The history of the Lexus GS400 can be traced back to the introduction of the first-generation Lexus GS in 1993. Vehicles under this series were built to compete with the Mercedes E Class and the BMW 5 Series. As each generation was released over the years, the GS series was able to close the gap between it and its European rivals. As a matter of fact, the GS series was the recipient of several awards from notable automotive publications such as Motor Trend and Car and Driver. Despite being available for only three model years (from 1998 to 2000), the GS400 variant was one of Lexus’ most successful luxury sedans.
1997-2000: The GS400 as a more powerful S160
In 1997, the second-generation Lexus GS or S160 was introduced. The design process began in 1994 and 18 months later, the final design was approved. The finished product was introduced in January 1997 at the Detroit Auto Show. Launched as a high-performing sedan, it was equipped with a midsize platform, a rear-wheel drive layout, and a brand-new engine.
However, American consumers wanted more power. So in 1998, the GS 400 model was introduced. This version was equipped with a 4-L 1UZ-FE V8 that could produce 310 lb/ft. of torque and 300 horsepower. It also featured shift buttons for the steering wheel and a five-speed automatic transmission.
The GS 400, along with its regular, second-gen siblings, was deemed more successful than its predecessor. Sales during its first year of production reached 30,622. This number increased in the following years, stabilizing at 2000 with 28,079 units sold. To further solidify its success, the second-gen GS was included in Car and Driver’s Ten Best List from 1998 to 2000. It was also the recipient of the 1998 Import Car of the Year award from Motor Trend.
Throughout its short yet successful three model-year run, no upgrades were done. Despite this, the model was highly successful and continued to attract buyers who wanted another alternative to a BMW 5 or Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan. When the GS 400 was finally modified in 2000, it was renamed as the GS 430 and was officially launched as a 2001 model.
1998-2003: The GS 400 making waves in motorsports
In 1998, two GS 400 racing units were driven by Team Lexus as part of the Motorola Cup North American Street Stock Championship touring car series competition. In the following year, Team Lexus earned its first victory at Road Atlanta with a GS 400. Team Lexus then used the GS 400 in various competitions until 2001. The GS 400’s racing capabilities were showcased again in 2003 when German racer Ronny Melkus joined the V8Star Series touring season and competed in the V8 GS.