Lexus LS: one of the most engineered luxury sedans
Lexus LS 400 (1989)
In 1983 the then Toyota chairman Eiji Toyoda started a project called the F1 "Flagship No. 1 vehicle” also known as the "Circle-F" project, it was to produce a world-class luxury sedan for the international market.
The engineering team, headed by Shoiji Jimbo and Ichiro Suzuki, included 60 designers, 24 engineering teams, 1,400 engineers, 2,300 technicians, and 220 support people. They were already well into the design of a new, high-end luxury car when the first market research study in the United States was conducted for the project (in 1985). Jimbo himself attended focus groups and interviewed dealer, while a separate team of five people studied lifestyles and design concepts in Laguna Beach, California. Shortly afterwards, in July 1985, the first running prototype was built. An incredible 450 running prototypes were to be made, with Toyota apparently sparing no expense to beat Mercedes and other luxury automakers.
By 1986, tests were being conducted on Germany's Autobahn and on American roads. Prototypes spent ten months being studied on American roads. In mid-1987, the final design was approved – after an unusually large number of presentations to management (eight). Roger Penske, who was to buy a Lexus dealership, traveled to Japan to test-drive one.
The F1 project was not given a time scale for completion nor did it appear to have any budget constraints, as a result the vehicle was entirely new it did not use parts from the existing Toyota parts bin. The final cost of the development was more than 1 Billion US$
The car was designed to compete with and better all of the prestige models offered by the worlds existing manufacturers in all areas including aerodynamics performance and refinement.
As part of the development process 450 vehicle prototypes and 900 engine prototypes were constructed and they logged approximately 2.7 million kilometers testing in all climates and environments from winter roadways, to deserts in Arizona, Australia, the USA and Saudi Arabia.
In 1985 the first exterior models were presented to the Toyota management, featuring a low sports car type design, but by 1986 this had been changed to a classic three box design with a more upright stance, prominent grille, and two-tone paintwork
Wind tunnel tests were under taken and refinements made to the design to produce a very low drag coefficient for production vehicles of the time Cd 0.29.
In November 1988, the F1 was finally given a name – though it was not particularly distinctive: LS400. The LS stands for , and 400 is the size of the engine. The LS400 debuted in the United States at the Detroit auto show in January, 1989. The car was an immediate hit, much to the chagrin of Mercedes, whose S-Class was more expensive, less luxurious, and, it would turn out, less reliable.
Three years later, many said Lexus' LS had redefined its segment, but Toyota already had a revised model waiting in the wings, with over 50 changes based on dealer and customer requests. Only five years after the first model, in November 1994, a more extensive redesign took place. In September 1997, variable valve timing (VVTi) was introduced in Lexus engines, increasing the performance; styling was updated, and new features were added, but the price remained the same.
Lexus LS 430 (2000)
In October 2000, eleven years after the first LS400 was sold, the new flagship Lexus – the , with an enlarged engine – went on sale. New technologies included intuitive park assist, dynamic laser-guided cruise control (which could maintain a set distance as well as a set speed), heated and cooled front seats, and a rear-seat beverage cooler, and a Mark Levinson sound system. The LS430 would be revised in 2004, with a new six-speed automatic (2007 brought an eight-speed) and new luxury and safety features.
Each LS 400 was test driven before leaving the factory, helping it to earn its consistent place at the top of J.D. Power's quality awards. The 2000 models included new safety features, including Brake Assist and Vehicle Skid Control, which help to enhance braking and regain control when the car starts to skid. The LS 400 could go to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, faster than many sporty cars - indeed, faster than Toyota's own MR2. Yet, gas mileage was 18 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway, thanks to variable valve timing and other technological advances.
The LS 430 is powered by a 4.3-liter double overhead-cam V8 engine that produces 290 horsepower at 5,600 RPM and 320 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,400 RPM. Continuously Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) ensures excellent low- and mid-range power for easy highway merging. The Lexus can accelerate from zero-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, roughly the same time as the rougher Audi TT and . The LS 430 was one of the first gasoline V8 vehicles to be certified as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV).
The HID headlights in 2000 on-wards models, Lexus had them remain level regardless of road or load conditions. The automatic climate control included a charcoal filter to trap dust and pollen, and a smog sensor to automatically recirculate the air when pollution was heavy outside. An in-key remote entry system ended the need for an outside fob. In a long-overdue bow to customer tastes, Lexus let the driver select the headlight turnoff delay and other details.
The LS series won more awards than any other luxury car, and, more to the point, won J.D. Power's vehicle dependability survey every year it was eligible.