This week we thought we’d have a look through the listings of Car & Classic for something a bit more modern. Modern classics are, after all, hugely popular right now, as they bridge the gap between owning something retro and cool, but also something you can use regularly if not every day. Plus, modern classics often present themselves as being massive bargains, given that in the case of many, their 2020 price is considerably less than their, say, 1997 price. Which leads us neatly onto the car we’ve selected this week, namely a 1997 Lexus LS400. Quite possibly the last car you’ll ever need.
We’ve spoken about the Lexus LS400 in a previous article dedicated solely to it. It’s a car that is always worth a second look, because while the aesthetics of this, let’s be honest, quite traditional saloon shape may not be the most thrilling, there is no denying that what lies beneath is something quite spectacular. When engineers at Toyota were charged with the task of creating a new car for a completely new brand, they were told to do so without worrying about money. This was an unlimited budget project, and as such, the LS400 was engineered to a level hitherto unseen in the automotive industry. Just think about what those brilliant, brilliant Japanese engineers can do with a budget. Take that constraint away and, well, you get the LS400.
Toyota started by looking at the rivals from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Audi and others. It acquired examples of these rival cars, dismantled them, then set about building something better. As such, the LS400 was fitted with an engine that was a completely new design from the ground up. There was no ‘parts bin’ borrowing going on here. You won’t find any Corolla bits. Instead, you’ll find a quad DOHC 4.0 24-valve V8. You’ll find a four-speed automatic transmission so smooth in its shifts, you could be performing an appendectomy in the back seat and nothing would go awry. You’ll also find suspension that would make the cobbled streets of a Hovis advert feel like ironed silk. It was, and still is, an incredible car. Lexus engineers covered some 1.3 million miles in testing, to ensure the car could exist in all conditions and in all climates. And they did survive, and they still do, thanks to being to such a high standard they could make the inner workings of a Swiss watch look like battered Mecanno.
For a while, the LS400, which was introduced in 1990, was a worthless thing. This was no fault of the car, more the fault of the market. Large, expensive, luxury cars always take a price nosedive a few years after they’re launched. The 7 Series, the S Class, they’ve all been there. But, like those cars, the smart money has started to pick up the LS400 as a fast appreciating modern classic. And rightly so. An engineering masterclass and a lesson in how to build a luxury vehicle, the LS400 deserves its newfound place in the ‘modern classic’ sun.
This 1997 Lexus LS400, priced at a hair under six grand is arguably one of the best out there. In fetching metallic grey with matching leather, it comes with reams of paperwork, it’s completely original and it’s in exceptional condition from bumper to bumper. Plus, it has a mere 61k on the clock. It’s not even broken in yet! Buy it. You’ll be glad you did.