Clean 90k-mile 1991 Lexus LS400

The LS400 was the first Lexus ever made.

Japanese auto manufacturers were rising stars in the 1980s. They had already demonstrated a mastery of compact economy cars. By the middle of the decade, they decided to conquer the luxury car segment too.

Toyota created Lexus with that exact intention. Although Honda had them beat by launching similar-minded Acura in 1986, early Acura cars too closely resembled their Honda siblings and shared their front-wheel drive platforms and small engines. Lexus, on the other hand, was a clear departure from anything Toyota was offering at the time. Supposedly, Toyota sent an undercover research team to live in Laguna Beach, California and observe the lifestyles of wealthy Americans (one can imagine this also becoming rather comedic). The results indicated a whole new brand was needed to launch a high-end sedan that could compete with the world's best. It would feature an unparalleled blend of luxury and technology.

Lexus debuted the LS400 at the January 1989 North American International Auto Show in Detroit and it went on sale later that September as a 1990 model. It was an immediate success.

The "400" stood for an all-new 4.0 liter 32-valve V8 engine, capable of 250 horsepower and 260 ft·lbf of torque powering the rear wheels. This thing was a fast and silky smooth performer. In a December 1989 Car and Driver luxury sedan road test, the Lexus LS400 won, and was the second fastest coming off the line to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, behind just the Infiniti Q45. Compared with the BMW E32 and Mercedes W126, the LS 400 had a higher top speed of 160 mph, a lower drag coefficient, lower curb weight, and a quieter cabin with 58 decibels at 62 mph, all the while remarkably avoiding the U.S. Gas Guzzler Tax.

The LS400 also featured a host of new technologies, like automatic tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with SRS airbag, power adjustable shoulder seat belts, electrochromic rear-view mirror, fluid-damped cabin fixtures, vibration-insulating rubber mounts, airflow fairings, and sandwich steel body panels.

Styling is extremely derivative, but nonetheless successful. The key is simplicity, utilizing straight lines and gently sloping forms. No shape is odd or offensive. Everything pleases. Lexus took cues from all the existing luxury cars of the time and blended them together very well. Although their cars still have no core theme today (as many Asian automakers suffer from), the original LS is something of a design classic now because it smoothed out the harsh chiseled creases of the German and Italian sedans at the time. It was a "kinder, gentler" luxury sedan for the "kinder, gentler" 1990s (yeah, right).

Lexus did all of these amazing things while not forgetting two of the most important aspects of cars, particularly high-end vehicles: cost and quality. With an initial base price of around $35,000, the LS400 was also the least expensive offering in its segment at the time, costing an astonishing $23k less than the comparable Mercedes W126-chassis 420SEL at $61,210. Lexus were also built extremely well. In 2007 the LS400 made a Consumer Reports list of recommended vehicles that regularly last 200,000 miles or more with proper maintenance.

By 1990, the LS400 was outselling Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar. Over 165,000 first-generation units were made. Lexus had won, and, more importantly, the consumer won too. Free market competition drove quality up and prices down.

Since so many were made and they were so reliable, a lot of them are still on the road today, but in varying condition. The seller of this example says they acquired it with only 70,000 miles on it and have since put on an additional 20,000, using it as it was intended: a comfortable and dependable daily driver.

Cosmetically, they say the paint is clean but does have a few chips and a scratch. They say the interior is fine but the seats show some typical wear.

Mechanically, they say they added new front brakes and a new A/C hose. They say the antenna doesn't rise but it still relieves radio waves, and the overdrive light comes on and off, but the transmission and overdrive work fine. Overall, they say everything they know of works. They list the current mileage as 90,652.

This could be a chance to acquire a quality vehicle with relatively low miles at a decent price.

Find it here on ebay in Catonsville, Maryland with a Buy-It-Now of $5,999. The seller has 100% positive feedback.

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