Menu Close

The Lexus SC, a budget option to the Toyota Supra Mk. IV

The Toyota Supra Mk IV is built on the same platform as the Lexus SC / Toyota Soarer.   It can provide some of the performance at a fraction of the cost of the Supra.

In January 2014 Toyota showed the World what the next generation Toyota Supra could look like with the Toyota FT-1 concept car.  Eager to capitalize on the legendary status of the fourth generation Toyota Supra Mark IV, Toyota is releasing the fifth generation Toyota Supra to pick up where the previous generation left off.

Because of the iconic status of the Toyota Supra Mark IV, market values have escalated beyond the reach of most car fans.  Fortunately, the fourth generation Toyota Supra has an older brother on which it is based that I think represents a very compelling budget alternative.

Manufactured and marketed in the United States between 1991 and 2000, the first generation Lexus SC was designed as a front-mid engine, mid-size luxury grand coupe intended to compete against the likes of the Mercedes Benz SL, Acura Legend coupe and Infiniti M30 coupe.   In Japan, the Lexus SC was marketed under the Toyota name-plate as the second generation Toyota Soarer Z30,

The Lexus SC400

In the United States, the Lexus SC was first released with the same 4.0 liter, 8-cylinder 1UZ-FE engine powering Lexus’ groundbreaking LS400.  Designed primarily for the American market, the Lexus SC400 put out 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.

In 1996, the 1UZ-FE powering the SC400 was updated with VVTI, increasing the output of the Lexus coupe to 290 horsepower. While the Lexus GS400 was also powered by the same 8 cylinder 1UZ-FE VVTI engine, output was 300 horsepower, 10 more HP than the SC400.  The additional power in the GS400 is the result of a different design for the intake manifold.

Almost all Lexus SC400 left the factory in Japan with the same 4-speed automatic transmission powering the LS400.  There was one exception.  Lexus built a single Lexus SC400 with a manual transmission for Toyota USA president, Jim Press.   In 1998, the transmission driving the SC400 was updated with a 5 speed automatic transmission

The Lexus SC300

In 1992, Lexus introduced the Lexus SC300 that was powered by the 3.0 liter inline-six cylinder 2JZ-GE engine, the same engine that powered the non-turbo Toyota Supra and many Lexus six-cylinder vehicles.   Unlike, the SC400, the SC300 was available with either a manual or automatic transmission.

The 5-speed manual transmission (W58 transmission) was offered between 1992 and 1997. The automatic transmission powering the SC300 was a 4-speed automatic transmission.

The Toyota Soarer Z30

In Japan, the Lexus SC was sold as the Toyota Soarer Z30. It shared the body and key components with the Lexus Coupe. However, there were some differences in the form of interior features, drivetrain configurations, and better performance characteristics.

While the Toyota Soarer was available with the inline-6 cylinder normally aspirated 2JZ-GE and 8-cylinder 1UZ-FE, it was also offered with the 2.5 liter twin-turbocharged 1JZ-GTE engine.

Designated the Soarer JZZ30, the twin-turbocharged 1JZ-GTE powered vehicle was also available with a five-speed manual transmission, in this case the R154 manual transmission.  Powered by two small twin turbochargers, as opposed to the sequential turbocharging of the Supra, the Soarer JZZ30 produced 279 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm, bettering the Lexus SC400 in the United States.

There are some slight differences in the interiors of the Lexus SC and the Toyota Soarer. The dashboard facia in the Lexus SC was primarily analog whereas it was digital on the Soarer.

The Toyota Soarer UZZ32 Limited

In Japan, Toyota produced a couple of different version of the Soarer. The most rare and desirable is the UZZ32 Limited.  Powered by a 4.0 liter 8-cylinder 1UZ-FE engine, the UZZ32 Limited had 4-wheel steering and a complex, computer controlled hydraulic active control suspension.   Hydraulic struts controlled by a complicated network of sensors replaced conventional springs and anti-roll bars that gave the vehicle a very smooth ride with very little to no body roll. However, 4 wheel steering and a very smooth ride came at the expense of straight-line performance and fuel efficiency. Because of the very high cost to buy and produce the Soarer UZZ32 Limited, only 873 copies were produced in total.

The big brother to the legendary Toyota Supra Mark IV

While it has been rumored that Lexus SC/Toyota Soarer is based on the Toyota Supra, it is in fact the other way around.  The Lexus SC/Toyota Soarer provided the platform on which the fourth generation Toyota Supra would be built.  The two vehicles would were in fact built on the same assembly line, the Higashi plant in Susuono, Shizuoko.

The Toyota Supra and Soarer share many suspension parts and rear sub-frame, including the differential. Brakes between the Supra and Lexus SC are also compatible. As a result, the four piston calipers are a popular modification for the Lexus SC/Toyota Soarerr two-piston calipers.

The boosted version of the Toyota Soarer has a 2.5 liter 1JZ-GTE engine. The twin ceramic turbochargers operate at the same time. In contrast, the Supra has the 3.0 liter 2JZ-GTE, also with twin turbochargers.  However, one turbocharger spools up before the other in response to changing manifold pressure.


The Toyota Supra Mark IV is an iconic sports car built when Toyota had something to something to prove. As a result, market prices are sky-high with a low-mileage example recently changing hands for $90,000.

For many car fans who can’t afford the price of admission into Toyota Supra Mark IV ownership, the Lexus SC / Toyota Soarer can provide fraction of what it is like to own the Mark IV for an even smaller fraction of the cost.

There is one final benefit to the Lexus SC and Toyota Soarer.  The Toyota Supra Mk IV being the icon that it is, has a very large aftermarket of performance parts.  Since the 2JZ-GE engine in the Lexus SC300 is the same one as in the Supra, many of the engine performance parts are interchangeable.

Posted in Uncategorized

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *