New Car/Review

1997 LEXUS LS 400

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Lexus

SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 52,908
Price As Tested                                    $ 63,337
Engine Type                             4.0 Liter V8 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 242 cid/3969 cc
Horsepower                                   260 @ 5300 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               270 @ 4500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  112.2"/72.0"/196.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3730 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  22.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      225/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                       none
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.28

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/25/23
0-60 MPH                                        7.9 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.1 seconds @ 91.6 mph
Top speed                                           152 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

(The Lexus line has only been in existence since 1990, and from the very beginning, its LS 400 has been a heavyweight in the luxury car market. Bob Hagin says he feels somewhat out of place in such a high-class vehicle, but his son Matt says he feels right at home.)

BOB - This Lexus LS 400 is so quiet at idle I caught myself trying to restart it twice while the engine was running. I think it's just too silent for a guy with my passion for driving old cars. It would take me quite a while to get used to such luxury. The other thing that's kind of eerie is that its almost as silent when going from 0 to 60 mph, in just over seven seconds. That's pretty quick for any four-door sedan, especially one that's built for luxury and not necessarily for performance. The power went up by 10 horses in 1995 to 260, and that's a lot out of just 4.0 liters. The factory promo sheet top speed is just over 150 mph, which is too fast for me.

MATT - I didn't try it for all-out speed Dad, but I found that the handling its pretty good too. During really hard driving there's not much lean and it sticks to the road pretty well for such a big car. Our test car had the optional electronically-controlled air suspension system, and that may have helped handling. But the strong points of the LS 400 aren't in how fast it goes or how well it handles. The interior luxury is almost without equal. The dash is obviously well though-out with driver convenience in mind, and there's even a third sun visor mounted over the inside mirror that can swivel right or left. The six-disc CD player is in the dash on the passenger's side now, so you don't have stop the vehicle to change CDs. And one of the ensuring things I saw was the fact that the spare tire was full-size and mounted on an aluminum wheel. Dad, I know you never seem to care much what a car looks like, even you'll have to admit that mounting a steel wheel on a luxury car would seem like an esthetic crime even if it's only going to a tire shop.

BOB - Come on, Matt. I'm not as bad as that, although I have to admit, looks take a back seat to practical things like power adjustable head rests, shoulder belt anchor adjustments, seats and steering wheel positions that can be pre-programmed for a couple of different drivers. I also appreciated the fact that the suspension system on the LS 400, which has double wishbones on each corner, and doesn't use MacPherson struts, which isn't as technologically advanced. It's more expensive to build that way, but I think it provides better handling, which helps keep the weight of this big car in control. Lexus has made the suspension arms out of drop-forged aluminum, too, which is really high-tech. It gets around 25 miles to the gallon on the highway, and with the 22 gallon gas tank, its range is about 550 miles on a full tank of gas of gas - if the car is driven at a reasonable speed. These are the kinds of things that really impress me about this car.

MATT - It also has a traction-control system that us skiers appreciate when the roads to the slopes get slippery. It automatically keeps the rear wheels from spinning on ice or snow. Also, the four-wheel anti-skid brake system handles the other extreme, and prevents the wheels from locking up if the driver gets overanxious with the brakes. Lexus has also opted to go for dual air bags in the dash, and new airbags in the seats, to take care of impact in the event of a side collision. And to keep bad guys from making off with the LS 400, Lexus has installed a complex system that immobilizes the engine if someone messes with the ignition switch. Describing it completely would involve using an overhead projector and handout sheets, so I'll just say that it would take a very clever thief to get away with the car, even if he had made a copy of the key.

BOB - Too bad those kinds of deterrents weren't around when I was young. Lots of cars got stolen when I was a young guy.

MATT - Right, Dad. I'm sure Bonnie and Clyde would never have been able to steal a Lexus LS 400.

BOB - Matt, I keep telling you I'm not that old!

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