What you’re looking at here is luxury. You’re looking at a car that was as perfect as its creators could possibly make it, a car that sits now as a world-beater, a machine to take on those that thought they had the luxury market to themselves and win. You’re looking at, ladies and gents, an LS430, the third generation of the flagship luxury car from 1989’s winner of the ‘where the hell did they suddenly come from?‘ award, Lexus.
You see, this is the thing. Lexus is, or at least should be, a brand we associate with Luxury and class. A Lexus is a Mercedes-Benz without the pomp, it’s a BMW with the arrogance and it’s an Audi without an insatiable need to tailgate. It’s classy, it’s refined and with it all, it’s relaxed and clam. A Lexus is soothing. And that’s never been more true than when talking about the flagship LS.
The first one,which is the car on the right up there, was a triumph of engineering. When Lexus – a brand new company for 1989 – released it, it astounded the world. In fact, other high-end manufacturers bought them and ripped them apart to find out just how the hell this upstart of a company had knocked out something so, well, so brilliant.
The TV advert featured an LS with a stack of champagne glasses sat atop its bonnet – while the engine was running. Then via rolling road the engine was taken up to top speed. And not a single glass fell. Chris Goffey did a similar test on Top Gear with a glass of water. And sure enough, it was still and calm. Smooth.
So how the hell did Lexus do it? Well, extensive testing for one. The LS was put through millions (and we employ no hyperbole here) of miles of testing in all climates across the globe. The brief was simple: Lexus wanted to build the best car in the world, and with the LS400 (the first LS) it did. And just to be really cheeky, Lexus did the global launch of the LS in, wait for it, Germany. Talk about taking the fight to them.
But it wasn’t just lots of testing and a cheeky launch event that saw the LS win. It was something deeper than that, or should we say, two things. Namely Omotenashi and Takumi. Two words that are very, very important to Lexus.
Omotenashi is the Japanese spirit of hospitality. The desire to always be welcoming and accommodating to others, to anticipate their needs and to be in tune with what’s expected of you to make a good impression. It’s the understanding that if you bollocks something up, you’re as good as useless to whomever got bollocksed. As such, Lexus has built its reputation on always delivering the best, always striving to satisfy the needs of the customer and, well, not ballsing up. So not, say, Volkswagen then?
Takumi is the name of the craftspeople who have the final say on the quality of the work put out there by Lexus. Many are Takumi trained, but only a handful are Takumi masters. Probably because it takes 25 years to become one, and Lexus is 29 years old. But whatever, they make sure things are perfectly finished, down to the most unimaginable tolerances. To give you some perspective, yes, Lexus cars are painted by robots. But those robots? They’re regularly trained to follow the movements of a Takumi, um, human. The Terminator wouldn’t last five minutes here. He’d be made to paint IS200s.
So what’s all that got to do with cheap cars? Well, the Lexus models of old tend to age really rather well. As such, we’re flying the flag for the LS430, the third LS to be launched and the one that, through no fault of its own, is currently sitting at the bottom of its depreciation curve. We’d love to get you to buy a first-generation car, but frankly, they’re getting costly. So instead, swoop in and get the 4.3 V8, 278bhp, 308lb-ft, leather-filled, smooth-riding third-generation instead.
Fuel economy aside, it’s not a purchase you’ll regret. This is a flagship car after all, so you get digital climate, electric everything, front seat ventilation for cool cheeks and even a massage function on some models (though it was standard on post ’03 models). It’s like driving a five star hotel.
But it doesn’t handle like a hotel. For a big car (and at 5,025mm long and 1,830mm wide it IS big), it actually drives well. That V8 will hustle it up to 60mph in 6.1seconds and on the open road, it’s remarkably composed and agile. It’s no hot hatch, that’s a given, but it’s not like driving a mattress covered in treacle either.
The LS430 is the car you need if you want to feel special. It’s exquisitely built. It has presence and class, and it caries a badge that nobody will hate you for, they’ll simply admire your choice in motors. That, or they’ll think you’ve come into money so they’ll start hounding you. But if they do, don’t worry, the boot is massive, so you can fit lots of people in there who have pissed you off. Man, the LS430 just keeps on giving.