New Car Review

1998 LEXUS LS400

by Matt/Bob Hagin

lexus

SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 52,900
Price As Tested                                    $ 58,805
Engine Type               DOHC 4-valve 4.0 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 242 cid/3969 cc
Horsepower                                   290 @ 6000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               300 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    112.2"/72"/196.7"
Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3937 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  22.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     225/60VR16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.28

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/25/23
0-60 MPH                                          7 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       15 seconds @ 94.5 mph
Top speed                                           150 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Bob Hagin says that the performance delivered by the new Lexus LS 400 would have been race car stuff not long ago. His son Matt says performance is secondary in this land-based luxury liner.)

BOB - It's incredible how much power Lexus extracts from the engine it uses in its top-of-the-line LS 400 sedan and still keeps it smooth as silk. The engine isn't gargantuan at only four liters, but nonetheless it puts out 290 horsepower and 300 pound/feet of torque. Both of those numbers are up by about 10 percent over the '97 version, too. The new car's 0 to 60 MPH time is around seven seconds, which keeps it a long way from being a moving hazard in fast highway traffic. The top speed is listed at 149 MPH. I'll have to take the word of the Lexus guys on that one, although I have to admit I got close to the century mark a couple of times. And while it was doing it, the interior is as silent as a judge's chamber.

MATT - That's just where you're going to be, Dad, if you go that fast very often. But you're right about the LS 400 being quiet. The company has gone to great lengths to make this car even more quiet than it was last year. The front and rear glass is thicker and the interior insulation is multi-layered in order to dampen out as much road rumble as possible. Even the external radio antenna has been eliminated to preclude the possibility of it producing wind noise. The antenna is now an integral part of the rear window. The LS 400 is a terrific road car and during a fairly long trip that Suzanne and I took, we came to appreciate the in-dash six-disc CD changer. We were in a strange town and the built-in navigation system in the car kept us from having to wrestle with a street map and winding up in the boondocks without a clue as to where we were. It also had touch-screen controls for the climate control and sound systems. The set-up is expensive at around $2300 but it's worth it to a family that does much traveling by car, or for a salesperson who calls on new accounts in different towns every week.

BOB - Since I don't travel much further than the post office and back, I didn't get much use out of the navigation system. But I did appreciate some of the car's other, lower-profile goodies. It's kind of a big boat and docking it next to a curb could be an ongoing touch-and-go situation until a driver get use to the size. But parallel parking is made easier on the LS 400 by the fact that the passenger's outside mirror automatically tips down when the shift lever is flipped into reverse. This feature could save a lot of curb-bumping in tight parking spots. Another thing I liked was the automatic headlight on-off system. The more things that a car does by itself, the better I like it - except for the driving part. Being an old-timer, I like the fact that the LS 400 has a front-mounted V8 engine that drives the rear wheels. I'm not so old that I don't still enjoy tossing a car through some "ess" turns under full power and this car does that very well.

MATT - The LS 400 can keep you out of trouble on that score too, Dad. If a driver get too rambunctious, the car's automatic skid control will cut the engine power a bit and apply the anti-skid brake system just enough to get things under control. It's all done automatically and counting this device, there are all-told more than 35 custom-adjustable or automatically controlled systems built into the car and operated by the central computer. The fuel economy is pretty good for such a big car, too. At 19 in the city and 25 on the highway, it's not exactly a fuel miser, but it's a long way from being a gas guzzler.

BOB - "Big Ticket" cars like the LS 400 have come a long way since I was a young man, Matt. With a couple of exceptions, luxury cars were traditionally large and ponderous with low-revving engines and cavernous interiors. I guess that they were smooth and quiet enough, but they looked like they'd tip over if they were pushed to the limit.

MATT - That was a very long time ago, Dad. When you were a kid, luxury cars were seven feet tall, rode on wood-spoke wheels, were all painted black and had a glass partition separating the driver from the boss. But I bet life was fun in the Roaring Twenties.

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