So we all know the story with the Lexus LS400 right? If not, here is a brief rundown on it. In the late ’80s, Toyota wanted to build a full-sized luxury car to rival the best from Germany, America & The UK. The only issue that they had was their image, see at the time Toyota was known for building cheap, reliable and long-lasting vehicles with no other real attributes apart from getting the occupant from A-B in relative comfort. this was a major problem for the brand, especially when they wanted to build a luxury car, simply put Toyota simply couldn’t bring a luxury car to the market and expect it to sell to either current SEL or XJ40 owners due to badge snobbery and on the other hand, they couldn’t sell it to the humble Corolla owner as they simply couldn’t stump up over the equivalent of £60,000 on what was a Toyota product. Not wanting to give up, Toyota decided to take a leaf out of both Nissan & Honda’s book and create a luxury sub-brand, thus creating what we all know as Lexus. This is the story of both the beginnings of Lexus and the LS400.
With Lexus standing for ‘Luxury Exports to The U.S’, this name worked out well, not just was it to the point, to people who didn’t really know or didn’t really care, the brand ‘Lexus’ pretty much rolled off the tongue as a manufacturer with a bit of caliber. With the name figured out, Toyota went on to build its first-ever Lexus branded car. Originally named Project F1, it stood for ‘Flagship One’ before eventually getting known & released as the LS400. The simple task of the LS was to be the best car the world has ever seen. Unlike its rivals from Germany, America, and even the UK, the Lexus was unbelievably reliable. Like a lot of Japanese cars of the time, it was built to work day in day out without falter or hassle. With Toyota and Lexus slowly getting customers through their doors with the original LS400, they decided to move on to the 2nd generation model in 1994.
While the second generation may have looked similar to the original, pretty much everything was updated and upgraded. It was longer than the previous generation but somehow shaved off 95kg compared to the MK1 it replaced. Add in the updated 1UZ it had carried over from the original car, it made 260bhp & 270 Ib-ft torque which meant an upgraded 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds.
With a lot of Lexus’ these days, the LS400 came equipped with an absolute ton of fancy equipment as standard and the MK2 was no different. Dual-Zone climate control was added as well as rear cupholders, in regards to the entertainment system, an in-dash CD changer was also added as well as an option. The best part though was the electric memory steering wheel, it would come out and greet you when you turned the key and then go back once you got out the car to make it easier to get in and out. Compared to its rivals, for the amount of kit it got as standard, it was by far more than the equivalent Mercedes or Jaguar, add in the lower price and its no real wonder the LS400 flew out the showroom.
What made the MK2 so good though was its packaging. See, with the likes of Mercedes or Audi or even Jaguar, the Lexus never had an LWB option which meant that it never went crazier in the price for a bit more legroom. They were able to make it longer thus giving it better interior legroom while still retaining the same wheelbase as the original.
The MK2 also got enhancements in safety with larger crumple zones and 3-point seatbelts at all possible positions. On top of all that, it also got a collapsible steering column making it one of the first cars to ever have an electrically operated collapsible steering column. While in Europe and in the US it was badged as a Lexus, over in Japan it was badged as the Toyota Celsior and with every JDM spec car, these came with even more options than the equivalent Lexus badged models. These included reclining rear seats, a GPS system as well as more exterior colors.
In 1997, the LS400 was facelifted to give it a fresher appearance, this included new headlamp units, a new grille and refreshed rear lamps as well as new front fascia, new wing mirrors and a new set of wheels. Interior wise it got retractable rear headrests, a trip computer, reading lamps and ultraviolet tinted glass. Mechanically speaking, it got a new 5-speed automatic gearbox and a new state of the art VVTi system raising power to 290bhp and a 30Ib-ft increase in torque which meant that acceleration times & fuel economy was vastly increased.
By the early ’00s, the LS400 got even more equipment thrown at it, these include the option of the CD-ROM based GPS system taken from its Japanese cousin, front side airbags, HID headlamps, a traction control system and brake assist. In Japan, the Celsior got the first-ever laser adaptive cruise control system which was big news back then. Unlike modern systems where it controls the throttle and brakes according to the vehicle in front, the Celsior’s version worked off throttle control and downshifting.
What To Look For.
While Lexus’ are uber reliable compared to its rivals, like every car they do have their issues. While Toyota & Lexus took home many a reliability award during the time of production, don’t expect these to be perfect.
First of all, due to all the equipment onboard it is no doubt that after nearly 30 years on the road something will come up and one of these is the LCD screen for the clock & climate control going black.
The power steering fluid can leak which can then go all over the alternator failing it in the process. if this does happen you’d need to fork out on a new alternator & power steering pump.
Bad spark plugs can cause a shuddering on these cars, with a V8 you, of course, have to buy 8 of these but due to plugs not being too expensive these are relatively affordable. While you are there, change out the ignition coils as these can also cause similar issues.
Catalytic converters are also an issue on these cars and replacements aren’t exactly cheap, quote a good few hundred pounds for them to be replaced. For these, it’d be easier to get these from the main dealers as aftermarket ones don’t last too long on these.
Check both the seat rails & the seatbelts as these can get tired & blocked over time. Thankfully there are a good few guides on how to fix these issues so they aren’t as bad as first thought.
The main issue really with this car and with every Lexus it seems are the eye-watering parts prices & labor costs from the dealer. Even though it runs Toyota parts, Lexus charges a good chunk more for their parts and a lot of these can be crazy expensive. Thankfully the Lexus LS400 & Toyota Celsior don’t have too many issues compared to a lot of big cars so it shouldn’t be needing these parts all the time and with Lexus & Toyota specialists all over the place, it is easy to find places that can fix stuff cheaper than the main dealers.
With prices for these hitting a very low bracket, it is very easy to find yourself lusting after one of these brilliant cars and with Toyota’s impeccable reliability record it makes perfect sense to buy one over an equivalent Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz or Audi A8. As long as you can find a perfect one in an amazing condition they’ll be bound to last for millions of miles. Parts prices and labor are expensive, especially at main dealers but with a lot of specialists around the place, it really isn’t difficult to get a majority of the issues fixed a whole lot cheaper.
Hope You Enjoy!
By Alex Jebson