By on April 13, 2010

No, Troy Queef hasn’t been hired by Consumer Reports to bring a “dab of oppo” to the magazine’s SUV reviews. Nor is lift-off oversteer a particularly fun, predictable or desirable handling trait, especially in a 5,000+ lb luxury SUV. And according to CR’s write-up, the cause is a bit of a mystery:

We perform this evaluation on every vehicle we test, which includes the 95 SUVs in our current auto Ratings. No other SUV in recent years slid out as far as the GX 460, including the Toyota 4Runner, which shares the same platform as the GX.

To confirm our results, we paid for the use of another GX 460 from Lexus and experienced the same problem.

And, as CR points out, the problem isn’t so much the lift-off oversteer itself, but the extreme rollover risk presented by the GX’s clumsy drifting. The last time CR dropped the “Do Not Buy” hammer? The 2001 Mitsubishi Montero. Expect GX460 sales to fall off a cliff until the model is fitted with an electronic straitjacket.

Toyota’s official reponse:

We’re concerned with the results of Consumer Reports’ testing of the Lexus GX 460 and the suggested buyer recommendation. Our engineers conducted similar tests during the development of the new GX and had no issues. However, we will try to duplicate the Consumer Reports test, quickly evaluate the results and determine what appropriate steps need to be taken. It’s important to remember that the 2010 GX 460 meets or exceeds all Federal Government test requirements. Customer safety and satisfaction are our highest priorities. We are taking this very seriously and appreciate Consumer Reports bringing it to our attention

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46 Comments on “CR Knocks Lexus GX For Unintended Enthusiasm...”

  • avatar

    These are going to be a huge hit with the drifting crowd

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Cue enthusiasts bashing Consumer Reports on 3, 2, 1 …..

  • avatar

    This will be an interesting exercise in cognitive dissonance for internet troglodytes:
    * People who don’t like Lexus generally don’t like Consumer Reports (generally, because CR tends to smack down their brand of choice). Watching them reconcile who they dislike most is always fun.
    * People deride Lexus for being too nanny-ish in their ESC programming. Apparently, the GX isn’t nanny enough.

    Meanwhile, expect GX460 sales to fall off a cliff until the model is fitted with an electronic straitjacket

    I don’t think these sell well in the first place, so that’s not much of a loss. The GX is kind of the odd-man-out in the luxury-trucklet game: it’s much, much more competent offroad than anything save Land Rover or the G-Class, passed over for more car-like offerings (like the RX) and rather too small and unassuming to compete with Bling-Wagens.

    I always liked them, though.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve always hated the first-gen GX. So obviously a conventional SUV, yet equally obviously never going to be used like one. An Escalade never looked so silly–it’s proportions, stance, and detailing more clearly suggested an on-road-only vehicle.

      The new one’s proportions and styling are better suited to its likely role.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure what the Caddy looks like, but every summer I go to the beach with my 4WD, one of the most effortless sand haulers is the Escalade. Now the owners don’t have the low profile tires, but the Caddilacs tend to just quietly cruise the sand with nary a complaint.

      It’s a dramatic contrast to the truck drivers! Not that the trucks aren’t capable, but they, like me, have low range gear boxes and shift them there on the sand to take some stress off the torque converter. I have never seen a failed or stuck Caddilac in the sand, either :)

    • 0 avatar

      GX is a big hit with liberal officials in San Francisco. It isolates them perfectly from the rubes and yet is not too massive like GM products. They are well toned and chaffeured.

  • avatar

    So the concern isn’t lift throttle oversteer, which certainly must affect other cars, but lift throttle oversteer combined with a high center of gravity.

    Lexus is usually so conservative with their stability control programming, must wonder what happened here. New code, stat!

    • 0 avatar

      CR tends to come down pretty hard on any instance of oversteer: it usually earns the car a black tick in “Emergency Handling”.

      Which is fair, given their audience.

  • avatar

    @Sajeev: was this what you were talking about when you mentioned tossable BOF SUVs in your 4Runner review?

  • avatar

    File this along with yesterday’s article about the Explorer Ecoboost: didn’t realize either of these vehicles were still in production.

  • avatar

    There’s nothing like a video to demonstrate the problem. What they showed looked like a situation anyone could get into.

    On the other hand, it didn’t actually roll over or lift two tires.

    • 0 avatar

      I would have liked to see video of the same test performed on a lux SUV that passed their standards for tail kick-out. While the slide did appear extreme, it’s tough to tell how egregiously the Lexus offends.

    • 0 avatar

      You have to remember that this is a pro driver…..not the typical Lexus demographic. He/she probably even knows how to shift to neutral in case of SUA =)

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, it does look like a situation anyone could get into. I also think that the having an experienced driver who is performing a test knowing what the results could be helps keep it on all four tires.

      I would also like to see more videos of this test to see how it compares.

    • 0 avatar

      In Australia where Toyota dominate the SUV market, they have been criticised for having ineffective ESP systems on their SUVs. One of the motoring magazines even managed to roll one during a test at GM’s proving ground.

  • avatar

    I get all my car advice from Consumer Reports and all my appliance advice from Road & Track.


  • avatar

    Hopefully soccer moms will see this video and finally realize that “safe SUV” is an oxymoron.

    • 0 avatar

      I worked with a lady who bought a CRV, and when I mentioned that taller, narrower vehicles were perhaps more likely to roll if driven too fast in a curve she had no idea that this might be the case. This was in spite of her having a master’s degree in chemistry, which in my opinion should suggest some acquaintance with physics as well.

      …and speaking of opinions, I’m not sure why I’m even bothering to post this, since afaik none of my posts yesterday made it onto the site.

  • avatar

    Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeooooooooooooot! I used to do the same thing with my G-body Cutlass Sedan on Telegraph Road trying to make a Michigan Left when it was late and the streets were empty!

    OK so the first time it wasn’t intentional it was just a case of late opening secondary butterflies on the computer controlled Q-Jet but still! I just saw it as an opportunity to hone my driving skills, Jack Baruth style!

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Should have floored it @ 0:18 to see what happened next

  • avatar

    So it’s not the enthusiastic handling that’s the problem per se; its who’s going to be experiencing it, and where they’ll be. This hooning is perfectly safe (and actually looks quite fun in the video) on a track. But if there’s a lane of oncoming traffic a couple feet away, or a curb, or a median, or a dog, or a whole host of real-life obstacles, this spells a huge accident, especially when you have drivers at the wheel who have no idea how to handle their beast in an emergency.

  • avatar

    I’m gonna play Devil’s Advocate:

    Did they turn off the traction control (which always defaults to ON in Lexus products, IIRC) only for it to kick in once it realized the chump behind the wheel did throttle off cornering? Because those two actions occuring together aren’t very likely at all.

    This reeks of the video outtakes we saw of CR during the Isuzu SUV lawsuits, they went above and beyond to make that problem occur and the dialogue in the outtakes alluded to it. Button pushing, tire pressures, weight in the cargo area…all of it can be manipulated to their gain. And you will never, EVER see it.

    • 0 avatar

      Sajeev, those are excellent questions that could easily be answered with an unedited video. A long, continuous shot showing the ESC setting, tire pressures, lack of cargo, driver interview, etc., would look as clean as the video above, but if OK Go! can do it, I believe CR can do the same.

      Sure, some weight could be tucked away and a dummy light could lie about the ESC, but I think a long shot would be enough to convince most fair minded doubters.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll start holding my breath for that video. :)

    • 0 avatar

      Might as well enjoy OK Go! rockin’ it with Notre Dame. :)

      I’m tired of seeing videos that cast as much doubt on the reporter’s veracity as the topic they’re covering. Transparency shouldn’t be a difficult concept to understand. CR can do better with just a little more effort.

  • avatar

    Multi-track drifting !!

  • avatar

    Side Snark: I wonder how low CR’s subscription rate falls in times of economic decline. I could easily smell a rat, if I was in the rat smelling business.

  • avatar

    Any reference to Sniffpetrol is awesome no matter what the context. Perhaps get Steven Lang to start speaking like Carcoat Damphands?

    Ah, who knew a big Lexus could drive like my old beloved ’62 Corvair.

  • avatar

    On the road, these GX’s (this and the last generation) always struck me as some of the tallest, ‘tippiest’ looking SUVs existant…like a blinged-out phone booth on wheels.

    These results are not suprising, stablility control systems are amazing, but they can’t totally bend the laws of physics…add in the typical GX driver…female(sorry), distracted, and on the phone…and I’m suprised more of these aren’t littering the ditches.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    1. Someday we’ll laugh at this ugly thing much as we laugh at Gremlins and Pacers today. It’s every bit as ugly as the Aztek.

    2. Is it more dangerous than lawn darts? If so, then I want one.

  • avatar

    This reminds me of the Isuzu Trooper and Acura SLX. It’s been a while, but I believe the more softly sprung Acura was even more prone to rollover than the Trooper. Same might apply here. I would imagine that Lexus wants it to ride more like a Lexus and less like the Toyota.

    Either way, I don’t see a problem with CR. The video is pretty clear in showing it go very tailhappy without ESC kicking in. I don’t think they turned it off. They stated that it wasn’t kicking in quickly enough. If that surface was anything other than baby smooth, they would have tested the structural integrity of that roof. That would have been a rollover or crash into another object on public roads. Hey, they tested two different vehicles with four different drivers, so it’s hard to fault them there, particularly when they aren’t letting the manufacturers hand them ringers, as they purchase/lease their own vehicles for testing.

    And as to the comment of thinking that their subscription rate falls in times of economic decline… I would imagine that it would still be pretty healthy, given that people want to make the right choice for their dollar in terms of reliability/safety.

    I’m an auto enthusiast and I like them. They are usually pretty damn close in their concise write-ups of vehicles they test. And how many magazines have been around as long as they have and have no advertising corruption? They have been a tireless advocate for consumer safety and corporate transparency.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 true they do at least have the good sense to recommend the Nissan Altima as a family sedan and every magazine writeup I’ve seen on that vehicle praises it’s sporty handling. That seems more like an enthusiast vehicle than them saying “just buy a Camry.”

  • avatar

    Don’t get what the big deal is. Drive your large SUV like an idiot, pretending it’s a M3, and be surprised that it can’t handle like one? Regardless I’m still very curious as to how they induced this to happen (throttle / braking / brake fade?). I would expect the GX to have a neutral balance with its excellent torsen AWD system. Perhaps CR cooked the brakes driving it like a sports car, preventing the stability control from properly saving their ash from overdriving the tires.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that’s a severe bit of driving in that beastie, but it’s certainly possible to do (they did it), and it’s certainly possible to see just such a maneuver attempted in real life. We’ve all seen people zipping along with no regard to all of the hazards that could easily trip them up. Combine that with a luxo-SUV designed to insulate the driver from the real world, a few distractions, an unfamiliar roadway and Bingo! There’s your rollover.

      Toyota’s SMART has to be swarming this like Guadalcanal, and some aggressive code will probably be personally delivered to every owner. There aren’t many, and these owners expect preferred treatment. It’ll be a PR win for Toyota, even if this is CR bunk and Toyota’s pushing a placebo.

      I’m not saying CR did or didn’t rig the test, but they could’ve prevented a whole lot of questions by producing a more inclusive, informative, uncut video.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    I’m thinking the proper fix in this case shouldn’t involve stability-control reprogramming, but rather differently chosen suspension components to tilt the handling balance towards understeer … and maybe lower the darn thing a couple of inches while they are at it.

    The normal approach would be to increase front-end roll stiffness.

    • 0 avatar

      Brian P, we simply can’t do any of that! It might degrade off-road capabilites, and that’s the main selling point for this vehicle.

      It may take some hardware changes, but I still bet some serious brake pulsing will be tried first. I’m not familiar with the GX’s flavor of AWD/4WD, but some of that may come into play as well.

    • 0 avatar

      I lowered my Explorer an inch and it made a world of difference in taking the ‘tippy’ feel out of it, that and increasing the tire pressure to 32 F&R made for a fairly sure-footed vehicle. Just make sure the tire pressures are equal front to rear, as low rear tires will make it hang the tail out very very easily.

      In the case of this Lexus, lowering the front tire pressure will induce some understeer which will take some of the bite out of the tail-happyness.

  • avatar

    FWIW, I had a 2000 Ford Explorer, with one of their full-time 4wd setups, and a limited slip rear end (part of the towing package I think) and it handled quite nicely for a truck. The one time I had to make an emergency maneuver in it, I was closing at 55mph on traffic that I hadn’t realized was stopped and my only choice was a hard crank into an empty lane. Not quite letting off the throttle in mid corner, like CR did with the GX, but still an extreme move and even with the suspect Firestones it tracked nicely. A little body lean to be sure, but the ass didn’t wiggle one bit.

  • avatar
    Detroit Todd

    Toyota to halt sales of Lexus GX 460 SUV
    David Shepardson and Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

    Detroit — Toyota Motor Corp. told its dealers late Tuesday to stop selling its Lexus GX 460 SUV, after Consumer Reports urged consumers not to buy the vehicle.

    The automaker has sold about 6,000 of the 2010 Lexus GX 460 model since it was introduced last fall. It isn’t clear how many vehicles are on dealer lots.

    “For any customer who has purchased a 2010 GX 460 and is concerned about driving their vehicle, we will provide a loaner car until a remedy is available,” Mark Templin, Lexus Group vice president and general manager, said in a statement late Tuesday.

    * * *

    From The Detroit News:

  • avatar

    I’m going to write a book:

    ‘1000 Ways to Die in a Toyota/Lexus’

  • avatar

    Looking at the video, it seems like basic physics — something big and heavy moving at high speed is forced to do a 90 degree turn and the momentum causes it to continue going straight for awhile. They mention that the driver simply took his foot off the accelerator when making the sharp turn; i.e., the driver didn’t bother to brake. Other than installing rear tires with better lateral traction or reprogramming the VSC to slam on the brakes when the truck is driven fast around a curve, how is the manufacturer supposed to “fix” this? I’m impressed that the Lexus Hummer didn’t tip over and do a few barrel rolls under those conditions, actually. Personally, I think that anyone driving around such a sharp curve at that speed w/o braking is engaging in reckless driving, and they, not the truck, is to blame for any mishap.

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