It’s hard to find fault with the 1993 version of Toyota’s Lexus LS 400.
But I did.
There was a loose thread on the passenger seat of this week’s test car, a beige LS 400 packed with all the goodies Toyota has to offer.
But loose thread or no, the LS 400 had me all sewn up after 300 exceptionally smooth and quiet miles.
This V-8-powered Japanese luxury sedan has come to define the luxury car of the 1990s.
Along with the smoothness and quietness, the LS 400 offers impeccable quality and service – in the unlikely event you would need it – that is tops in the industry. Couple that with a resale value that Toyota claims no other car can match and you have America’s best-selling imported luxury car.
Mercedes, BMW and Nissan’s Infiniti have nothing even close to the LS 400 in sales.
Even though the LS 400’s price has risen dramatically, the car still is a world-class bargain.
Here’s the bottom line: If you are looking for a Mercedes-Benz type of luxury car, you will pay more and get less if you buy anything other than a LS 400.
The smoothness of the LS 400’s 32-valve, four-cam 250-horsepower V-8 engine has become almost legendary.
Turning the ignition key provokes little in the way of noise or vibration. You don’t hear or feel the engine. If you want to hear what’s going on under the hood, you must floor the accelerator and simultaneously strain your ears.
Although Toyota engineers have made a myriad of improvements to the LS 400 since its debut about three years ago, they have more or less left alone the engine and the four-speed automatic transmission.
As well they should. Why tinker with perfection?
Power is abundant once you get moving. I found the LS 400 to be a bit leisurely from a stop. However, once the engine reaches about 3,000 rpm, the LS 400 takes flight.
But if you drive with a lead foot, you will pay the price at the gas pump. The test car returned a little more than14 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving – well under its EPA rating.
The test car’s sticker price included a $1,500 charge for Lexus’ air-controlled suspension system, which allows the car to be raised or lowered slightly to improve handling. This is something most drivers easily can live without. I’ve driven the standard LS 400, and there isn’t $1,500 worth of difference in the ride.
For 1993,the LS 400’s four-wheel power anti-lock disc brakes were the recipient of one of the car’s more functional improvements. They are now larger and more powerful. Fast-acting and with plenty of bite, the LS 400’s brakes are BMW-like in quality. That is to say they’re terrific.
The responsive vehicle-speed-sensing power rack-and-pinion steering also is a high point in the LS 400. It helps make driving the LS 400 nearly effortless.
Unlike a comparable Mercedes-Benz sedan, you don’t sense a heavy, unwieldy demeanor in the LS 400. The car is agile, light on its feet – or, tires – and a joy to drive.
FIT AND FINISH
Aside from that loose thread, everything was perfect in the test car.
The accessories worked with all the smoothness and dependable robot like precision we have come to expect from Japanese products.
The test car is loaded with power accessories. That included the passenger seat, which now has the same seven-way adjustment as the driver’s seat.
Added equipment is one reason the LS 400’s price has risen so dramatically.
For 1993, the LS 400 gets dual air bags, bigger tires and wheels (they’re now 16 inches instead of 15 inches) and a few very minor styling upgrades. The grille is different than the one on last year’s model, and the lower body cladding has been made thicker to improve resistance to minor dings and dents.
On the inside, the 1993 model is pre-wired for two types of cellular phones, and the stereo system has been given a healthy increase in wattage.
The leather-covered seats and the wood-lined interior are pretty much the same as they have been for the past three seasons. That’s to say that the interior radiates class.
If there is a negative aspect of the LS 400, it’s the car’s uninspired styling. One would have thought Toyota’s stylists could have invented a car that looked a little more original. Instead the LS 400 is blatant rip-off of a Mercedes-Benz sedan.
Truett’s tip: The price of the Lexus LS 400 has risen a shocking $11,000 since September 1989. Even so, the car is not only a bargain, it’s one of the world’s great luxury cars.