Consumer Reports Lifts 'Don't Buy' Rating on Lexus SUV

Lexus SUV
Lexus SUV

Consumer Reports

has lifted its "Don't Buy" rating on the Lexus GX 460 SUV less than a month after it warned of handling problems, following new tests that showed recall work corrected the problem. The magazine said Friday the vehicle passed its tests after a Lexus dealer updated the car's electronic stability control software.

The respected nonprofit publication issued the rare warning last month after standard road tests revealed the potential for rollover accidents. That led Toyota Motor (TM) to quickly halt sales and production of the vehicle, and subsequently issue a recall of 10,000 of the luxury vehicles, after duplicating the results during its own track tests.

In its initial road tests, Consumer Reports engineers discovered the rear of the GX 460 slid out until it was almost sideways when subjected to a standard track test involving driving the vehicle through a turn as the driver lifts his foot off the accelerator.

Electronic stability control normally works to correct such problems, but the GX 460's system reacted too slowly, Consumer Reports said at the time. In real-world conditions that could cause the car to hit a curb or the side of the road, possibly causing a rollover accident.

After having the test vehicle's electronic stability control software updated, Consumer Reports said, "This time, the ESC system intervened earlier and its rear did not slide out in the lift-off oversteer test."

Safer, but Still a Clumsy SUV

Overall, Consumer Reports said, "We did not experience any safety concerns with the corrected GX 460 in our handling tests." But it did say that the GX 460 handled "ponderously and ungainly," in a manner typical of traditional body-on-frame SUVs. Newer models, sometimes labeled "crossovers," are built as one unit and handle better.

And while Consumer Reports praised the SUV's comfortable ride, quick acceleration and quiet interior, the magazine said there are better choices for consumers' money. They include Honda Motor's (HMC) Acura MDX and General Motors' Buick Enclave SUVs, it said.

The magazine urged owners of affected GX 460s to have the recall work performed as soon as possible. The repair, which dealers received last week, takes about 90 minutes to complete.

Toyota's recall of the GX 460 is one in a string of safety problems that the automaker has sought to address this year. The biggest of those involves unintended acceleration, which has led to the recall of nearly 8 million cars in the U.S. to fix the problem.

On Tuesday, Toyota said it has repaired more than 3 million of the recalled vehicles, which exhibit problems with sticky gas pedals or have rubber floor mats that may pin the accelerator to the floor.

Last month, the federal government fined Toyota a maximum $16.4 million for failing to act more quickly in recalling the 2.3 million vehicles affected by the sticky pedal problem. Toyota agreed to pay the fine.