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Used Lexus LS review: 1990-2014

The most noticeable feature of the Lexus LS series models is their near-silence and comfort. Features that put them very much in the upmarket limousine class. First rate materials are used throughout and these are assembled with meticulous care. Though aimed very much at the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Audi A8, the top-line Lexus hasn't quite managed to reach their high status in the image stakes despite 25 years on the market. But they're reasonably close and will obviously keep trying to improve.

Lexus tells us 'LS' stands for Luxury Sports, however to our eyes there's a lot more luxury than sport. Handling is safe and secure but doesn't have quite the sporting sparkle you get in the big Germans.

The LS400 was discontinued late in 2000, to be replaced by a near-new design in the LS430. April 2007 saw the introduction of an all-new LS, the 460. The numbers in the title refers to the capacity of the V8 engine in decilitres.

Interior space was good in the original 1990 LS400, but was noticeably improved in November 1994 when the initial model received a solid revamp. Given that Lexus had learned a lot in the early production years, cars from this model are probably the ones to aspire to. There was a facelift in November 1997.

September 2003 saw a revised and upgraded version of the Lexus LS430. It has features such as doors that pull themselves closed, and door mirrors that automatically fold when you switch the ignition off. There's front-mounted radar to keep an electronic eye on the vehicle ahead when you are using the cruise control. If heavy braking is required the Lexus sounds a gong to grab your attention.

This was one of the early adopters of a reversing camera. And the electric motor that automatically powers down the sunscreen in the rear window when you engage reverse gear.

Lexus LS400 is powered by a 4.0-litre V8 engine that is incredibly smooth. It was uprated several times during its life before being replaced by a revised 4.3-litre unit late in 2000. The LS460 engine was virtually all-new.

Of particular interest is the hybrid Lexus LS600hL, introduced in November 2007. Just to confuse matters, the '600' doesn't mean there's a 6.0-litre engine under the bonnet, but that Lexus considers its new hybrid has the sort of performance that would normally require a 6.0-litre engine. The 'L' in the title announces this is a limousine, with a longer wheelbase than the standard Lexus LS460 on which it's based.

Most LS600hL models were imported with an upper-luxury layout featuring just two business-class seats in the rear. A timber-trimmed console between the two seats contains controls for the Mark Levinson audio system as well as the inbuilt DVD player, climate control, rear window shades and other functions.

Dealerships that specialise in the Lexus marque are relatively scarce and tend to be confined to capital cities and major country centres. The far-flung Toyota network can assist Lexus owners as some mechanics are specifically trained on it.

Insurance isn't likely to be overly expensive in comparison with the high price of the car.

Many used cars are bought from a Lexus dealership and have been serviced by that, or another, dealer. These tend to be more expensive, but smart buyers consider it a good move.

All new Lexus models come with an impressive Encore lifestyle package that includes complimentary service pick up and delivery of the car, roadside assistance, a priority ticketing service at leading cultural centres, golf days and a luxury travel service. Buyers of used vehicles up to five years old and bought from a Lexus dealer receive the same benefits. The offerings may change from time to time so contact your local Lexus dealer for the latest info.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

It's smart to have a Lexus inspected by either by a motoring association or a specialist in the marque. In the absence of a Lexus technician, some senior Toyota mechanics are trained on the car.

Check for damage to the bodywork and the interior trim and remember the car should be close to immaculate in all areas unless it is one of the oldest models. Even then, we would expect the car to be in very good condition inside.

Look over the complete vehicle, testing each of the functions using the owner's manual to work out exactly how everything should operate.

Make sure the engine starts virtually immediately and accelerates without hesitation even when it is cold. Look for a puff of oily smoke from the exhaust when you accelerate hard after the engine has been running on a light load, or idling, for a while.

Some early Lexus LS400 cars, built before August 1992, had an oil leak at the rear of the engine. The chances are that most, if not all, engines will have been repaired years ago. Check with Lexus if there's any doubt.

Make sure the automatic transmission operates almost imperceptibly. A slight thud during a change during very hard acceleration is acceptable, anything else may indicate a problem.

During an extended road test make sure the brakes stop the car in a straight line without too much pedal effort, and that the steering is precise, smooth and reasonably light.

CAR BUYING TIP

Upmarket cars with full service records for their entire lives are likely to cost more, but are almost invariably worth the extra investment.

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
2014 $62,810 $166,760
2013 $52,360 $156,200
2012 $40,920 $58,740
2011 $28,820 $48,180
2010 $28,820 $46,090
2009 $26,070 $46,090
2008 $25,080 $33,000
2007 $20,900 $30,910
2006 $19,360 $24,530
2005 $19,360 $24,530
2004 $19,360 $24,530
2003 $14,740 $24,530
2002 $14,740 $19,360
2001 $14,740 $19,360
2000 $13,530 $19,360
1999 $13,530 $17,820
1998 $12,100 $16,060
1997 $10,010 $16,060
1996 $10,010 $13,640
1995 $10,010 $13,640
1994 $8,250 $13,640
1993 $8,250 $11,660
1992 $8,250 $11,660
1991 $8,250 $11,660
1990 $8,250 $11,660

View all Lexus LS pricing and specifications

Pricing Guides

$9,955
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$8,250
Highest Price
$11,660

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
LS400 4.0L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $8,250 – 11,660 1990 Lexus LS 1990 LS400 Pricing and Specs

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