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1989 Lexus LS 400 Overview
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The Japanese automaker Toyota spent much of the 1980s conducting thorough consumer research in upscale California communities. Its goal was to develop a new vehicle specifically tailored to the needs and wants of America's luxury car drivers. At the end of the decade, Toyota begot Lexus. One of just two original models, the flagship LS 400 was introduced for 1990. Many first saw it on television, balancing a 15-champagne-glass pyramid on its hood as it accelerated to a simulated speed of 145 miles per hour. And there was much more to come.
The LS series has served as the Lexus flagship since day one. The full-size sedan was aimed to compete with the long-superior European luxury offerings from Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar. Lexus would combine attributes like performance, style, comfort and luxury with concepts that were seemingly foreign to Europe: unquestioned reliability and relative affordability.
The LS 400 badge was the longest worn by any Lexus, lasting just over a decade before a 2001 engine upgrade transformed the flagship into the LS 430. The original powerplant was a 4.0-liter DOHC aluminum block V8, which generated 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Lexus gradually improved all aspects of the LS, but the significant power boosts came in 1995 and 1998, with horsepower eventually reaching 290. Also in 1998, the 4-speed automatic transmission was replaced with a 5-speed, and Lexus introduced Variable Valve Timing + intelligence technology. VVT+i not only increased power, but also lowered emissions and improved fuel economy. Every LS was only available with RWD.