1998 Lexus GS 400

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1998 Lexus GS 400

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Available in 1 styles:  GS400 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
$504–$13,244
Estimated MPG

17 city / 23 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 5

By 

Orlando Sentinel

In their relentless pursuit of perfection, have Lexus engineers done too good a job?

Nearly a decade of bland technical brilliance has sent many of Lexus' well-heeled customers back to Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Jaguar - European brands that are racking up record sales numbers. Meanwhile Lexus is just treading water.

For 1998, Lexus aims to inject a little excitement into its lineup with a new version of the GS sports sedan. Once again the GS is available in two models, the six-cylinder GS 300 and the V-8 powered GS 400.

I recently drove a black GS 400 more than 500 miles in a weeklong test drive. This is far and away the most attractive and best performing automobile that Lexus has built.

In light of the performance and equipment you get from the competition - such as the BMW 540i - for about the same money, the GS 400 is a bargain.

PERFORMANCE, HANDLING

The GS400 comes with a 4.0-liter, 300-horsepower V-8 engine with double overhead cams and 32 valves. This dynamo is connected to a five-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually.

Lexus uses an electronic shifting mechanism similar to Porsche's Tiptronic system. Buttons on the GS 400's steering wheel allow the driver to shift manually and take full advantage of the V-8's ample thrust. If you get too zealous, you needn't worry. A traction control system keeps the car going straight.

Pressing the accelerator to the floor and watching the tachometer needle swing back and forth across the dial was one of the coolest sensations I have experienced recently in a car. The engine's muffled roar changed pitch as the transmission shifted gears. All this happened in a precise, well-timed, manner.

The way the power is delivered fools you. At first, the smoothness and quietness of the drivetrain lead you to believe the GS 400 isn't very quick. It takes awhile to get used to the velvety sensations emanating from beneath the hood. When you glance at the speedometer, it's hard to believe you have accelerated so quickly with such little fuss. This is not a car whose speed you can judge by ear.

Our test car came with the optional ($215) 17-inch tires that enhanced the car's already stellar cornering abilities. The GS 400 remains stuck to the road the same way a roller coaster sticks to its tracks. It's an exhilarating car to drive quickly on twisty roads.

The GS 400's power-assisted four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes must have been inspired by BMW. They were powerful, stopping the car with maximum efficiency - most impressive for a high-performance machine. All high-performance cars should have brakes this good. The speed-sensitive power-assisted steering system is another impressive part of the GS 400. The car can turn a complete circle in just 36.1feet, which is excellent for a large sedan. The steering wheel has a nicely weighted feel, and the car responds crisply when you aim the nose into a corner.

Our test car used premium fuel because I drove the car hard. In combined city/highway driving, fuel economy came in at just 21 mpg.

FIT AND FINISH

From its start a decade ago, Lexus has set itself apart from the competition by crafting uniquely styled interiors. The GS 400 carries on that tradition.

The back-lit analog gauge cluster is the first thing you notice when you turn the ignition key. Red see-through needles float over a tan or light-brown background. The gauges are very easy on the eyes.

The six-disc in-dash CD changer is another exclusive feature found in Lexus vehicles. On most other cars, the CD changer is located in the trunk.

Wood trim is used sparingly throughout the interior, but it gives the cabin a warm ambience. The soft leather upholstery is comfortable, but the seats themselves are somewhat firm. I made several test drives that lasted more than two hours without feeling tired.

The back seats are fine for two rear-se t passengers, but three can squeeze in shoulder-to-shoulder and remain comfortable for short trips.

The power windows and sunroof buttons require just one touch to open or close. You don't have to keep your fingers on the buttons until the windows or roof is opened or closed.

Aside from the classy interior and powerful drivetrain, the GS 400 also has head-turning styling.

The uniquely shaped headlights and taillights give the car a very individual look. Our black test car turned heads like no other Lexus I have driven.

Lexus loads the car with just about every creature feature you could want, including dual-zone air conditioning, power seats, cruise control, electronically adjustable steering wheel and more.

With Lexus' unmatched quality and reliability, original styling, lively performance and agreeable price, the GS 400 should give the best of the Europeans a serious run for the money.

Specifications: Base price: $44,800. Safety: Dual front and side air bags, traction control, anti-lock brakes and side-impact protection. Price as tested: $47,741. EPA rating: 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway. Incentives: None.

Truett's tip: Fast, stylish and well-equipped, the new GS 400 is the first Lexus that is exhilarating to drive and exciting to be seen in.


    Expert Reviews 2 of 5

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