2002 Lexus LS430
2002 Lexus LS430. Click image to enlarge


By Chris Chase; photos by Grant Yoxon

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As recently as the early 1980s, it was inconceivable to many people that a Japanese automaker could ever produce a true luxury car. Indeed, there were many other segments too, such as the sport sedan market that the Japanese had yet to break into.

But the full-on, full-size luxury segment seemed the farthest out of reach for these relative upstart Japanese carmakers known more for building economical subcompact and compact hatchbacks and sedans. Honda and Nissan’s luxury divisions – Acura and Infiniti, respectively – made their first forays into the big luxury sedan market with the Legend (and later the RL) and the Q45, while Lexus made its start with the LS400, which we think is arguably the purest interpretation of the luxo-cruiser formula any Japanese carmaker has come up with yet.

The LS400 launched in 1990 and got a mild redesign in 1995. In 2001, it got a new name – LS430 – to go with its new engine – a 4.3-litre V8 to replace the 4.0-litre engine that had powered previous models. This October, Lexus will launch the all-new LS460, with new styling that follows the company’s new L-finesse styling ethos and a 4.6-litre V8 – the first all-new LS engine since the model was introduced 17 years ago. Prices for the new model haven’t been announced yet, but rest assured that its new engine and styling will command a premium over the outgoing model’s $85,700 MSRP. Latest technology or not, a price like that puts the LS out of the reach of the vast majority of drivers.

2002 Lexus LS430
2002 Lexus LS430. Click image to enlarge

Should you have your heart set on this biggest-and-baddest Lexus regardless, consider a used one. Let us help: this week’s used car review will take a look at the outgoing generation of Lexus LS, the 2001-2006 LS430.

The LS430 was powered by a 4.3-litre V8 making 290 horsepower. Originally, the transmission was a five-speed automatic and was upgraded to a six-speed auto in 2005 (of course, if bigger is better, that pales in comparison to the eight-speed tranny in the new LS460).

While fuel consumption isn’t generally a concern among buyers who can afford cars like the LS430, Lexus seems to have paid some attention in this regard nonetheless. It’s Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption ratings of 13 L/100 km (city) and about 8.7 L/100 km (highway) are better than those for older versions of German rivals such as the Audi A8 and BMW 7-series. Those numbers are a little better than the Infiniti Q45’s ratings and even those of Acura RLs from the early 2000s – which was powered by a less-potent V6 engine.

2002 Lexus LS430
2002 Lexus LS430
2002 Lexus LS430. Click image to enlarge

Being a flagship model, the LS430 was loaded with most of the features you could ever ask for in a car, with a few options – cool stuff like parking assist, rain sensitive wipers, laser-guided cruise control and an adjustable air suspension – were options. Safety items like side airbags and a traction and skid control system were standard. The LS430 wasn’t crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) did test it, and gave the LS430 its “good” rating in its frontal-offset crash test, citing a low likelihood of any significant injuries to occupants in such a collision.

Lexus, being a division of those kings of reliability, Toyota, benefits from its parent company’s strong workmanship, and it shows in the LS430. Browse the LS sections of Lexus online communities like
Club Lexus and Lexus Owners Club and there’s precious little talk of problems with these cars. That’s a good indicator of a durable car, even in a low-volume model like this, and more scientific sources like Consumer Reports back this up; the magazine calls the LS430 a good bet in terms of reliability.

2002 Lexus LS430
2002 Lexus LS430
2002 Lexus LS430. Click image to enlarge

The LS430’s biggest issue might be its cost. Even going back as far as 2001 only brings the LS430’s value down, according to Canadian Red Book, to a few hundred dollars under $35,000. That’s a lot of money for a five-year-old car, so it’s important to consider if you really, really need a car this big, or if you’d be better off spending, say, $40,000 to get a decently-equipped brand-new entry-level luxury sedan, for example. Of course, you can spend more – a lot more – on a used LS: Red Book value for a 2006 model is $81,575 and things don’t get easy to swallow (relatively speaking, of course) until you go back as far as 2004, where an LS430 is worth $64,500.

2002 Lexus LS430
2002 Lexus LS430. Click image to enlarge

Surprisingly, the LS430’s real world used prices are actually lower than its Red Book values. A scan of Auto Trader in Ontario found a 2005 LS430 with the “ultra premium” option package and navigation system (which is as fully-loaded as these cars could be had in their day) for $63,900 – almost $10,000 less than Red Book value for a basic version from that year. We also found a 2001 model with the “premium” package for $27,988 – far less than the aforementioned 2001 Red Book value of about $35,000.

Suddenly, a used LS430 looks like a tremendous value: a used BMW 745i or Audi A8 can run you about $75,000 for a 2005 model.

2002 Lexus LS430
2002 Lexus LS430. Click image to enlarge

That could be partly attributable to the fact that there just isn’t a huge market for used luxury sedans. Even people who can afford to buy these cars new lease one and simply exchange it for another new one at the end of the term. That puts a fair number of well-maintained, low-kilometre luxury cars like the LS430 out there.

While the Germans are pretty darned good at building luxury cars, they haven’t fully grasped the concept of reliable electronic components, which makes the LS430 look even better in our eyes. Bulletproof reliability and real world prices that are often lower than Red Book values mean this big Lexus would be our recommendation for a used full-size luxury sedan.

Online resources

  • Club Lexus – These guys live and breathe all things Lexus. There’s a forum section dedicated to the LS, which in turn is divided into sections for each of the three generations of the car: 1990-2000 models, 2001-2006 versions, and the new-for-2007 model.
  • Toyota Nation – This is the place to go for all things Toyota, of which Lexus is one. All Lexus models are lumped together in one forum, so information specific to the LS430 may be difficult to find without a concerted search effort.
  • Lexus Owners Club – this is a North American offshoot of a UK-based Lexus website. Here you’ll find a forum dedicated to the LS in all of its forms. There’s also a heap of other topics to discuss here, like aftermarket modifications, audio/video, for sale/wanted and many others. A basic membership is free, and there’s an optional gold membership available for a subscription fee. This is home for more than 20,000 wired Lexus owners.


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Manufacturer’s Website


Recalls

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004215; Units affected: 163

2004: On certain vehicles, a tab on the collar for the planetary gear assembly, an inner part of the automatic transmission, can receive greater force than what it is designed for when the accelerator pedal is operated quickly. This could cause a small piece of metal to be torn from the collar. In the worst case, this small piece of metal may get caught in the parking lock mechanism, causing the parking lock system to be inoperative when the transmission shift lever is placed in the “P” (PARK) position. Correction: Dealers will replace the automatic transmission.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004205; Units affected: 176

2004: On certain vehicles, the fuel pump impeller may be deformed by alcohol included in fuel, causing the impeller to contact the fuel pump body. This condition could increase the rotation resistance of the impeller and, in the worst case, the fuel pump may lock, which may result in the engine stalling. Correction: Dealers will replace the fuel pump.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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