The LS400 blew the luxury car world apart – and now you can sample the unique LS experience for just £500
How would you like to own a car that put the heebie-jeebies into the boardrooms of BMW and Mercedes-Benz?
The car was the LS400, the year was 1990, and the company was Lexus. Toyota’s super-brand was created specifically to take on the big boys on the luxury car market back then.
The timeframe for victory was six years, and the budget was huge. Rumour has it that early owners in remote locations had their services carried out by helicopter-borne specialists.
The first LS400 had an incredibly refined 241bhp 4.0-litre V8. It did the 0-62mph run in 8.5 seconds and went on to 155mph. The ride was magic-carpet smooth, the cabin an equipment geek’s dream and the build quality impeccable.
In 1992 the Mk2 came out with sharper steering and suspension followed by the Mk 3 in 1994. This had a longer and stronger body, even better improved sound insulation, better seats, dual-zone climate control, new suspension and more powerful brakes. Its 260bhp engine cut the 0-62mph time to 7.5 seconds.
A 1997 Mk 4 facelift boosted the 400’s power to 280bhp and upgraded the automatic gearbox to a five-speeder. In 2000 the LS400 was replaced by the LS430.
Not so many LS400s remain today, but the ones that are around have the potential to hit crazy mileages.
The engine should make hardly any noise. Any oil leaks from behind the timing cover mean that the cam and crankshaft seals need to be replaced. Valve cover gaskets sometimes fail at 80,000 miles. Hard, cracking hoses should be replaced with new soft ones. The change interval for the timing belts and water pump is every 100,000 miles.
If the gears don’t engage ridiculously smoothly it’s possible that the transmission fluid and filter haven’t been changed every year. Otherwise the gearbox is largely trouble-free.
The suspension is the 400’s main weakness. Looseness over bumps will almost certainly be down to worn front strut bushes. Front upper and lower wishbone balljoints break too, as can springs.
On older cars, listen for noisy front wheel bearings and creaky anti-roll bar bushes, check the front brake discs for warping and the alternator for wetness: that will be dumped power steering fluid.
Poor starting and/or running can often traced back to broken ECU capacitors. Non-functioning instrument needles and LEDs can be rebuilt. The leather-covered wheel and transmission selector might look tired, but that’s normal. A sticky powered aerial may just need a spot of lube.
Flooding in the boot needn’t be a cause of alarm either as it will most likely be nothing more than a cheap-to-replace boot seal. Bonnet support struts can fail.
So, what you can get for your money?
We found this blue two-owner 1994 car with 114,000 miles, a library-load of pictures, an MOT to February 2018 and a fully-stamped service history (with the last service carried out just 5000 miles ago) for £1899.
We also uncovered an 18-year-old second-generation specimen that’s just come back from a 3000-mile incident-free European road trip. It has the uprated 280bhp V8 engine with variable valve timing, a five-speed automatic transmission, suspension tweaks, sat-nav and parking aids – and an £800 price tag.
Running LS400s come in as low as £500. That’s crazy money for such an accomplished car.