Buying a Lexus LS400 1990-1994
So, you decided to get a Lexus LS400? Here in this article I
will try to give you details on which year to get to fit your
budget, your driving style and your future goals for this
wonderful ride. Before I start, I would like to share some
historic perspective on Lexus.
At a top-level, top-secret meeting, Toyota Chairman Eiji Toyoda
determines the time is right to create a luxury vehicle to
challenge the world's best
A study team visits the U.S. to conduct focus groups while a
design team moves to California to develop concepts.
The first of the LS 400 running prototypes is built.
Performance testing begins on the Autobahn in Germany.
Extensive testing on American roads begins.
Management approves the final design of the LS 400.
The LS 400 and ES 250 are unveiled to the world at Detroit and Los
Angeles auto shows.
The LS 400 and ES 250 go on sale.
The LS 400 is named a Car and Driver 10Best.
The Motoring Press Association names the LS 400 Best Imported Car
of the Year.
Lexus first appears in a J.D. Power and Associates study, ranked
as the #1 Carline in the Initial Quality Study.
Lexus unveils the first new addition to its product line, the SC
The SC 300 is introduced. Lexus sweeps the J.D. Power and
Associates studies, topping the Customer Satisfaction Study
as the #1 Carline, the Initial Quality Study as
the Best Overall Carline, and the Sales Satisfaction Study
as the Best Overall Carline.
The ES 300 replaces the ES 250.
The SC 400 and ES 300 are named Automobile Magazine
All-Stars, and SC 400 a Car and Driver 10Best. Lexus
outsells BMW and Mercedes-Benz to become the number-one luxury
Motor Trend and the Motoring Press Association name the SC
400 Import Car of the Year.
Lexus again tops the J.D. Power and Associates Customer
Satisfaction Study as the #1 Carline, and the Sales Satisfaction
Study as the Best Overall Carline.
A freshened LS 400 appears with more than 50 changes, many as a
direct response to dealer and customer requests.
Lexus introduces its first luxury performance sedan, the GS 300.
The SC 300 is named to the Car and Driver 10Best list and
to Automobile Magazine's All-Star list.
The LS 400 is named the Best Import Car for 1993 by The Robb
For the third year in a row, Lexus is ranked as the #1 Carline in
the J.D. Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction Study.
Lexus is ranked as the Best Overall Carline in the J.D. Power and
Associates Vehicle Performance Study, reflecting satisfaction
after three years of ownership.
Lexus sweeps the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study,
with the Best Overall Carline ranking.
Lexus is ranked as the #1 Carline in the J.D. Power and Associates
Customer Satisfaction Study for the fourth straight year and as
the Best Overall Carline in Sales Satisfaction for the third time
in four years.
The redesigned second-generation LS 400 goes on sale.
The new LS 400 is designated Best of What's New by Popular
The LS400 was launched in the UK in June 1990 as a
one-specification model. It had a brand-new 4.0-litre V8 engine
which set new levels for smoothness and refinement. All cars
featured a state-of-the-art automatic transmission that made even
the best Mercedes-Benz automatics seem suddenly second best.
There was a minor upgrade in October 1991, when
the vanity mirrors were given illumination - believe it or not. A
passenger airbag was fitted from January 1993 and this model also
received a slightly remodelled grille.
The replacement second generation LS400 looked
very similar, though it was an all-new car, and it arrived in
October 1994. Neither car has sold in particularly high numbers,
so finding a good selection of used examples may prove a little
In this article we are only going to focus on the
first generation. I believe the first generation Lexus LS400
is the most important of all Lexus Cars because it set the path
for future models. When I needed a family ride. I
chose a 1990 Lexus LS400 for its historic perspectives. For
14 year old car, this beauty still ride like a brand new Camry.
Its smooth, its quiet and its fast. Lexus LS400 also known
as Silent Rocket. Once you step on the gas pedal you look
down the instrument cluster and the next thing you know you are
cruising 50 mph. Actually, the car feels slow because its so
quiet and smooth. You do not feel the bumps and vibrations,
therefore you don't really feel the speed. Lots of new
owners get speeding tickets for this reasons. So, drive
From the exterior view, the 1990 looks the same as
the 1993, but there are few refinements. For example, larger
brakes and more reliable then its earlier siblings.
1. Climate Control LCD turn black: After 10-14 years the LCD
starts to bleed and the temperature/climate display turn black.
The repair cost is about $200-$300
2. Rear View Mirror: Same as above mechanism
3. Power Steering: Very common, if the previous owner did not
change it. Its time to change it after you acquire the new
ride. Repair cost is about $250-$300
4. Trac Light: For some reasons, this is very common. I have
read a lot about it. Its most likely be the speed sensors.
Repair cost is about $800.
5. Bushings and Cushions: They are can be
repair for about
Things to avoid:
1. 1990-1992 LS400: Due to smaller brakes
2. Air Suspension Shocks: This was an expensive options and
its an expensive option to fix. Each shock is about $1,000
and you will need to replace all four. However, recently we
have replacement shocks for 1/4 of the price.
1. Get a 1993-1994: Bigger tires and brakes
2. Standard Suspension: No expensive Air Suspension
3. No Traction Control: Avoid Trac Light
4. Pearl White: Its a timeless color.
However, if you are tight on budget, than the
1990-1992 are very good price. You can get a nice 1990 LS400
in good running shape for about $4,000-$5,000, but do plan to
spend about $2,000 for the repairs I mentioned earlier.
Below are pretty standard futures adopted from
Model year differences
1990 The first Lexus LS400
1991 There is a slight
refinement in the front brakes to provide better pedal
1992 No changes
1993 Larger tires and
brakes, Passenger side air bag added, CFC free air
conditioning with a pollen filter, Automatic headlamps,
styling touch-ups and several interior refinements. ( '93
also rates as the most reliable of this reliable group.
This is the year to look for.)
1994 No changes, Same as
||4.0-liter DOHC 32-valve 90° V8, Cast
aluminum block and heads
||250 @ 5,600 RPM
||260 @ 4,400 RPM
||Four Speed Automatic Electronically
Controlled with intelligence
||1990-1992: Goodyear Eagle GA
1993-1994: Goodyear Invicta GA P225/60VR16
||36.1 ft Curb to Curb
|Max. Towing Capacity
|Miles Per Gallon
||EPA city 18, hwy 23. Observed during aprox.
1000 miles of road testing, 19 MPG
|Acceleration 0 to 60
- 4.0-liter DOHC 32-valve V8 Engine
electronically controlled automatic transmission with
- 4-wheel independent
double wishbone suspension
- Speed sensing,
progressive power rack and pinion steering
- Four-wheel disc
- Driver side air bag
1990-1992, Driver and front passenger air bags 1993 and
- Vehicle and audio Theft
- Automatic air
conditioning. (CFC free with filter only on '93 and
- Automatic headlamps
('93 and later)
- Fog lamps
- Dual power heated
- Liquid crystal
day/night inside rearview mirror
- Power windows and door
- Leather seats and door
panels (earlier models had a cloth seat option.)
California Walnut wood trim
- '90 - '92, 8 way power
seat for driver, 4 way power for passenger, '93 and
later, both seats were 8 way power.
- Tilt and telescoping
steering column with automatic tilt-away when exiting car.
- AM/FM stereo cassette
high output audio system with 7 speakers including
- Tool kit and first aid
- Outside temperature
gauge ('93 and later)
This is a list of the major options that were available on
these cars when they were new along with a guide on how to
recognize whether the car that you are considering has that
How to recognize it
||Look for buttons marked
2 and Set
by the drivers door handle
- Traction control system
& Heated seats
|Look for a Trac off button and
two seat heater buttons marked L and R just below the radio
and above the ash tray
- Power tilt and slide
|Big hole with a glass cover in
- Trunk mounted 6-disk CD
|Located in the right wall of
the trunk. Make sure there is at least one 6-disk magazine
included. Additional magazines are available from Pioneer
||In center console, factory unit
has a switch marked 1, 2, 3 attached to the left side of the
- Electronic Air
Suspension with ride control
|There are 3 rocker switches
next to the transmission shifter instead of 1 rocker switch.
They are marked Sport/Normal, Height and ECT Pwr/Norm
- Nakamichi Premium 280
watt sound system
the Nakamichi name on the
|Note: The first 3 items
were popular options and found on most used LS400's. The
last 2 were expensive options when new and may be hard to
find. Lexus service managers tell me that these options do
not affect the excellent reliability of these cars, so if
you can find cars with them, don't be afraid to buy them.
Of course, it is up to you to have any prospective
car checked out thoroughly by a professional mechanic
familiar with that model before you buy it.