1998 Lexus LS 400

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1998 Lexus LS 400
Available in 1 styles:  LS 400 4dr Sedan Base shown
Asking Price Range
$2,281–$11,277
Estimated MPG

19 city / 25 hwy

Expert Reviews

By 

The Detroit News

Toyota has never paid much heed to the old chestnut about "if it ain't broke ..." We're delighted to find the latest evidence of that stubborn iconoclasm in the redesigned 1998 Lexus LS400.

We've always thought the Lexus flagship was one of the world's best luxury sedans. And if you believe it's difficult, if not impossible, to improve on perfection, the latest edition of the LS400 provides convincing evidence to the contrary.

Unfortunately, the price for perfection is dear - nearly $60,000 in the case of the well-equipped LS400 that we sampled.

He: I'm left with one overwhelming regret after driving the LS400.

She: If you're going to start into one of your whiny little tirades about sex or death ...

He: No, no, it's nothing like that. I haven't seen any Woody Allen movies for weeks, honest. It's more about money. I don't think I'll ever be able to afford the big Lexus, at least not while we're still paying tuition bills. I should have listened to Mom. I think she secretly always wanted me to be a doctor.

She: Speaking of doctors, one of our doctor friends called while we were driving the LS400. He said his mentor, who is also a doctor, was thinking seriously about buying the Lexus, but was a little afraid about the car being rear-wheel drive and having trouble getting around in snow and bad weather. That's not really a problem with the LS400, especially the '98 model, which gets a new vehicle skid control system that helps prevent you from spinning or skidding on slick pavement. It's so good, I don't think that doctor could tell whether the LS400 was front- or rear-wheel drive unless somebody told him. With this level of safety technology, it's just not an issue.

He: I was more impressed by the new drivetrain in the '98 model. It shares a revised twin-cam 4.0-liter V-8 with the all-new GS400. The engine features variable valve timing, which helps optimize performance while reducing emissions and improving gas mileage. Lexus has coupled this engine with a new five-speed automatic that is smooth and well-geared to take advantage of the V-8's 290 horsepower and 300 pounds-feet of torque. Acceleration is almost unbelievable - zero to 60 in less than six and a half seconds, which sounds more like a sports car than a luxury sedan that weighs nearly two tons. Talk about a sneaky Pete!

She: The LS400 is so subdued on the outside. The exterior doesn't scream "money" or "power." That might be a problem for some high rollers, who want their neighbors to recognize just how much cash they spent on their new car. The Lexus isn't flashy at all - not as eye-catching as a Mercedes E-class, with those "eyeball" headlights, or as sleek and sophisticated-looking as a Jaguar XJ8. On the other hand, that could be a plus for members of the medical community and other affluent buyers who want to keep a low profile while enjoying virtually every amenity you can get on a luxury car.

He: I admire all the li ttle touches that Lexus thought to include in the LS400. Oh, sure, you get all the usual accoutrements, stuff such as full leather upholstery and California walnut trim, an automatic climate system with dual-zone controls and, of course, full power accessories.

But how many top-of-the-line sedans give you stuff like an air filtration and deodorizing system with smog-sensing auto recirculation? Or auto-dimming electrochromic power outside mirrors that tilt down on the passenger side when you put the car in reverse? This is real high-tech gadgetry, but I also appreciate things like the little retractable coat hooks in the rear and the tool kit in the trunk.

The only optional feature that really annoyed me was the $2,250 navigation system, which I never did master after a week and several hundred miles in the car. You could eliminate the optional power tilt-and-slide moonroof and snazzy high-intensity discharge headlamps, and save yourself another $1,600. But you may also w to consider options like the air-suspension system and memory system.

She: OK, so the Lexus had a breathtaking sticker price. You just know some people are going to balk at spending up to $60,000 on a Japanese luxury car. But the LS400 has more going for it than just a powerful engine and a cushy cabin. Safety is outstanding, and that's reflected in the relatively low insurance rates quoted by AAA of Michigan.

You get front and side air bags, antilock brakes, traction and skid control and all sorts of additional safety-related features that translate to peace of mind. There's even a first-aid kit, for heaven's sake! And the customer care you get at a Lexus dealer is just this side of fantastic.

He: Plus the LS400 has one of the best bumper-to-bumper warranties in the business - four years or 50,000 miles, plus six years and 70,000 miles on the powertrain. In addition, you get 24-hour roadside assistance for four years and unlimited miles.

She: If you consider all the intangibles, that $60,000 almost starts to sound like a bargain.

He: Remind me of that the next time I make a tuition payment.

What we liked: Subtle exterior styling doesn't scream money or ostentation; Almost every amenity that money can buy; Powerful, smooth drivetrain; Superb safety features; Outstanding customer coddling.

What we didn't like: Breathtaking price tag with just a few options; High rollers may desire a flashier profile; Navigation system is hardly user-friendly.

1998 Lexus LS400

Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger luxury sedan.

Price: Base, $52,900; as tested, $59,290 (inc. $495 destination charge).

New for '98: Revised sheet metal, new V-8 engine and five-speed automatic transmission, vehicle skid control, trip computer, multi-function remote entry system, glass-mounted rear antenna, optional HID headlamps.

Safety features: Dual front and side air bags, antilock brakes, vehicle skid control, child-proof rear door locks, height-adjustable shoulder belts, front seat-belt pretensioners, first-aid kit.

Options on test vehicle: Power tilt and slide moonroof ($1,120); heated front seats ($420); wood grain steering wheel ($330); high-intensity headlamps ($500); navigation system ($2,250); in-dash six-CD changer ($1,050); carpeted floor mats ($112); carpeted trunk mat ($65); wheel locks ($48).

EPA fuel economy: n/a.

Engine: 4.0-liter V-8; 290-hp at 6000 rpm; 300 lb-ft torque at 4000 rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed automatic.

Competitors: Cadillac Seville, Cadillac DeVille, Lincoln Town Car, Lincoln Continental, Lexus GS400, Acura 3.5RL, Infiniti Q45, Jaguar XJ8, Mercedes-Benz E420, Mercedes-Benz S320, BMW 540i, BMW 740i, Audi A8.

Specifications: Wheelbase, 112.2 inches; overall length, 196.7 inches; curb weight, 3,890 pounds; legroom, 43.7 inches front/36.9 inches rear; headroom, 37.9 inches front/35.7 inches rear; shoulder room, 57 .9 inches front/57.1 inches rear.

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $1,849. Rates based on an average family of four from the Livonia area whose primary driver is 40 with no tickets and who drives 3-10 miles each way to work. Rates reflect multicar discount and, where appropriate, discounts for air bags and seat belts.

Where built: Tahara, Japan


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