[content_box title=”1994-2000 Lexus LS (UCF20)”]
Evolution, not revolution was the guiding principle for the second generation Lexus LS, which replaced the original model following a successful five-year production run. So, although there was a lot that was new about the 1994 LS (Lexus claimed 90 per cent of components were new), the subtlely altered styling suggested that Lexus knew its customer base and understood that they liked the existing formula.
There were many other changes, masterminded by chief engineer Kazuo Okamoto, which helped Lexus stay ahead of the opposition. His philosophy was nicely encapsulated by the quote, “a tradition cannot be founded if you reject the first generation”. But nothing was left to chance: as before, the Lexus LS was shaped by its customers. The new car was developed at the Calty Design Research centre in the USA, and the final design was only chosen after 20 concepts had been given serious consideration. Customer clinics voted in favour of the most evolutionary design.
As with the debut LS400, the 1994 model was a technical masterpiece. It continued with the same groundbreaking 32-valve V8, uprated by 10bhp. The all-new body was slightly larger all-round (5mm longer, 10mm wider and 10mm taller), stiffer, and it was even better insulated against noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
The second-generation Lexus LS 400 (UCF20) debuted in November 1994 (for the 1995 model year), having been in development since early 1991. Against the fashion of the day for increasing weight in road cars, it was around 50kg lighter than its predecessor and that, combined with its more efficient aerodynamics (Cd reduced forom 0.29 to 0.28) resulted in a higher top speed and improved acceleration.
New equipment options included dual-zone climate control, an in-dash CD multi-changer, and five three-point seatbelts, all of which would become industry-standard featrures in the coming years. In Japan you could also option your Toyota Celsior – the rebadged LS – with satellite navigation and reclining rear seats.
In 1997, the facelifted UCF20 was introduced, which featured comprehensive improvements. Most obvious was the new front-end styling, which softened the look of Lexus’s largest saloon. It introduced a separate grille and badging on the outside, and a more organic looking fascia on the inside. The V8 was once again uprated: it now produced 290bhp and 300lb ft fo torque. Minor changes were also made to the steering and suspension set-up in order to sharpen the driving experience.
Lexus’s commitment to safety also ensured that the revised LS400 had all the latest features. So it was fitted with front side airbags and vehicle stability control. Again, these were destined to become industry standard in later years.