The Toyota Lexcen was built between 1989 and 1997 and was in fact a rebadged version of the Holden Commodore's second-generation car. The Toyota Lexcen was classed as a full-size car, and their bodywork was based around a slightly wider and longer Opel Senator B and the Opel Amega floor plan.
The Toyota Lexcen used the VN Commodore model as its basis and was produced in a number of sedan and station wagon body shapes. Despite it being a reworking of the Commodore, the Lexcen - like the original Holden - proved to be a very reliable car in its class.
The T1 Lexcen - named after the designer Ben Lexcen whose yacht, Australia II, won the America's Cup - came in three types of trim: the base level, GL, and the top-of-the-range GLX models.
The first-generation Toyota T1 Lexcen showed signs that it was prepared to throw off the hard, flat, folded steel panels prevalent in much of the 1970s' automotive design. The colour-matching, front bumpers were becoming popular, and they were softer and more a part of the car, rather than seeming to be elements added on later.
By the time of the T2 Lexcen in 1991, Toyota had once again followed the Commodore's lead, bringing out the CSi, VXi, and the Newport models, all badged copies of the Holden VP range. To overcome the Commodore tag, Lexcens, from 1991 onwards, had their own distinctive front design.
There were two more generations of Holdens to carry the Lexcen badge, the VR between '93 and '95 and the ultimate VS, which ceased production in 1997 when the model-sharing scheme with Holden ended.
Toyota's Lexcen cars were all fitted with 3.8L V8 engines which were only matched up to an automatic gearbox. Due to rising engine costs with the original Nissan engine, Holden decided to build their own, based around the engineering of the Buick design and altered for rear-wheel drive. The engine, although not the prettiest piece of engineering in the world, did win supporters for its economy and performance levels.
The T2 came powered by the latest Buick 3.8L V6 which generated 130kW of power and won the 1993 Wheels Magazine's Car of the Year award. The biggest design change with the ultimate Lexcen design was due to an overhaul of the engine. This time they fitted a revamped Ecotec Buick V6, which put an increased level of power at 145kW through the wheels and operated at a more fuel-efficient level, but its main concern was with reducing emission levels. The acceleration on the Buick V6 is reasonably punchy, going from 0 to 100 km/h in around 10.2 seconds. The sizable boot also holds a 70L fuel tank.
The 1995 VR version came equipped with driver's airbag, cruise control, and ABS as standard. It was common for passenger airbags to be added extras. In other Lexcen models, you will often come across power steering, powered door mirrors, air-con, CD player, remote locking, trip computers, and traction control. The top-range models came fitted out in plush leather interiors, leather upholstery, and a sunroof. There were also a number of safety amendments to the car, raising it to a better-than-average level of safety protection.
Toyota's competition for the Lexcen, apart from the obvious competition from the Holden Commodore, came in the form of the Ford Falcon, Peugeot 405, and Mitsubishi Magna. There were problems with the Falcon initially; this left the door open for the Holden Commodore to make its mark and ultimately led to placing the Lexcen in contention as a reliable big car.
The efficient use of space and styling has created a compact-looking but comfortable car in the Lexcen. It provides decent levels of comfort for the driver and passengers alike, especially in the rear seats. The vehicle comes with a good-size boot in the sedan and a large cargo bay in the station wagon. If you are not someone who is overly worried about badges and labels but care more about the quality of the car, then the re-branded Lexcen is a solid buy.