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By 1998, the smooth and quiet ride atop the Lexus reputation for reliability had delivered the LS 400 to the top of US luxury flagship sales. Still within its second generation, the LS received a new engine and some additional interior features. Also, a navigation system was available for the first time.
The new four cam 4.0 liter V-8 featured Toyota's Variable Valve Timing + intelligence technology. VVT+i boosted engine power, while lowering emissions and improving fuel efficiency. The LS's V-8 now produced 290 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, and it was paired with a new 5-speed automatic transmission. Lexus now claimed a 6.5 second 0-60 time for the LS, which meant that the new engine shaved one second off the prior time. Despite the LS's considerable bulk, it braked from 60 mph to a stop in just 118 feet. A new optional Vehicle Skid Control system provided some compensation for the rear wheel drive layout.
Aside from the new optional navigation system, most interior changes are subtle, like retractable headrests for example. On the outside, the grille, headlights, and taillights are all new. Sporting enthusiasts had occasionally faulted the LS for its seemingly distant relationship with the road. The soft and forgiving suspension and silent cabin limited some of the thrills that may be found in the Lexus GS sedans or SC coupes. However, the LS 400 has been marked by its serene cabin, delicate road manners, and outstanding craftsmanship. It was not a sports sedan, but neither were its more expensive German competitors, which were all being outsold.
Side-impact airbags were added as standard equipment in 1997. Otherwise, the Lexus LS 400 was unchanged. The second generation of the Lexus flagship sedan would get several updates in the following year. For now, it remained the best selling luxury flagship in the United States, with sales exceeding more expensive Euros like the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes Benz S-Class. Today, depreciation is also comparatively low.
For the eighth year, the LS 400 was equipped with essentially the same engine as all prior models. An entirely new 4.0 liter V-8 would arrive in the following year. After a power boost in 1995, this old V-8 made 260 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. The potent engine was paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission, and the addition of the optional air suspension system allowed drivers to make adjustments to suit their ride preferences.
The LS 400 interior's ergonomics and finish further illustrated why this was the Lexus flagship: leather, walnut trim, dual zone climate control, power everything. While the drive train provided smoothness and stability, the interior was well protected from road, wind, and engine noise, regardless of speed (within reason). Lexus had borrowed a retractable cup holder design from Toyota, which was often cited as the cabin's worst feature. Many late-90s LSs have reached impressive mileage marks, but once drivers find themselves in that 150-200k range, they should be prepared for rather common costly repairs like power steering pumps.
|First generation (LS 400)|
|Also called||Toyota Celsior (Japan)|
|Production||May 1989 – September 1994|
|Designer||Kunihiro Uchida (1986)|
|Engine||4.0 L 1UZ-FE V8|
|Transmission||4-speed A341E automatic|
|Wheelbase||2,814 mm (110.8 in)|
|Length||4,996 mm (196.7 in)|
|Width||1,821–1,829 mm (71.7–72.0 in)|
|Height||1,405–1,415 mm (55.3–55.7 in)|
|Curb weight||1,705–1,750 kg (3,759–3,858 lb)|