CC Outtakes: 2004 and 2019 Lexus LS – Does It Really Matter Anymore?

Sad as it may be, sedans are a dying breed. If there’s any indication of the sedan’s ever-diminishing importance to most automakers, it’s in the smaller-than-ever scale of new model launches and ensuing amount of coverage by media outlets and automotive journalists in comparison to that of the same brand’s SUVs/CUVs. Among the most notable vehicles affected by this is the Lexus LS.

Launched in 1989 to the all-new Lexus brand, the original Lexus LS 400 was a true revolutionary and industry game-changer, causing people to rethink the definition of luxury vehicle and established luxury brands to revamping their entire strategies to combat this. An astounding success, the LS sold over 42,000 units in the U.S. for its inaugural year and sold more than any other luxury flagship for 15 of its first 17 years. While this third generation 2004 LS 430 may look tired and dated now, for its time it was quite a noteworthy automobile.

The luxury automobile landscape, however, has changed dramatically in the last 30 years — even the last 15 years — and Lexus LS is no longer a very talked-about vehicle. Despite highs and lows through its now five generations, with the most recent fifth generation decidedly its highest watermark in many years, it’s difficult to determine if the LS is even at the top of its class. Quite honestly, flagship luxury sedans in general are so little talked-about anymore that few automotive media outlets care to even do comparison tests anymore.

Luxury flagship SUVs, including the BMW X7, Mercedes-Benz GLS, and Range Rover prove far more popular than their 7 Series, S-Class, and Jaguar XJ counterparts, and usually come in significantly less costly. Lexus’ archaic LX is the one exception, selling less than the LS does.

If it’s any proof, this new Lexus LS 500 has been out for a year now and of the paltry handful I’ve seen, 4 out of 5 (including this one) have been on dealer plates, meaning they’re being used as Lexus dealer manager demos. Despite its complete redesign with competitive technology, luxury, safety and powertrain, the new LS hasn’t sold many units. Sales did nearly double in 2018 but that’s not saying much as the LS had only once surpassed 10,000 units annually since 2010 — a sad fate for one of the most historically significant industry game-changers of all time. The LS may have been launched under the slogan “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection”, but as it pertains to flagship fullsize luxury sedans in this day and age, does it really matter anymore?

Photographed in Hingham, Massachusetts – April 2019