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Celsior Magnificence

A world-beating V8 luxury saloon on the road for under AUD$10,000!

By Michael Knowling

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At a glance...

  • Japanese-market variant of Lexus LS400
  • Supreme luxury and sophistication
  • Fantastic options available
  • 1UZ-FE 4.0 litre V8
  • Incredible value for around AUD$10,000 on-the-road
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Value on an awesome scale.

There’s simply no other way to describe a 15 year old Japanese-import Toyota Celsior (aka Lexus LS400). When you can buy a car with this level of sophistication and quality for around AUD$7000 (non ADR’d), you know it’s a good time to be in the used car market...

Slip behind the wheel of a Celsior and you’re looking at a carbon-copy of a LS400. There’s the same dashboard layout, effective sound insulation, timber trim and high quality materials throughout. Oh, and the doors shut beautifully – as you’d expect from a car designed with world-beating ambitions.

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As detailed later in this article, the Japanese-market Celsior is available in several trim levels. Base versions come with fabric trim while leather trim, an electric sunroof and CD stacker are popular options. Some examples also feature a massaging, electrically reclining and heated rear seat – a big novelty item!

The cabin is biased towards intimate luxury rather than outright space. The centre console and door trims are bulky and lavishly trimmed, and rear seat legroom is comparable to a current Falcon or Commodore. The driver can get comfortable thanks to an electrically adjustable seat (with memory settings) and an electric tilt-away steering column. A driver’s airbag is also fitted as standard.

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Under the bonnet is the 1UZ-FE 4.0 litre V8 boasting DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder heads and a 10.0:1 compression ratio. Factory output is 191kW at 5400 rpm and 353Nm at 4600 rpm. Note that the 1UZ is claimed to produce 90 percent of peak torque from 2000 to 5600 rpm but, curiously, it feels much gruntier above 4000 rpm – keep it revving and you’ll be thrust along quite briskly. It’s a very refined engine with minimal vibration at high rpm.

All Celsiors are fitted with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Driven with the transmission in default settings (overdrive and Economy mode), the engine constantly runs at low rpm to help reduce fuel consumption. However, for spirited driving, the transmission should be locked out of overdrive and switched to Power mode – this makes a noticeable difference to the Celsior’s on-road feel.

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The Toyota Celsior tips the scales between 1690 and 1790kg depending on options. Stall it off the line and there’s no doubt this vehicle can reach 100 km/h in the 8 second range. Quarter mile performance is reputedly in the mid-high 15s – indicative of the strong top-end power and slick aerodynamics (0.29 Cd). Expect typical fuel consumption in the 12 to 14 litre per 100km range. Premium unleaded is recommended.

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The Celsior rides on double wishbone suspension at each corner. Lower-spec versions use conventional springs and our test car was fitted with switchable TEMS. The TEMS system (with switches seen here) offers "normal" or "sport" damping modes for a discernable change in chassis feel. Up-spec versions employ airbags in place of the conventional spring arrangement.

The rear-wheel-drive chassis offers good traction off the line, but the absence of a LSD (even as an option) means you can spin one of the rear tyres when stalling up. Our test vehicle was equipped with optional traction control and ABS but, unfortunately, there was a problem with both systems.

Wheels are under-sized by today’s standards – 16 inch alloys and 215/65 tyres are nothing special. Our test vehicle ran 17s with low-profile rubber for a visual boost.

Our biggest dislike of the Celsior is its steering. Its power-assisted rack and pinion arrangement gives very poor feel and precision at the straight-ahead position - it’s not as bad off-centre, but the weighting remains very light and the ratio is slow. It isn’t the sort of steering you’d find in a performance vehicle.

Ventilated four wheel disc brakes come fitted as standard and ABS is found on most examples. Note that twin-pot calipers were fitted from 1991.

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Stylistically, the Celsior/LS400 was criticised for its bland Camry-like styling. But 15 years after its release, this conservatism has paid dividends – the simple lines aren’t glaringly outdated. The twin exhaust tips are a sporty touch but the upright front grille and headlights are very staid. The grille was revised in the 1991 update model.

As seen here, the Celsior looks sensational with a set of big wheels, window tint and a complimenting paint colour.

Very cool.

At the time of writing, Adelaide’s Yahoo Motorsport ( had almost 20 Celsiors in stock or awaiting arrival. Prices vary depending on condition, kilometres and options. However, as a guide, our 1990 test car (fitted with traction control, ABS, leather, CD stacker and aftermarket 17s) had around 165,000km on the odometer and was available for just AUD$6900. Add approximately AUD$2500 for compliance (from companies such as Best Enterprises) and you’ve got a truly exceptional vehicle on the road for less than 10 gees.

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You can expect a 15 year old Celsior to require some maintenance – it’s inevitable. Our test car had its traction control and ABS problem along with a faulty power window and inoperative hand brake. Certainly, it’s the sort of vehicle where you want to keep some money in reserve in case something goes wrong. Areas to look out for are sick airbag suspension systems (where fitted), power steering leaks and transmission trouble. There’s also an occasionally smoky engine.

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To achieve more power from the 1UZ-FE we’d measure flow restriction through the factory airbox and replace/modify as necessary. The quiet factory exhaust system is also a likely power killer – and an exhaust taking components from a LS1 HSV (or similar) would make an ideal upgrade. With the intake and exhaust modified we predict a 10 percent power hike - expect about 210kW.

Other mods we’d look into is fitment of a Toyota Soarer steering rack (which has a quicker ratio than the Celsior) and limited slip diff from a Supra.

There certainly is the potential to make a great car even better.

Celsior Specs

The Japanese-market Toyota Celsior was released in four spec levels. As far as we can determine, the details of these are...

The base A-spec (chassis code E-UCF10-AEPNK) comes with fabric trim only, cruise control, climate control, tuner/cassette, timber highlights, power windows and driver’s seat and driver’s airbag. ABS is optional.

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The next level up is the B-spec (chassis code E-UCF10-AEPGK). The B-spec comes with a standard CD stacker, optional leather and sunroof. ABS, traction control and TEMS are standard. A front spoiler is also fitted.

C-spec Celsiors (coded E-UCF11-AEPQK) can be identified with standard airbag suspension. Again, leather is optional along with a sunroof and front spoiler. ABS, traction control and CD are standard.

The top-line version is the C-spec Celsior equipped with the F package - chassis code E-UCF11-AEPQK(F). The F package adds rear air conditioning (with rear controls) and a massaging, electrically reclining and heated rear seat.

Note – if you’re interested in buying a Celsior, we suggest that you also read The Lexus LS400.


Yahoo Motorsport                               
                                                                        +61 8 8345 0939/ 0416 080462

Best Enterprises                                          +61 8 8262 6055


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