Graceful Nineties Aging From Asia?


Image: 1996 Toyota Camry CoupeThe past couple of Wednesday editions of Question of the Day have been full-on Nineties design in their subject matter. First, we considered American marques, before moving on last week to the European set. This week we’ll do it once more, talking about Asian car designs from the Nineties that still hold up today.

Break out your soap bar memories.

Today, we cover cars from Japan, Korea, and any other obscure Asian nations which manufactured cars in the Nineties. They’re smooth, refined, and often worth more now than the European and American cars with which they competed.

Today’s rules are three in number, just as before:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from an Asian manufacturer, even if sourced from an import (eg. Honda Crossroad).
  3. Any body style is eligible except for trucks.

My selection this week hails from Japan, though it’s perhaps not the pick you’d expect:

It’s a second-generation Lexus LS 400; more specifically, the revised 1998 model year version. The first-generation LS 400 knocked the socks off its European and American competition when it debuted for the 1990 model year. It offered extensive refinement, luxury, and build quality at the lower prices Americans enjoyed so much (even at the expense of brand prestige). Before we go further, watch excellent reviewer Chris Goffey discuss the LS 400 on old old Top Gear.

By the time the LS established itself on the market, Toyota was hard at work on a successor. In 1995, a brand new LS arrived at dealers. Though it boasted a longer wheelbase and more refinement than its predecessor, styling was similar to the first generation. There was also a strong front end corporate resemblance to the downmarket Avalon that arrived at Toyota dealers at the same time. Meh.

That was rectified for 1998, when Lexus introduced the revised version you see above. The transmission had five gears, there was more power under hood (290 horses), and said horses had variable valve timing. Most importantly, the exterior underwent an update. A new front end, wheels, and mirrors brought the LS in line with customer expectations for the upcoming new century. That’s why the ’98 LS 400 is my graceful aging selection. The changes were subtle compared to the ’95 version, but enough to make it look considerably more modern to your author’s eyes.

Now’s your opportunity to tell me I’m wrong about the LS (and to proffer your own selections).

[Images: Lexus, Toyota]





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