One Decade Down: 2000 Lexus GS400 by AutoArt
A forgotten model from the time before Lexus, and AutoArt, became the world standard.
Looking across the automotive landscape, we find multiple brands that have solidified themselves into culture. Everyone knows your Chevrolets, your Fords, your BMWs, etc. All the while, we look upon the upstarts such as Tesla with conceited and skeptical eyes as they make their next moves. What we fail to remember, however, is that every single brand we hold dear was probably once scrutinized with those same eyes. A very good case in point is Lexus.
Everyone knows the story of the beginnings of Lexus and how Toyota set out to build the best luxury sedan in the world. Any logical mind would assume the idea of a Toyota luxury car taking on the likes of Mercedes or Cadillac at the time would be met with criticism and the occasional discarding laugh from figures of the time. But it happened, and the first generation LS400 quelled the arguments of about nearly every naysayer there was. But it wasn't all said and done, as Lexus still faced its fair share of opposition throughout its first decade, as the LS400 and subsequent models were met with a lot of "Great, but..." responses begging to see if Lexus could truly conquer the luxury market as they once set out to do. I'd argue that it wasn't until ten years later, in 2000, that they finally had laurels to rest on, and they had finally become the brand they wanted to be, and the second generation GS defines that turning point in Lexus' history.
Launched in 1991, the GS seemed to be the next logical step for Lexus to make after the creation of a full-size luxury sedan in the LS range. Designed to take on the likes of the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series, it was a mid-sized executive sedan, with which Lexus sought to blend the reliability and quality of the LS and the sporty pedigree of the SC coupe they had also recently debuted. However, the first generation of GS only produced modest sales for the brand, despite its sleek Italdesign body and fantastic suspension, as consumers found it a tad too expensive to justify and found themselves likened to the V8-powered sedans that American and European competitors were creating.
But Toyota was never one to take a fight lying down, as soon they were on the way to creating the next generation GS shortly after the debut of the original. For the new generation, Lexus decided to further chase down the performance sedan market that was dominated by BMW at the time, designing a car that was far more focused on hard-tuned speed rather than refined, quiet luxury. This new goal was further cemented by the fact that Lexus listened to customer complaints and actually found a way to fit their award-winning 4.0L 1UZ-FE V8 from the LS and SC under the hood, giving the car rather quick acceleration times (leading Lexus to tout that it was the fastest sedan in the world at the time, a boast quickly beaten by the BMW M5 shortly after in 2000).
Luckily for Lexus, this time the formula worked, and customers began lining up around the block to see Lexus' popular new take on the executive sedan. The never give up attitude worked in the brand's favor, and soon the car ushered the brand into the next millennium, a feat that many thought it would never achieve in its infancy. History time over, now on to the model.
This 2000 GS400 is finished in Millennium Silver Metallic and is brought to us by our good old friends at AutoArt. This model was made somewhere around the early 2000s, so luckily it does present us with some gorgeously hefty die-cast metal in all the right places, but it also means that it lacks a lot of the crisp detailing and quality that AutoArt has found themselves using as of recent. But, that doesn't necessarily mean this model should be discounted upon first glance.
One thing I really do enjoy about this particular model is its overall presence and style. When people talk about 1/1 cars, "road presence" gets brought up often when the styling of a car manages to come off just the right way that when you see one on the highway, you can't help but stop and stare. The 1/1 second generation GS is a good-looking sedan, but something about the way it's represented in this scale makes it pop a lot more than it does in every day life. It possesses such a sleek, urban appearance that looks right at home in a dark city environment, or a crisp country road. Perhaps that's down to the specification that AutoArt chose to represent this car with, featuring the optional 18-inch polished aluminum alloys with the sports body kit package.
Upon first look at the exterior, however, some of the quality issues become apparent, the most obvious of which being the front doors not wanting to stay closed all the time. This seems to be a pretty common issue, as multiple ones I've seen on eBay seem to exhibit the same issue. It's mildly annoying, but not a deal killer. The rear doors do open, but the hinges they used seem far more rigid than they should be, making me feel like I'll break them any time I try to open them. But at least they stay closed.
As far as detailing goes, everything is almost up to AutoArt's typical standards, apart from a few small issues. The wheels look great, and are possibly my favorite overall part of this model, as the polished aluminum look really makes the car pop as mentioned before. Underneath them are properly sculpted disc brakes and modestly well-working suspension. Plus, they actually turn, something that my Norev SLS AMG from last time didn't do.
The interior is mostly all there, featured in a light platinum color that goes well with the silver exterior. I do appreciate the detailing of the pod-like structure for the gauges, the wood panelling, and the navigation screen in the center. However, everything about the interior seems a tad too bland, and for good reason, as AutoArt failed to properly represent some of the plastics used around the gauge cluster and elsewhere, which were usually a darker contrasting color to the rest of the car. Also note the missing seat controls, something that AutoArt would be brutally lambasted for if omitted on a model today. Close, but no cigar.
However, any misgivings on the interior are immediately made up by the beautifully represented engine. This updated VVTi variant of the 1UZ-FE received updated dressings for the engine bay (a far cry from the much more mechanic aesthetic of the original 1UZ found in the old LS400), which is all properly detailed by AutoArt, right down to the engine code stamp on the plastic cover. The silver painted Lexus logo is a gorgeous touch, and with the right camera, could easily be passed as the real thing.
Overall, I'm glad this model exists, because of my distinct love of plain sedans, even ones I consider exciting by conventional standards, and this GS400 perfectly fits the bill. But with age comes the small issues you'll find here, but if you can look them over, I'd recommend finding one if you're a Lexus fan, or just want to fill out your collection with something on the more mundane side. These go for under $100 on eBay normally, I found this one with box for about $99 shipped, there's also a black model available if silver isn't quite your thing.
I'd say that overall, the GS400 is a representation of the age-old adage that Rome wasn't built in a day. Sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board and rethink your philosophies, and sometimes, you just might manage to strike gold. Or silver, in this case.