When a certain Japanese car company declared the philosophy of its new luxury division to be 'the relentless pursuit of perfection' the sceptics laughed. Their smiles quickly faded, however, as Toyota's quietly determined engineers developed a series of cars that set new levels for refinement, build quality and after-sales care.
Having launched the original LS400 in 1990, Lexus dealers gained a second string to their bows three years later with the release of the sportier GS300. It boasted a six-cylinder engine, not a V8 like its bigger brother, yet both performance and refinement were superb. The styling too, was the topic of much discussion as many motor-noters remarked on the almost Jaguar-esque lines.
Arriving here in October 1993, the curvy Lexus had already gained a reputation for fine handling and strong performance in its home market, badged as the Toyota Aristo. There, as in the USA, it was available with V8 and turbocharged engines but the European importers decided a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder unit coupled to standard automatic transmission was the most appropriate for these shores.
The 'range' consisted of a single version for the first two years of sale until the Sport arrived in September 1995. This version used the same engine but benefited from a firmer ride and more purposeful stance, thanks to huge wheels and tyres and lowered suspension.
In May 1997, two additional models were added, creating a four-car line-up. The entry-level Legato lacked some of the equipment of its more expensive brothers, but its price undercut the cheapest of them by over £3,500 and the dearest, the existing Sport by £5,500. The SE, on the other hand, was an out and out luxury express. It sported a chrome grille, walnut-veneered dashboard panel, a subtle boot spoiler and bespoke alloy wheels.