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2010 Lexus GX 460


High on luxury, utility and life

Toyota at work on safety recall of vehicle stability control system in response to criticism from Consumer Reports. Also see GX 460 recall and repair response information below.

By Malcolm Gunn and Bill Roebuck

2010 Lexus GX 460Your passion for the Great Outdoors and the desire to get there in style yields a surprising number of automotive choices for 2010. Why surprising?

Despite high gas prices and economic setbacks that have taken a big bite out of big sport-utility sales, there are actually few casualties. In some cases even, manufacturers are developing new models.

That means the seven-passenger Lexus GX 460 off-roader can still power its way along or off the beaten path, only now it does so in a more competent and fuel-efficient manner.

(Editor's note: see sidebars at bottom of this story regarding the  GX460 recall.)

Fundamentally, the new GX hasn't strayed from its original mission that began for the 2003 model year. It's still based on parent Toyota's 4Runner's tough ladder-frame chassis. Of course, the GX 460 has its own sheetmetal, but maintains a close resemblance to its GX 470 predecessor. In fact, most people might have a tough time distinguishing the two. Close inspection, however, reveals the GX 460's fenders and door panels are more streamlined, the hood is more shapely and the roof rails are less obtrusive. The subtle body changes put the GX in line with its bigger, gutsier and pricier LX 570.

2010 Lexus GX 460The GX's interior has been spruced up with newly shaped seats, floor console and control panel, As well, the three-way split-folding second-row seats can be moved fore and aft up to 10.5 centimetres for more leg room and easier access to the twin power-folding third-row seats. Leather coverings are standard, as are heated and ventilated front seats.

The nomenclature change to GX 460 from 2009's GX 470 reflects a powertrain change. A 301-horse 4.6-litre V8 that connects to a six-speed automatic transmission replaces the aging 263-horsepower 4.7-litre/five-speed automatic duo. The extra grunt will come in handy as the new GX is saddled with an extra 180-plus kilograms to lug around. Despite that handicap, the fuel-economy rating has improved to 14.1/9.8 l/100 km city/highway (the old mark was 15.3/11.4) and zero-to-60 mph (96 km-h) times have, says Lexus, dropped to 7.8 seconds from 8.1. The extra transmission gear is likely the biggest contributor to the improvement. Meanwhile, maximum towing capacity remains unchanged at 2,950 kilograms. The bigger question might be whether Lexus, a leader in gas-electric hybrid technology, intends to build a hybrid version of the GX. Lexus offers hybrid versions of most of its cars while Cadillac offers a competing hybrid Escalade sport-ute.

2010 Lexus GX 460Four-wheel-drive with a low range and a locking center differential continues as standard equipment. The system splits the torque on a 40:60 basis, front to rear, during optimum driving conditions. However when making tight or sharp turns, the rear bias adjusts to 30:70 and will switch to 50:50 if rear-wheel-slippage is detected.

For added utility, the GX features a Rear Adjustable Ride Height Control to keep the vehicle level when heavily loaded. There's also standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, consisting of front and rear stabilizer bars that modulate their degree of firmness, or disengage entirely for maximum suspension travel during off-roading. An Adaptive Variable Suspension with normal, comfort (soft) and sport (firm) settings is optional.

There are a few available off-road-specific items borrowed from the Toyota 4Runner. Crawl and Downhill Assist Control holds the GX to a maximum set speed when heading down a steep hill. The system can also keep the GX at a preset pace while negotiating rocky or muddy terrain. All the driver has to do to slow down or stop is touch the brake pedal. These features show the level of commitment Lexus has to off-roaders, but most buyers won't come close to fully exploiting the GX's talents.

No, most drivers will be after typical Lexus pampering. The GX has dual-zone climate control, power sunroof, integrated running boards, multi-adjustable power front seats, a 17-speaker premium sound system with Bluetooth short-range networking, backup camera and plenty of wood trim.

Being a Lexus, the GX's 10 airbags can be augmented with a radar-based cruise control that maintains a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Lane-Departure Alert warns inattentive drivers, while a camera focused on the driver can issue warnings and even apply the brakes if he or she appears to be nodding off at the wheel.

In tight times, new-vehicle shoppers tend to buy only what they need. The fact is that few of us actually need seven-passenger seating and the off-road capability that the GX 460 offers for a base price of $70,400 (including destination charges). But for buyers who demand the utility, power, prestige and luxury, the new GX 460 is a near-perfect fit.

What you should know: 2010 Lexus GX 460

Type: Four-door, four-wheel-drive, seven-passenger luxury utility vehicle
Engine (hp): 4.6-litre DOHC V8 (301)
Transmissions: Six-speed automatic
Market position: The GX is one of a few luxury off-roaders that can competently handle most off-road adventures, even though most research suggests that few will ever leave the pavement. Over engineered for its final use? Perhaps, but that doesn't seem to stop urban buyers.
Points: Body-on-frame construction built to take a pounding; Flip-up tailgate glass handy for toting extra-long items; Better base V8 adds power and fuel economy, Surprising weight gain over previous GX inhibits performance, fuel economy; Obviously impressive list of standard and optional safety features.
Safety: Front airbags; front/rear side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; front-knee airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 14.1/9.8
Base price (incl. destination): $70,400

By comparison:

Infiniti QX56
Base price: $73,800
Nissan Armada-based wagon is big inside and out. Stout standard V8.

BMW X5
Base price: $60,000
Handling and performance top the list of the X5's strong points.

Lincoln MKT
Base price: $51,500
Roomy wagon scores points for styling and fuel economy. AWD optional.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest! Bill Roebuck is the editor of CarTest!

Posted April 18, 2010. Updated April 19, 2010. © CarTest.ca TM

Lexus GX 460 passes retest
Consumer Reports’ 'Don’t Buy' label lifted.

May 7, 2010 -- Consumer Reports is lifting the 'Don’t Buy: Safety Risk' designation from the 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV after recall work corrected the problem it displayed in one of their emergency handling tests.

CR’s engineers originally experienced the problem in a test that they use to evaluate what’s called lift-off oversteer. In this test, as the vehicle is driven through a turn, the driver quickly lifts his foot off the accelerator pedal to see how the vehicle reacts. When testers did this with their GX 460, its rear end slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways.

Although the GX 460 has electronic stability control, which is designed to prevent a vehicle from sliding, the system wasn’t intervening quickly enough to stop the slide. CR considers this a safety risk because in a real-world situation this could cause a rear tire to strike a curb or slide off of the pavement, possibly causing the vehicle to roll over. Tall vehicles with a high centre of gravity, such as the GX 460, heighten CR’s concern. CR is not aware, however, of any reports of injury related to this problem.

Lexus recently duplicated the problem on its own test track and developed a software upgrade for the vehicle’s ESC system that would prevent the problem from happening. Dealers received the software fix last week and began notifying GX 460 owners to bring their vehicles in for repair.

CR contacted the Lexus dealership from which they had anonymously bought the vehicle and made an appointment to have the recall work performed. The work took about an hour and a half.

Following that, CR’s engineers again put the SUV through the full series of emergency handling tests. This time, the ESC system intervened earlier and its rear did not slide out in the lift-off oversteer test. Instead, the vehicle understeered -- or plowed -- when it exceeded its limits of traction, which is a more common result and makes the vehicle more predictable and less likely to roll over.

Overall, CR did not experience any safety concerns with the corrected GX 460 in CR’s handling tests.

CR urges all affected GX 460 owners to have the recall work performed as soon as possible. Meanwhile, repaired GXs have gone back on sale.

With the fix, the GX 460’s handling is ultimately secure but is still ponderous and ungainly, as is common with traditional body-on-frame SUVs. In addition, the vehicle rides comfortably, has a plush, quiet, interior, and provides quick acceleration, but its third-row seat is cramped. Overall, there are better choices if you’re looking for a seven-passenger SUV, including the Acura MDX and Buick Enclave.

To help buyers see how the GX 460 compares with competitive vehicles, CR is also posting its ratings and full road test of it, available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers.

Update posted May 12, 2010. © CarTest!




2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV gets a 'Don’t Buy: Safety Risk' designation
Consumer Reports magazine urges drivers to avoid purchasing 2010 Lexus GX 460 until a fix is in place.

April 13, 2010 -- Consumer Reports has judged the 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV a Don't Buy: Safety Risk because of a problem its testers experienced during CR's standard emergency-handling tests.

When pushed to its limits on a handling course on CR's test track, the rear of the GX CR purchased slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system (ESC) was able to regain control.

CR believes that in real-world driving, that situation could lead to a rollover accident, which could cause serious injury or death. CR is not aware, however, of any such reports.

All four of CR's auto engineers who conduct the test experienced the problem in an exercise used to evaluate what's called lift-off oversteer. In the test, as the vehicle is driven through a turn, the driver quickly lifts his foot off the accelerator pedal to see how the vehicle reacts.

CR's auto engineers perform this evaluation on every vehicle tested, which includes the 95 SUVs in CR's 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 the results, CR paid for the use of another GX 460 from Lexus and experienced the same problem.

In real-world driving, lift-off oversteer could occur when a driver enters a highway's exit ramp or drives through a sweeping turn and encounters an unexpected obstacle or suddenly finds that the turn is too tight for the vehicle's speed. A natural impulse is to quickly lift off the accelerator pedal. If that were to happen in the GX, the rear could slide around far enough that a wheel could strike a curb or slide off the pavement.

Either of those scenarios can cause a vehicle to roll over. And because the GX is a tall SUV with a high center of gravity, our concern for rollover safety is heightened.

Like almost all current SUVs, the GX has standard ESC. That system is designed to prevent a vehicle from sliding out in a turn and has generally worked very effectively in the vehicles we've tested. It does that by applying individual brakes and cutting engine power to help keep the vehicle on its intended path. But the GX's system doesn't intervene quickly enough to stop the slide, and the rear end swings around too far.

As a result, CR is urging consumers not to buy the GX 460 until the problem has been fixed. The GX 460 has been on sale for about three months (as of April 2010) and about 5,000 vehicles have been sold in the US. CR has notified Toyota, Lexus' parent company, of the problem and urges the company to develop a remedy as quickly as possible and implement it in new vehicles produced at the assembly plant and those already purchased. CR has also informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In an e-mail response, Lexus spokeswoman Allison Takahashi said, "We're mystified by the results of Consumer Reports testing on the Lexus GX 460. Our engineers conduct similar tests during development of all SUVs. We will look into this and we appreciate Consumer Reports bringing it to our attention."

The designation is rare for Consumer Reports; the last time the organization judged a vehicle's performance not acceptable was with the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited in the August 2001 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

For more information, visit www.ConsumerReports.org.


UPDATE: Toyota Canada responds with voluntary recall of GX 460

April 19, 2010 -- Toyota Canada Inc. (TCI) has announced a voluntary safety recall affecting approximately 446 of its 2010 model year GX 460 vehicles to update software in the vehicle’s Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system.

Toyota’s vehicle and design evaluation objective is to meet or exceed customer expectations and regulatory requirements. Toyota’s engineering team undertook similar tests to confirm the issue raised by Consumer Reports on April 13, 2010 and we are confident that an update to the VSC software addresses the concern.

All Canadian Lexus dealers will have the VSC software update by end of April 2010. Letters will be sent to owners included in this recall in early May 2010.

No other Toyota or Lexus vehicles are involved in this recall.

Customers who have any further questions are asked to visit www.lexus.ca or contact Lexus Canada at 1-800-265-3987.


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