota found a quick fix, so its Lexus drivers could continue to enjoy the safety of their ESC systems.

Apologies for getting so serious on a Friday. Let me know how (or whether) you think we can move off some of these old, deadly priorities.

—jgoods

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Used Lexus GX 460

2 Comments

  1. …And by the way, I’ve had several situations on winter roads during our winter test seasons where I might have had an accident or run off the road if not for ESC. Sometimes things happen so fast that not even a trained driver can react in time. That’s where a good ESC system really helps.

  2. As someone who has spent hundreds of hours in the drivers seat developing vehicle stability systems (brake, steering, and active suspension) I can give you my professional opinion— Any manufacturer who would put vehicles on the market for the public to drive with the kind of problem found in the 460 has an utterly imcompetent vehicle validation team. It’s not just that dropped throttle in a turn is a standard stability system test— There are a number of other driving scenarios that could result in the same lack of system activation. Toyota also reported another stability system recall, where vehicles coming out of a turning maneuver had brake activations. This is the kind of stuff we worked out in R&D and the issues never even got to validation. I have no idea what’s going on at Toyota, but I wouldn’t drive or let a family member drive a Toyota, PERIOD. ESC is no cure-all but it is very effective at preventing typical understeer and oversteer conditions from turning into tragedies, which is why it will start appearing on ALL 2012 models in this country.

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