The Japanese domestic market is full of unusual, interesting and sometime downright bizarre forms of motoring. Some examples of the weird and wonderful have slipped in to the local used car market through various current and past import regulations. My Toyota Aristo is a perfect example and so much so that I couldn't find it in the available categories for this review! So, here's a quick snapshot of my very exclusive Lexus ES300 more correctly known as an Aristo v8iFour.
The late eighties and early 90s was motoring heaven in Japan. The economy was booming and engineers were encouraged to let their imagination run wild. The luxury performance market saw the likes of the Mazda Cosmo 20b, the Toyota Soarer Active model, the Nissan Infiniti Q45 and others and some of these arrived in Australia. In turbo-charged 6 cylinder form the Toyota Aristo was fairly common but in 1993 to 1997 Toyota saw fit to introduce limited numbers of a V8 option with an integrated 4WD system for the snowy parts of the country. Whether by design or misfortune only 3,500 of these V8iFours as they were known ventured off the production line which is a pretty small run by Japanese standards and a very, very small number of these made it to Australia.
So much for the history lesson what about the reality of owning one. My 1995 model is one of only a handful on the road in Australia today so it's a pretty exclusive club. I have owned many Japanese imports and the V8 Aristo has been one of the most challenging to keep on the road parts-wise. There is almost no information about them on the web. But having the mindset of spending money to have something unique has been rewarding. The roar of the barely silenced but reliable 1UZ-fe 4 litre V8 attracts your ear before the stylish 4 door Italian designed saloon body attracts the eye. The height adjustable factory TEMS suspension provides a comfortable ride despite the 19" Koya alloy wheels and the handling could best be described as "fair" given the weight and design expectations of the car. Aftermarket suspension upgrades are not a viable option given the geometry of the 4WD system so the suspension is the Achilles heal of the car. But it's the 4WD system that gives this car it's personality and driver appeal. It might not snow much here in Cairns but we have our share of wet and slippery roads and the torque and power available from the V8 makes for an enjoyable drive in all conditions.
The 20 year old paintwork remains in excellent condition belying the quality of it's build and likewise the 90s technology on board is functional, ergonomic and easy to use. No annoying menus to scroll through - just lot of nice tactile buttons. The stock 7 speaker sound system features a lovely 12" sub as well as the 90s popular digital sound field processor for all those pre-set venue fields. Peerless! There are no auxiliary inputs so I have re-discovered my old cd collection.
For a low purchase price the V8 Aristo offers comfort, style and extreme exclusivity if you are prepared to do a bit of work tracking down parts for your grumpy mechanic. Being a Toyota the basic mechanicals are bullet-proof and I expect to be cruising around in style for quite a few more years to come as I pass abandoned European cars by the side of the road half the age of the Aristo.
Now to save up for the supercharger!