Stainless steel bezels for the front and rear windows, sandwich panels for noise comfort, 1.5 billion development budget, stainless steel exhaust system and windscreen wipers that can adjust their radius. The first Lexus was a milestone. A revelation. And a challenge to the established premium brands.
Admittedly, in 1983 the buzzword “premium” did not yet exist, people spoke of prestige and luxury and Toyota’s US sales manager wanted to offer his customers more. The idea of a “luxury Toyota” fell on fertile ground with Toyota boss Eiji Toyoda and the project: “Flagship 1” was born.
25 years Lexus in Germany
It smells of history and luxury. And after the good old days. A trip in the first Lexus, the LS400, is impressive. Especially the look at the speedometer. This copy has scrubbed a lot of miles and still runs like clockwork. Sure, the patina is unmistakable. But also the energy that Toyota put into this first attack on the “luxury class” at the time.
The Lexus LS400
At that time, 1.400 experts were involved in the development of the first Lexus. The first step? Buying a villa in Laguna Beach and watching US consumer behavior. What do people want from a car, a luxury automobile and what do their competitors offer? The Japanese approach was clear: we are building nothing less than the best car of our time. And the form follows the function. The benefit is in the foreground, not the effect. Typical Japanese just.
When the Lexus LS400 1989 made its debut in the US market, under the hood of an 245 PS strong V8 engine, which easily undercut the then applicable US consumption standards, the brand was an underdog. The car itself, however, a milestone.
In order to make the LS400 particularly quiet - at the time it was 3 decibels quieter than the S-Class from Stuttgart - special sandwich sheets were used. That was more constructive and much more profound than simple “insulating mats”. Vibrations from the drive train were suppressed by placing the crankshaft, cardan shaft and the position of the rear axle differential on one level. For the first time, a laser welding system based on a completely new generation of robots was introduced for the body shop.
The result of the elaborate construction? Rest and a cW best value of 0.29. 250 km / h top speed thanks to the smooth underbody. At 2.2 tons of live weight, it was important to build a powerful engine. The light alloy eight-cylinder (214 kg heavy!) with its pent roof combustion chamber shape and the platinum spark plugs brought 350 nm force with. Already this engine was controlled by an electronic accelerator pedal. In the third mix Lexus gave then 11 liter. If you read the contemporary test reports, it quickly becomes clear that the 11 liters were more the entry.
The best choice for the sheet metal was the dark green “Mio” paint. A metallic paint applied in six layers, consisting of flat, hexagonal iron oxide crystals. None of them larger than 15 thousandths of a millimeter. The effect? A deep, shimmering or rather modest exterior paint, depending on the incidence of light.
With all the luxury and full equipment, the interior should not pose any questions of operability to the driver. Unique ads, easy to read, easy to use. Classic instruments with cathode lighting seemed simple and technoid at the same time. Air conditioning in series, of course. The LS 400 was also the first car in which the remote control of the central locking no longer worked by infrared. Lexus relied on the still current radio wave technology.
Luxury and prestige in service too
Lexus offered LS400 buyers a special mobility guarantee. If you were on vacation and were more than 6 hours away from your destination, you promised a business class flight to your destination in the event of a breakdown while the Lexus came to the workshop. Back? Same procedure. Lexus sold 192 LS400s in the first year. With the quality standard achieved, it can be assumed that this “service” never had to be used.
The Lexus brand has built a loyal customer base on the German market. However, even today, after 25 years, the future for Lexus is not in the name of maximization. Small, noble and fine. One wants to be a special alternative.
Lexus and the success
While in Germany, even after 25 years, one is still one of the “underdogs”, Lexus is as successful in the USA as Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi. The leap into the premium segment has been carried out successfully there for a long time. In the home country of the three big premium manufacturers, things are a little more difficult. Which is actually difficult to understand.
The 560 PS strong supercar LFA had a V10 engine, was largely made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic and came in a series of only 500 pieces on the streets. The LFA is today a rare super sports car, but an exclamation of the sporting ambition of the Japanese brand.
Emotional SUV: NX
With the new NX, Lexus has had an SUV in the most important and fastest-growing vehicle segment since last year. The new design language emotionalizes and is easily more than 25 years away from the first Lexus, the LS400.