by Jacques Gordon
The 2013 Lexus GS 350 has Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) and Emergency Braking Assist. The former operates an actuator in the steering column to adjust steering ratio according to vehicle speed, while the later increases brake system hydraulic pressure according to pedal pressure and speed of application, in effect assisting the driver in a panic stop. The vehicle has recently been recalled for problems with both systems.
Under NHTSA Campaign number 12V221000, Toyota is recalling specific 2013 Lexus GS 350 vehicles (663 vehicles manufactured between December 12, 2011 and February 7, 2012) due to a flaw in the VGRS control unit programming. If the vehicle is parked with the steering wheel turned, the control unit could “cause the steering wheel to become off-center” when restarting the engine. If the driver does not realize this when pulling away, the vehicle won’t go where it’s being steered. Although not mentioned in the recall notice, the vehicle is also available with Dynamic Rear Steering, and that control unit takes cues from the front steering control unit.
Under NHTSA Campaign number 14V270000 for the same model, approximately 10,460 vehicles build between June 8, 2012 and December 26, 2012 are being recalled to replaced a defective brake pedal pressure sensor that senses the amount of pressure the driver is applying to the brake pedal. If this sensor fails, the brakes may be applied without the driver touching the brake pedal and it will happen without turning on the brake lights. This could cause a collision with a following vehicle.
Toyota is notifying owners of these defects, and Lexus dealers will reprogram the VGRS control unit and/or replace the brake pedal assembly, which includes the brake pedal load sensor, free of charge. When the brake pedal recall was announced in May, parts for that repair were not yet available. More information about both of these recalls can be found at http://www.safercar.gov.
The sixth-generation “entry-luxury” Lexus GS 350 is all new for 2013, and it’s packed with advanced technology. It’s not the only completely drive-by-wire vehicle on the road (throttle cables disappeared years ago), nor is it the first to have potential software AND hardware malfunctions that could cause an accident. While statistically it’s far more likely for a collision to be caused by driver error, I’ll still keep a close watch on any Lexus GS 350 I see on the road ahead.
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