• Jan 6, 2010
By this point, we are all familiar (if not overly familiar) with Toyota's troubles with floor mats, unintended acceleration, biggest-ever recall, etc. And if you're not familiar with Toyota's woes from reading this site, perhaps you've heard about Consumer Reports' investigation into ToMoCo's troubles. Well, guess what? The gang over at Car and Driver decided to launch their own inquisition into FloorMatGate.

Here's how they set up the tests. C/D took a V6 Camry, a Infiniti G37 Convertible and a supercharged, 540-horsepower Roush Ford Mustang. The Camry is identical very similar to the Lexus ES350 that crashed in San Diego and set off the current brouhaha. Similar in that it has an electronic throttle and push button start. Same brakes, too. The Infiniti also has electronic throttle and push button start, though it's more powerful and has bigger brakes. Also, the Infiniti has a throttle interrupt that cuts fuel when the brake is applied. The Camry – and as far as C/D knows, all Toyota models – does not. As for the Roush, why the hell not? No, actually the reason is to see if a mega-power engine can overwhelm a car's brakes at high speeds.

Here's the methodology: First they recorded each car's 70-0 mph braking distances with a closed throttle (i.e. foot off the gas). Then they recorded 70-0 mph braking distances with an open throttle (foot on the gas). Next, they upped the ante to 100 mph for both closed and open throttle tests. The results are actually quite interesting, and we will share with you that a Toyota Camry under wide open throttle can stop from 70 mph one foot shorter than a 2010 Ford Taurus under normal braking. Also, it's best to take your foot off the gas in a 540-hp Roush when you're going 100 mph and want to stop. Unless you have 903 feet to spare. Just sayin.'

[Source: Car and Driver]


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  • 47 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Good job by CD.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I still can't understand why the CHP officer couldn't put the vehicle into neutral. Panic would explain it. I've listened to the 911 call and Chris Lastralla- the passenger doesn't hear anything the 911 operator says anyway and I'm sure the panic has set in and he isn't really listening anyway. Neutral isn't suggested by the operator either.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I've wondered the same thing. Seems that they would've trained said CHP officer for events such as this. And with presumably many hours spent driving in difficult conditions CHP would have avoided panic.

        Suicide?
      • 4 Years Ago
      In light of todays story about an out of control Prius that could not be shifted into neutral nor shut down, make sure to read this article. It's the first one to nail the problem.

      http://www.squidoo.com/unintended-acceleration-toyota
      • 5 Years Ago
      ty C/D for making things clearer. This could have happened in many cars. not just toyota.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Do these throttle cut-offs apply only on slushie and other automatic transmission versions? Because I know of a few cars with which heel-toe is impossible because the throttle will not function while the brakes are being applied.

      IMO, such a feature is useful for any automatic transmission (not just a traditional slushie), but I would hate to have it on a proper manual since that would make HT impossible. Besides, I'd hope that someone who drives a manual is more familiar with the concept of neutral and a clutch would almost automatically go to neutral/clutch in in such an instance, rather than your typical clueless automatic driver who would go into "fetal curl" mode whenever anything goes wrong.
      invisiblepigeon3
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe now all the fanboy idiots will stop saying "it's the ECU!!!!!!!!"
        • 5 Years Ago
        @invisiblepigeon3
        This test in no way proved otherwise.

        You seem to have missed the larger issue.

        All this test did was show that the vehicle with a cut-off system did in fact stop much more quickly than the other two vehicles which were not so equipped.

        C/D even agreed that Toyota should implement a throttle cut-off like so many other automakers already have (which surprise, does involve the ECU) as well as a more emergency-friendly push button start-stop feature.

        Secondly, They never once tested (nor intended to) whether or not the ECU would cause the Toyota to accelerate on its own. That's the larger issue here. The fact that so many owners have logged complaints that their Toyota or Lexus vehicles have in fact attempted to accelerate on their own. This test, once again, simply tested how much the engine power affected the stopping distance of the cars, not whether or not the car would choose to accelerate on its own.

        If C/D wanted to test the unintended acceleration, they'd have to either get really lucky and happen upon a vehicle that suffered from such an issue or find someone who had a vehicle that had such an issue and test it over and over until the issue sprang up again. Considering that there have been relatively few complaints compared to the total number of vehicles sold, you can easily see why such a test was not conducted by either C/D or anyone else. This doesn't take away from the severity of the issue however.

        Thirdly, I presume that these tests by C/D were done with properly working and serviced brake systems. The brakes on the ES350 involved in the CHP accident were said to have not been in optimal condition due to a multitude of reasons including a previous UI incident, neglect, and the fact that it's a service loaner and not generally treated the best. How much do you think that would have affected the stopping distances? Considering the speeds involved, it's entirely plausible to believe that faulty brakes might not allow the vehicle to come to a stop in a timely manner or even at all if they were overheated enough.

        You combine faulty brakes(admitedly, not necessarily the fault of the manufacturer) with a car that does not have a throttle cutoff nor a start-stop system thast recognizes an emergency situation(both of which C/D mentioned and which is 100% the fault of the manufacturer) and you end up with tragedies such as the CHP incident.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "The results are actually quite interesting, and we will share with you that a Toyota Camry under wide open throttle can stop from 70 mph one foot shorter than a 2010 Ford Taurus under normal braking."

      Good to know that when Ford cuts corners...they cut on something that is not important at all...like brakes. I know that I feel much safer knowing that Ford spent the extra money to give me the ability to talk to my radio rather than invest a single dime into the brakes. I'm glad I have a host of gimmicks and a gas guzzling 3.5 V6 over reasonable brakes.

      /sarcasm
        • 5 Years Ago
        I said "gas guzzling V6"...I did not mention at all a V8...read my post again.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hmm...
        Toyota Avalon, 60-0, 140 ft.
        Azera, 60-0, 140 ft.
        Lucerne, 60-0, 143 ft.
        300, 60-0, 136 ft.
        Taurus, 60-0, 139 ft.

        Clearly the Taurus is 10 steps behind the competition... oh wait it has the second best braking in it's class, hmm... And you're still using the "V8 like economy thing"? I'm still waiting for your "facts" to back that one up. You've yet to show me the many examples of GM using a 6.0 or 6.2 V8 and getting better mileage than the SHO. The G8 GT getting "virtually" the same mileage doesn't count there kiddo.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Note to self: Don't use a G37 at Talladega or Daytona... :-X
      • 5 Years Ago
      Your car is out of control because the engine is spinning: (Yes, I'm going to repeat a lot of what everyone has said, but some people are not reading everything.)

      Step 1 - Brake. Duh. Ok, so there's talk about the brakes failing. Does everyone automatically assume a catastrophic accident when the brakes fail? I hope not because it's not the only way to slow a car and everyone should know this. If the brakes fail you have the e-brake or "emergency" brake. It's mechanical, and it employs different workings than the rest of the system so it should still be functional if your hydrolic-based system fails. If this escapes you, there are still options.

      Step 2 - Shift to neutral. Stopping the power from going to the wheels is essential. You're going to have to do it whether your brakes work or not. C/D points out that shutting the engine down shuts off power steering and brake boost, so shifting to neutral is the best option. At this point you'll come to a rolling stop somewhere, unless you're pointed in the direction of a cliff or wall you can probably survive at this point. More difficult is if you're on a long down hill section of road, like coming out of the mountains, then you want to shift into first or something.

      Step 3 - Bleed off energy. Ok this is where it takes a little more advanced thinking. Assuming you're not on the downhill course of Pike's Peak, and you're interested in stopping before your vehicle will coast to a stop (remember you've shifted into neutral), you need to bleed off energy. Turning will do this, small turns within your lane will bleed off energy faster than if the car simply coasts. Also, highways generally have dirt or ridges set in the shoulder that will bleed off energy faster. Of course, there are runaway truck ramps on some roads with long downhill sections. Lastly, if your life is in danger you shouldn't hesitate to bleed off energy by rubbing the wall or guardrail. Now, I don't mean making a 90* turn into the wall, I mean slowly easing into the wall to increase friction. Opening your windows won't hurt, but it's not going to be the equivalent of a drag car parachute.

      The engine is going to scream, the brakes will protest, the tires might squeal and if you use the guardrail or wall, you're going to lose some paint. But you shouldn't lose your life.

      Brake failure - brake failure is usually, but not always, preceded by decreased performance. This is generally pretty obvious, and nobody should be flooring their car with bad brakes. Brake failures do happen however, and everyone needs to know how to control and stop a car without brakes. However, it was the responsibility of the dealership to maintain the brakes in it's loaner vehicle.

      Traffic - you shouldn't be flooring it in traffic. If you are, I can't see how you manage to get up to 70mph. I live in LA, traffic doesn't go faster than 45mph. If "traffic" is getting to 70mph it's not getting there at a pace at which your pedal ever hits the floor, and it's not happening on any windy roads.

      /soapbox
      /flamesuit on
        • 5 Years Ago
        All good, except for the "no flooring it" bit - it's a Lexus ES driven by a meathead, so how else is he going to merge or pass in SoCal?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I said the same thing previously and was branded as a Toyota fanboy & apologist. I'm glad these findings are finally coming to light.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So if your car is suddenly surging past 70mph what do you do? Smash the brakes. When working properly the brakes will overcome the engine. Case closed.

      Bravo to C&D for doing this.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Jake: If you can get the car down to zero, you have time to pop the trans or point it into a brick wall for a completely safe low-speed collision (
        • 5 Years Ago
        THere have been so many autoblog posts about this I am not going to try to go ferret the one out, but it was stated that the Lexus in question had apparently been exposed to the stuck throttle braking several times which severely burned and damaged the brakes.

        Was the dealer incompetent? Yes. That wasn't my point. Is Toyota liable, I think so too and I am a Lexus owner and will probably buy anther Lexus at some point in the future.

        You said "When working properly the brakes will overcome the engine. Case closed." Not cased closed. This proves nothing and was not an accurate test of what actually occurred.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think all luxury cars have brake assist now.

        'As expected on a premium luxury sport saloon, the 2009 Cadillac CTS features numerous electronic chassis and engine control systems that are designed to help the driver maintain a safe course in all driving conditions, including StabiliTrak, GM’s electronic stability control system, dynamic rear brake proportioning to optimise stopping distances, and hydraulic brake assist to develop additional brake pressure in emergency situations.'

        http://www.easier.com/6687-cadillac-cts-new-technology-design-and-a-hand-crafted-interior.html

        'Braking is provided by 4-wheel vented discs with anti-lock function (ABS). The braking system contains two advanced features which help to increase braking effectiveness and controllability ? Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), which controls front and rear brake distribution depending on load condition (passengers and cargo) and Brake Assist (BA), which senses hard or panic pedal application and helps provide maximum braking capacity.' (2006!)

        http://www.infinitihelp.com/models/2006/q45/
      • 5 Years Ago
      So does that mean with the new auto G37 we can't do tq braking to peal outs and stuff?
        • 5 Years Ago
        If it does the same as Audi (and it likely does), then if you press the brake it cancels the gas, but not vice-versa. Since you push the gas after the brake to torque brake the system doesn't kick in, so you can torque brake if you'd like.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd love to see all cars come with an "extra braking option". For $200-500, I'd think it would be an easy safety sell. I realize there are always compromises in braking systems though.
        invisiblepigeon3
        • 5 Years Ago
        They engineer cars to brake effectively, with redundant hydraulics already. They also have brake upgrade kits and bigger brakes as an option on many many cars already.

        You could strap a retro rocket to the front of your car and try that if you need extra braking.
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