It’s hard to tell which is the first generation of LS and which is the Lexus LS XF20, just like it’s hard to tell TikTok from a trash can. 

The history of Lexus is quite simple. Somewhere in the ’80s the folks at Toyota Japan thought they wanted to have their own luxury car to take on the S-Class, the Transit, the 7 Series, and whatever else was luxurious at the time. Sure, they had the Toyota Century, and they still do in fact, but that’s a super exclusive car, a niche car for Japan’s elite which doesn’t quite fit with the automotive traditions and preferences outside of Japan.

So, they thought about it, drank some sake, commited sudoku and in 1989 they launched the original Lexus LS, the first child of the luxury brand Lexus. Yes, in case you thought Lexus is a brand with a long history like Maybach or Rolls Royce, you should know that Lexus launched along with the Sega Genesis.

And the Lexus LS XF20 was the second generation of LS and the first generation that came to Europe. Yes, it’s the million mile limousine, just like the old Mercedes cars. That’s because the Japanese wanted to do absolutely anything just for the Lexus LS to make a good first impression and get it’s foot in the luxury segment’s door. They even sold it at a loss just to get ahead of the others and were sued for unfair practices. Perhaps in Europe Lexus is seen more as a curiosity, but in the USA the plan certainly worked. However, in Europe it didn’t quite catch on because it only came with a 4 litre petrol which is fine in the US and Australia, but in a 1.9 TDI dominated Europe, it’s easy to see why the Lexus LS XF20 didn’t catch on and they needed a tax-dodging hybrid to ramp up the sales to relevant numbers.


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Lexus LS XF20 Engines


4.0 V8 1UZ-FE of 260 and 290 horsepower – We have the same 1UZ-FE unit, but in facelift and non-facelift versions and power flavors. It’s an engine built to go beyond the million miles mark, but it’s also quite expensive to run. The only specific issue is the airflow meter, but the main issue is that you need to check the maintenance history very carefully. One concern for example is that the timing belt has to be replaced every 60,000 miles and we’re talking of a 1500-2000 GBP job, and if it’s not replaced on time you risk damaging the engine. And at these costs, many have skipped replacing the timing belt, so check the history carefully.


Lexus LS XF20 interior almostcarreviews

LS XF20 Reliability Issues

  • The radio has an LCD display which is cool, only that that display tends to burn out as if it were working in a soul-crushing japanese corporation. Now, either you go with it and memorize the commands, or you install an aftermarket unit.
  • The power steering pump generates too much pressure for the pipes to handle, so the pipes will crack, and in lucky cases hot power steering fluid will leak onto the alternator.
  • The suspension is not designed to last forever, so you will occasionally have to change a bushing, a link, a ball joint, a shock absorber, things like that.
  • The automatic transmission falls into the maintenance history category, so make sure it changes gears smoothly and without jerking. Otherwise pass on it and keep looking


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Lexus LS XF20 Verdict

On one hand, you have a million mile car. It’s not as luxurious as other European luxobarges of it’s time time, but it’s just as comfortable and spacious, and that engine really makes this luxobarge proper quick. Is it worth buying one? I would wholeheartedly recommend buying one now, but with that 4.0 V8 petrol, I would recommend buying it only as a weekend classic, or somewhere where engine displacement taxes are not as soul-crushing as a japanese corporation workplace.

Which engines do I recommend? I honestly think I would recommend the 4.0 V8 with 290 horsepower simply because it’s the facelift version and comes with a 5-speed automatic transmission.