Lexus SC400 – A JDM Legend?
Discover the Lexus SC400 – an iconic sports coupe with the perfect combination of luxury and Japanese-engineered performance.
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What Is The Lexus SC400?
Before we dive into more complex topics like the specs of the SC400, let’s first look at what the SC400 is in general.
The SC400 was conceived as a competitor to Mercedes and BMW in the luxury coupe segment. Luxury cars make the most profit, so with its Lexus brand, Toyota is always trying to share some of the sales with its German rivals.
Lexus started working on their Lexus coupe and created clay models in the early 1990s; the SC400 was soon available in 1991.
And honestly, the SC400 is probably one of the most desired Japanese cars when we discuss luxury cars. It came only as a two-door coupe and had no sedan version.
It was a significant refresh in the Lexus lineup. The United States model was known as the SC400, but this name was only available for the USDM (US Domestic Market.)
The JDM model was known as the legendary Toyota Soarer. So, don’t be surprised to hear this name – the Soarer and SC 400 are essentially the same car.
But what is worth noting is that the SC does not have to do with the LS 400 model. This completely different model was built on the Toyota Supra A80 platform.
It kept the same rear-drive powertrain but with a more old-school design language. The Supra and the SC400 are practically twins. In general, the 90s were the golden era for JDM cars.
Before diving into the different generations of the SC400, let’s learn more about the various model iterations in detail.
The first ever SC400 hit the showrooms in 1991, and 1992 was the first model year. This first generation was produced until 2000, when the model was superseded.
The second generation of the SC400 was introduced in 2001, and the model was produced until 2010, when it was discontinued.
Unfortunately, even though there were a lot of rumors, we didn’t experience seeing a replacement for this legendary model. So, only two generations were ever made.
Another essential thing to note is that the second generation of the SC was known as the SC430. So, the SC400 model was only produced between 1991 and 2000.
That’s why if you are looking for a model produced after 2000, this is an SC430, not an SC400.
Now let’s move on and discuss the SC400 in detail and learn more about the specs of this vehicle.
First Generation Lexus SC400 (1991 - 2000)
Now let’s dive into the first generation of the SC400. As noted, this model was introduced in 1991, and 1992 was the first model year. The model was produced until 2000 when the second generation replaced it.
Nevertheless, this model was based on the fourth-generation Toyota Supra. It was essentially a Supra with a Lexus emblem for the luxury market in America.
Thus, it includes a leather interior, a dashboard covered in leather, an expensive-looking cabin, and many additional luxuries.
The model came with many controls, like power windows, power controls for the driver-side seat, and much more.
The SC400 also featured quite a modern suspension MacPherson struts and an independent multi-link suspension in the rear.
Overall, we think the SC’s design stood the test of time and still looks quite modern, even by today’s standards.
We can honestly say that the model is a modern classic. This is why it is so desired on the second-hand market.
Not only that, this model is available for a real bargain. But more on the price for which you can get the model, we will discuss later on.
The important thing to note is that this model was assembled only in Japan in two different factories: the Fiji plant and the Motomachi plant.
Now that we introduced ourselves to the model let’s look at this vehicle’s dimensions and size.
Dimensions & Size
What is worth noting about this model is that based on the Supra. So, it shares the same wheelbase of 105.9 inches. The length varies because, through the years, the model grew in size a little bit.
Between 1992 and 1997, the length was 191.3 inches. While between 1998 and 2000, the length was about 192.5 inches.
In terms of class, this model is a mid-size car. But with two doors.
The curb weight of the SC400 was 3,604 lbs, making it fairly lightweight for a vehicle built for luxury comforts.
Engines & Transmissions
Now let’s take a look at the engines and transmissions that were used in the SC400. What type of engine this model has?
Regarding the engine used in the SC400, you’re treated to a 4.0L V8, known under the codename 1UZ-FE.
The engine is naturally aspirated. The model creates about 290hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. It powers the rear wheels. So, the model is RWD only.
The model comes with a 5-speed automatic; there isn’t an option with manual transmission available.
If you want a manual, you’ll be best off going with the SC300 since this model has a 5-speed manual.
Another thing that we would like to cover regarding the SC400 is fuel economy. What kind of mileage does this model get?
When you consider that this is a V8 engine, the numbers it delivers are pretty good. The 1998 model gets about 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. The average fuel economy is 19 mpg.
Overall, this model does not disappoint when it comes to fuel economy. But if you want something more fuel-efficient, we would recommend the SC300. Since it is a smaller engine, this model will deliver about 23 mpg on average, which is a decent number.
In terms of safety, the SC400 is pretty decent for its time. Remember that this is a model that was introduced in 1991.
Standards in those times were different; generally, no certified safety tests existed.
Because safety was not considered a priority, those were different times, and for many carmakers, looks were always the priority.
Even though the SC400 implements dual front airbags. Which is a big bonus. Considering that in 1991 the number of cars with airbags was relatively low.
In addition to this, the model also implemented four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. ABS is also a feature included on all modern vehicles, although back in the day was considered a luxury.
In addition, there were three-point seatbelts and front and rear crumple zones engineered to absorb the impact the best they could. And if you see some crashed cars from this model, you will notice that the car’s cage is pretty much intact.
The new cars back in the day were costly when it came to cost – the base price for a Lexus SC400 started at $47,000. In today’s money, this translates to a price of $95,000. Pretty crazy, huh?
Nowadays, the same models are affordable if you want to purchase one on the used car market. The cheapest one we could find on Autotrader was available for just $7,000.
You can find some in decent condition and low miles for $12,000, but some immaculate, expensive models can still go high in value.
The most expensive model that we could find was about $29,800, with only 6,000 miles and good service records.
To many new buyers, we recommend that you find a reputable seller that will not scam you in any way.
Also, a car with a good service history is a must. Since the prices of these cars rise over time, you can expect your investment to rise similarly.
So, when purchasing this model, consider it an investment since these cars will not go down in value soon.
We have covered the specs of the Lexus SC400. Now, let’s move on and learn more about the common issues associated with this model.
There are a lot of common problems with these vehicles. Luckily, they are minor and are not powertrain related.
The control arm bushings and lower ball joints are common problems with this vehicle. They tend to fail and cause drivability problems.
In addition to this, there can also be some power steering leaks. These leaks develop under the fluid tank or on the main hose, and they will eventually cause the alternator to fail since the fluid will leak on the alternator.
Also, there are problems with cracks in the radiator overflow tank. So, this has to be replaced at some point during the ownership.
The cabin vents could crack from temperature changes, which also have to be replaced at some point if they were not replaced already.
Blacked-out LCD screen for climate control is widespread as well. But you can replace this screen for about $125, as some owners reported.
In addition, the backlighting and the light for the needles also go out. So, the cluster can fail to show any light even though everything works well. In this instance, you will have to replace the lights on the cluster.
Door hinges can also start to sag; consequently, the door will sag too. This is the case because this is a coupe. When it comes to coupes, doors are heavier, so they can say. The solution is replacing the hinges with new ones.
Another problem with this model is the development of cracks on the upper door panel where the driver rests his hand while driving. Replacing this panel will sort the problem.
And last but not least is the window regulator. Window regulators tend to fail on the SC400; you’ll likely need to replace them sooner or later.
Regarding reliability, we can say that the SC400 is a pretty reliable model. The car does not have major problems whatsoever.
Even though our list of problems that we noted previously might scare you, these issues should not scare you away from buying the car.
You should take these notes as a guideline when buying your dream car. Be aware of these issues and check the car and see if some of them are in the car you plan to buy.
If none of these issues are present, congratulations, you found yourself a true gem. And make sure that you don’t miss out on the chance of getting a reliable vehicle.
SC400 Maintenance Costs
Regarding the maintenance cost, we can say that this model is quite demanding. This is not your regular Toyota.
Lexus models have more expensive maintenance costs and more extensive maintenance procedures. So, you must be prepared for this when buying a model like this.
This is why we often recommend getting the model with the 2JZ engine. Since this smaller engine is much more reliable and cheaper to maintain, you will save a ton of money in the process.
Overall, the SC400 is a true testament to the quality, comfort, and performance you can expect from Lexus.
The SC400 is the pinnacle of luxury that Lexus sold back in the day and as such, we can say that the model has created a true legacy among car guys.
This is why these models’ prices go up significantly even though they are almost three decades old.
Before buying, we strongly recommend you research and learn about common problems and what to expect.
Regarding our recommendations – we would recommend going for the SC300, mainly because it is cheaper and a more reliable vehicle to maintain overall. The 2JZ also has impressive tuning capabilities and can be transformed into a turbocharged weapon if performance is your end-goal.
Not sure if the SC lineup is quite right for you? Perhaps the GS300 could also be a consideration?