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Consumer Reports Drops Lexus ?Don't Buy? Rating

Fri, 05/07/2010 - 5:25am
Manufacturing.net

DETROIT (AP) -- Consumer Reports magazine is lifting a "Don\'t Buy" recommendation for a Lexus sport utility vehicle that failed an emergency handling test.

The magazine said Friday that the 2010 Lexus GX 460 luxury SUV passed the test after a dealership updated software that runs its electronic stability control system.

Toyota Motor Corp. recalled about 10,000 of the SUVs in the United States in April after the magazine told readers not to buy them. The automaker also stopped selling them.

Consumer Reports said the rear of the GX 460 slid sideways when testers lifted their feet off the gas pedal during a high-speed turn on the magazine\'s test track. The magazine told readers not to buy the SUV because its rear wheels could slide into a curb or off the pavement, raising the risk of rolling over.

Under normal circumstances, the electronic stability control should quickly correct the loss of control and keep the SUV on its intended path. But with the GX 460, the stability control took too long to react, the magazine\'s engineers said.

Consumer Reports said it was not aware of any injuries caused by the problem.

The magazine said in a statement that it took the GX-460 it had purchased for the test to a dealership for the software update, then returned to the test track.

"This time, the ESC system intervened earlier and its rear did not slide out in the lift-off oversteer test," the magazine said. "Overall, CR did not experience any safety concerns with the corrected GX 460 in CR\'s handling tests."

But while the fix made the GX 460\'s handling secure, Consumer Reports said it is still "ponderous and ungainly," which is typical of traditional body-on-frame SUVs. Automakers have started building SUV-like vehicles called crossovers that handle better because they are built on car underpinnings.

Consumer Reports urged all GX 460 owners to have the recall work done at their dealerships. It said the repairs took about 1 1/2 hours. Dealers received the software fix last week, the magazine said.

The problem affected 34,000 Toyota vehicles worldwide, the Japanese automaker said last month.

The GX 460, which starts at about $52,000, is built on the same platform as the Toyota 4Runner. However, Consumer Reports said the problem did not occur during similar tests on the 4Runner SUV.

Consumer Reports said the last vehicle to receive such a safety warning was the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited, a large SUV. In that case, testers said the wheels lifted off the road during tests, which also posed a rollover risk.

The GX 460 recall was another blow to Toyota\'s tarnished safety reputation after the recall of millions of cars and trucks over gas pedals that are too slow to retract or that can become stuck under floor mats. The GX 460 is not covered by the pedal recalls.

But the company responded quickly to the GX 460 safety concerns.

Last month Toyota agreed to a record $16.4 million fine from the U.S. government for a slow response to the pedal problems. The government accused the company of hiding defects involving gas pedals, a contention Toyota rejected.

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