It’s 20 years since Lexus started selling cars in Britain, and to mark the fact the company has just blown the indulgent sum of £2000 acquiring itself an H-plate example of the landmark LS400 as a heritage toy. The car in question was found on eBay, being sold by a small used car dealer in southern England with 103,000 miles on the clock, a leather driver’s seat only lightly shiny with use and an interior aroma mildly redolent of minicabs, though it doesn’t look like it’s lead that hard and unloved a life.
In fact, a delve into the owner’s pack revealed a service history book brim-filled with stamps from Lexus dealerships all the way to 84,000 miles, and a sheaf of invoices, suggesting more of a no-reasonable-expense-spared approach to its upkeep.
Which had much to do with why Lexus afforded it no more than a valet and a new set of tyres before letting assorted UK hacks loose on it at the annual Society of Motor Manufacturers Test day at GM’s Millbrook proving ground, where the LS faced a day of moderately keen lapping around the challenging hill route.
Which is not the ideal milieu for the decidedly soft handling of this big saloon, whose character always tilted towards the comfort end of the spectrum. And sure enough, yacht-hits-swell body-roll and steering that simultaneously fascinates and alarms with its level of tactile disconnection made for plenty of torrid amusement through the bends, further enhanced by quite pronounced line-tightening on throttle lift-off that I don’t remember when they were new.
The man from Lexus reckoned it needed some new wishbone bushes and attention to the steering gear. But there appeared to be little else wrong with this car, which was rattle-free, calmingly quiet and convincingly pulled by its fabulously smooth 242bhp 4.0 V8. You always had to hold the auto transmission in second gear to hear that high-precision engine rev, and sure enough, a light, creamily threshing burble broke through sound-deadened bulkhead to suggest an engine fit for at least another 100,000 miles.
In fact, some reckon these big Lexii are good for around 400,000 miles, making this car an astonishing bargain with a quarter that distance on its clock, as big barges so often are. It’s not hard to find these early LSs for under £2000, and you’ll be getting yourself a modest landmark of a machine for your money, even if it does look a bit like an inflated Toyota Camry with an ambitiously dimensioned grille.