Lexus LS400 | Shed of the Week

There are good sheds and great sheds – then there is the LS400

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, 15 September 2023 / Loading comments

If there was a voting sheet for the holy grail of shedding, the Lexus LS400 would surely feature on it in bold type. 

LS stood for Luxury Sedan but that was massively underselling it. This 4.0 V8 powered saloon was conceived by Toyota to challenge the best European luxury cars, and then built without compromise to defeat them. The target market was perfectly happy to ignore the press’s misgivings about its style (or lack of it) and on-the-limit handling (ditto) in exchange for the real-world pleasures of plush comfort, effortless performance, astonishing refinement and peerless reliability.  

The Lexus proposition of furious excellence extended way beyond the initial purchase too, thanks to Toyota’s equally uncompromising approach to customer service. Stories of white-coated technicians being helicoptered into remote owners’ properties to carry out servicing tasks sounded like urban myths but often turned out to be true. 

The 1994-on second generation LS400 was even better than its standard-setting predecessor. It retained the wondrous 1UZ-FE engine, albeit lightened and friction-reduced to lift peak power up from 250hp to 260hp and the torque from 260lb ft to 273lb ft. The four-speed auto box received a gated shift lever, a more efficient torque converter and new gearing to put the Lexus on top of the class for power-to-weight ratio, acceleration (0-62mph in 7.5 seconds) and fuel efficiency. The seats were internally redesigned with suspension-style coils, torsion springs and anti-roll bars and the wheelbase was lengthened to create an extra 66mm of rear legroom. Despite its deliberately staid appearance the car was surprisingly efficient through the air with a class-leading drag coefficient figure of 0.28. On top of all that it was 94kg lighter than the first LS. 

Once, LS400s were ten a penny, but nowadays they’re a much rarer sight in the ‘to clear’ ads, which is why Shed hasn’t been able to bring you one in nearly six years. The last one on here in October 2017 was a fully-historied 1997 96,000-miler in Doom Blue that was going for £1,495, a price described by Shed at the time as ‘a bit rich’. Ah, how times change. Shed can tell you that today, in September 2023, that same car is now up to 131,000 miles and has just breezed through another test with only a couple of minor defects.

Today’s specimen – another gen-two LS, but this time from late 1995 – has done quite a few more miles, is even more rich at £2,000, and has gold badges all over it, but even taking that lot into account this is a car that won’t be sticking around for very long. It’s at 182,000 miles at the moment, only 22,000 of which have been done in the last 18 years. The handful of advisories showing up on the MOT history over that period have all been for consumable items, the only comment on last November’s test being for a worn front tyre. So, if we gloss over the average fuel consumption figure of 23mpg and the annual car tax of £325, they can be very cheap to run. Having said that, as ex-PH honcho Paul Garlick will tell you, they can bite you in the bum if the suspension goes wrong (worn front strut bushes, cracking springs, busted front wishbone balljoints, non-bushy anti-roll bar bushes). Front wheel bearings will go too, and front brake discs warp.  

Shed had an LS once. He got rid of it because it was so quiet inside the cabin he no longer had any excuse for not hearing Mrs Shed’s random chunnerings. The motor should be virtually silent, and smooth enough to fool you into trying to start it when it’s already running. New belts and water pumps are due every 100,000 miles. If the gearbox isn’t delivering buttery changes it’s possible that the annual fluid and filter changes haven’t been kept up. Oil escaping from the timing cover could mean it’s time for new cam and/or crankshaft seals. Dampness around the alternator is usually down to leaks from the power steering system.

On the plus side, replacing the gold badges with chrome ones won’t cost much, and if you want to replace the worn front seat it will take you even less time than it took Shed to find a full set of decent seats plus door cards on eBay for £200. 

Many LSs are bought by people who appreciate good engineering and who want to keep it that way by investing fully in the service programme. Sadly, not everyone looks after them. There are only half as many LS400s registered on British roads today as there were six years ago. Even if, having bought one, you decide an LS isn’t for you, the engines routinely make £1,000 or more on tinternet for use in more sporting projects. It’s a win-win.  

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