1990 Lexus LS400

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1990 Lexus LS400
RCR Lexus LS400 Thumb.jpg
Car Details
Make Lexus
Model LS400
Year 1990
Owner Isaac Brown
Episode Details
Episode Link Watch
Season The Great Maybe
Air Date March 16, 2015
Credits Bertman

The LS400 wasn't meant to turn a profit, it was meant to draw people into the brand, to help establish the Lexus name in the marketplace. And...I mean, it worked, didn't it? Lexus quickly became the best-selling luxury nameplate in the U.S., establishing itself in the market in ways neither Mercedes nor BMW could match among your regular consumer. Even today, Lexus is a name that inspires notions of a farther-reaching legacy than it actually has. It sounds like old money when it's really noveau riche.



This is not Matt Farah’s million mile Lexus. This is not Matt Farah’s million mile Lexus. This isn’t Matt Farah’s million mile Lexus. This is a different one. This is not Matt Farah’s million mile Lexus. This is a Lexus LS400, the car that convinced European manufacturers that Toyota was incapable of true innovation, until they suddenly found themselves looking at true innovation. 


LS400 stays fly,
I was raised by two women and a gay guy,
So Lexus is a car that I can stay by,
Rotors thick as toilet paper when it’s 8-ply-



In the late 80’s Toyota was being careful with risk, considering all the money they were sinking in to getting this whole Lexus brand off the ground. This is not Matt Farah’s million mile Lexus. So, they mostly stuck with what they knew and they threw in a dash of what was already out there. From the side, the Lexus LS400 looked like a Mercedes 300E, and from the back side it looked like a BMW 735, and this is not Matt Farah’s million mile Lexus. But none of that mattered, because the car was still a huge success even after a rocky beginning. 

Nah, this isn’t Matt’s. His is a ‘96 Lexus, this is a 1990 Lexus. Yes, for all the risk assessment and precautions that were taken, the LS400 still caused a minor PR disaster when a wiring problem caused 8,000 of these things to be recalled, but this was in December 1989 so people were too busy trying to catch Tango and Catch before it left theaters to notice. 

Before long, the LS400 was a juggernaut, and here’s why. Its derivative nature offered consumers all the luxury and function of a Mercedes or a BMW, but at a far more affordable cost. According to the data at the time, a third of all US consumers who were buying their first Lexus were trading in Lincoln’s and Cadillac’s to do so. You see most times, brand swingers? Brand swingers, you know people who jump from brand to brand, from Ford to Chrysler, most times these people will go from domestic cars to European cars, but never to Asian cars. They don’t really see them as a trade up. 

But once the LS400 came around, things changed. And Germany got so butt hurt about the competitive pricing on the Lexus it was any wonder they could sit down. Automakers outright accused Toyota of using the LS400 as a loss leader. What is a loss leader? A loss leader is a term for any product you sell at a price that’s way lower than the competition, it’s undercutting the competition, and sometimes it could be so low that you’re losing money, but what a loss leader can do is it can get people introduced to an awful thing called a brand. TIME TO EXPAND YOUR BRAND! TIME TO DEFINE THE BRAND! Loss leaders worked in the past. It worked for Mini, it worked for Chrysler during the Iacocca restructuring. But it doesn’t always work: Cadillac Catera. 

Loss leaders aren’t restricted to cars or big ticket items; it’s no different than a bar offering a little dish of peanuts for free or pretzels to get you thirsty for Lord Chesterfield Ale. You come in for one thing and end up with something else. At a bar you eat so much salty food that you burn a hole in your wallet trying to quench your thirst, when really the only reason you were there in the first place was to order a flight of seasonal lagers and thumb your nose at the Budweiser Superbowl ad. You know, the one that was so far up its own ass Angelsoft toilet paper got sued for copyright infringement. 

This is not, Matt Farah’s Lexus. The LS400 wasn’t meant to turn a profit, it was meant to draw people into this new brand that Toyota made, and help establish the Lexus name in the marketplace. And it worked! It worked really well. Lexus became the best-selling luxury nameplate in the United States. It established itself in the marketplace in ways that neither Mercedes nor BMW could match. Even today, Lexus is a name that inspires notions of a far reaching legacy than it actually has. Lexus sounds like old money, it, when it’s really nouveau riche; seriously, Lexus hasn’t been around that long, but it’s made enough strides to give off the impression of a larger dynasty. 

Lexus has been named most reliable brand in the United States by JD Power and Associates 14 times. In pure sales Lexus ranked as Japan’s seventh largest worldwide brand. That’s a higher ranking than other Japanese corporate mainstays like Panasonic and Nissan. Lexus is an institution, and it starts here with this car. The series one, which you’re looking at here, and Matt’s million mile Lexus is not a series one, this is a series one. This has a top speed of 149.1 miles per hour, and gets from 0 to 60 in 8.2 seconds. The LS name stands for luxury sedan and the name 400 is a general representation of the engine displacement size. 

Okay, so what about the history of the Lexus LS400? Here’s a timeline. Early 1980’s: the Lexus LS goes into development under the guidance of Shoiji Jimbu, and Ichiro Suzuki. They were figuring out what Americans wanted, and Jimbu, so ehh I just wanna say Jimbo, Jimbo assigned a team to study trends of Laguna Beach, California. July 1985: the first operating prototype was created, the same month and year that Roman was born. 1986: tests were conducted on German roads, smack in the face of the engineers Toyota was trying to beat with this luxury sedan. And then tests were conducted on American roads for the next ten months. 1987: the final design was approved. November 1988: it was named the LS400. January 1989: it debuts at the Detroit auto show. May, 1989, LS400 goes into production. August 1989: the ultimate warrior wins a second IC title from Ravishing Rick Rude. September 1989, goes on sale. Huge success. December 1989: 8000 Lexus LS400’s were recalled duing to that wiring problem I was talking about earlier. 

The LS400 series one was produced from 1989 to 1994. Matt Farah’s million mile Lexus is a series two. In its first year the series one would win Wheels Magazine car of the year and would win a spot on Car and Driver’s ten best lists for 1990, so how does it drive? Freddy from Jalopnik described the LS400 as a “Crown Vic sort of car,” and I can see how he would get that, they oh, they do have similar dimensions don’t they? But while a Crown Vic or any associated Panther body rides like a cloud, the LS400 rides like a cloud that has been doing lots of crunches. It’s firmer, little bit tighter. The automatic shifter goes in a straight line, WHICH IS HOW AUTOMATIC SHIFTERS SHOULD BE! KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE WEIRD SHIFTER PATTERNS, AUTOMATIC SHIFTRERS ARE SUPPOSED TO GO ERHHH! STRIAIGHT FORWARD AND BACKWARD! STOP TRYING TO CONFUSE ME! I LIKE TO PUSH THE BUTTON.


Mr. Regular: So here’s where I can use the V8. As I put my hammer down. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, when’s it gonna shift? It’s not shifting yet! It’s not shifting yet! It didn’t shift! 
Owner: It just keeps going. 
Mr. Regular: Ahhh-oh I stay in this lane, okay. Baaahh!



It feels modern. This car is 25 years old. Wait a minute, 25 year rule. 1990. According to the American Hot Rod Association, this car, now qualifies as a classic car. Huh, it’s a classic car now. Sure doesn’t feel like it, feels modern like anything else. The only thing that dates it a little bit is how spacious it is inside, right? Modern cars are more cramped than this, well with all the side impact blah-blah-blah, everything’s thicker now. EVERYTHING’S THICKER NOW! But it’s so above quality, so well made, when you look at a Lexus LS400, what you’re looking at is a modern interpretation of the Chevy Bel Air, a car that will go on and on and on. 



In the bar they were talking ‘bout a Lexus, 
Bigger than a WrestleMania in Texas, 
Cousin ‘bout to marry
You can call me Wayne Barrett 
Because I’m always lookin’ ahead to what the next is.

I drive a Lexus,
When I get with your daughter hey
Depends on the antics you taught her.
I’ll try to be a decent dude instead of just a recent dude,
But I’m-a get her wetter than the wa-ter.

The LS400 is an animal, 
Cultured like yogurt, you can say it’s a Danimal 
Love a nice canteen, you can call me animal, 
Have your girl over dinner, ladies love a cannibal. 

Babe deeper than a pool in the ground,
You know I’m gonna bump shotty in the Lexus while performing a round,
She can get all eight inches and no that’s not a rhyme, 
I’m-a give her eight inches because I’ll pay her eight times-
Wait what?