In the last blog, I gave a tantalising glimpse of the Daimler’s replacement- a 1995 Lexus LS400 lovingly known as “Mason”.
Having had such a fine beast for almost a month, allow me to share some observations with you regarding ownership.
Where to start.. Ah yes!
I’ll be the first to admit that I like a v8 to be a gazillion litres and fed with as big a carb as one can fashion out a conveniently nearby dustbin. Safe to say I like coughing, snarling, spitting cast iron hulks hell bent on putting you through the nearest hedge backwards.
On paper, then, the modest 4.0 1UZ-FE doesn’t sound like my kind of v8 – too many valves (32 of the blighters!) and the usual Japanese clinical precision seem at odds with what I’m after..
Let me tell you though- WHAT AN ENGINE! It revs like a bastard, hurtling the big saloon forward with suprising ferocity, yet maintains a dignified silence at idle, or on a steady cruise.
Putting out between 250-260bhp (i’m not sure if mine is earlier or later spec) it never seems to labour, and makes short work of flattening hills. The wide torque curve is also ideal for the mating to an Autobox – both work in harmony to provide a smooth and serene transition along the road.
The super-duper multivalve nonsense and modest capacity has another advantage- on a recent work trip, this Leviathan Lexus returned a most pleasing 28.48 mpg (imp) over 500 miles. Phenomenal for such a large car cruising at the legal limit.
Designed specifically to compete with the 7 series and S class offerings from the pesky Germans, the LS400 had to do several things competently.
On the motorway, progress is swift and assured – the car feeling stable and purposeful as you waft along on Cruise Control. Its easily as composed as an e32 7 series. Overall visibility is grand- this was the tail end of the era when designers were able to use thin a/b/c pillars for better visibility, as opposed to thick ones required for modern crash structures.
On A roads, the bumps are soaked up as you thread between bends – the auspicious grunt allowing for the “slow in, fast out” technique to serve up repeated v8 howlings with no discernable impact on progress. The gearbox performs well here- eager to kick down and spur on.
On B roads, the width and weight of the car becomes a touch telling, as does the disconnection in feel betwixt driver and controls. Keen to hear the v8 scream, I’ve found myself fast approaching a corner with a touch more pace than grace. Thankfully, its a docile big bugger and helming it in is no hard task – I’m working on being slightly more sensible when on the Duke’s Pass though!
Its not quite as comfortable as an XJ40 Jag, or as nimble as the BMW e32 but it is definately a compromise that does not leave you feeling frustrated! A large exec saloon you can schlep 400 miles in, and then play with down the lanes on the last few miles to home is a wonderous thing!
Again, the LS400 is not my normal cup of tea – indeed it apes much more of the slab- sided drudgery of the e38 BMW 7 series, over the the “Cad in a good suit” looks of the earlier e32.
However, where Lexus have suceeded is in creating that sence of imposition that apes the menacing presence of a good exec saloon. If Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels was filmed in Tokyo, then “Big Chris” would have driven an LS400. A v8 and heavy doors are key to his requirements.
The rear of the car is superbly bland, giving little away of the nature of the Beast, whereas the front wears its scars with pride. The straight lines convey a certain arrogance and appear mightily effective at chaperoning those sans v8 out the way. I’ll get those gawdawful talepipes rectified ASAP!
Interiors are a very important thing to get right in an Exec saloon – after all, they’re where your buyer (and their driver!) will spend most of their time.
Here’s where the old Lexus falls a bit behind. If I’d paid £49k in 1995 for one of these, I’d expect to get something a little better than Carina E/Avensis indicator/wiper stalks and wood so plastic, it looks like it came out a pound store.
Additionally, it’d be bloody handy if the cruise control stalk was to be found in the one location, rather than orbiting like a demented moon in relation to the steering wheel.
The leather is not as supple as you’d like, but has stood up to the passing of time incredibly well, so I’ll let it off. The seats are well sprung, and electrically adjusted in the front. Combine this with an electrically adjustible (reach and height) steering column and it is easy to get a comfortable driving position.
The cupholders blocking the ability to open the lower storage compartment in the armrest is a minor irritation.
The ultimate “cool gadget” award is split between the Dashboard and the electrically adjustable Seatbelt height (yes, really!).
I think the Seatbelt adjustment just shades it though,as the dash is woeful at communicating any extra information the driver may need. You get 2 trip ODOs and the main car Mileometer – no trip computer.
A worthy contender for your hard earned bargain barge cash – strongest point is definately the engine, luckily the chassis and ride comfort back it up, taking your mind off the less than glamourous interior.
I can see it being on the Fu’gutty fleet for a while!