From the April 2022 issue of Car and Driver.
Following the debut of Lexus in 1989, Toyota's luxury brand sent the SC300 and SC400 sports coupes to dealers for the 1992 model year. Sleek and refined, the two-doors made an impact—an SC landed on our 10Best list from 1992 until 1995. Built through the 2000 model year, first-gen SCs have flown under the radar for decades. But with increasing interest in '90s vehicles, particularly Japanese cars, these Lexus coupes should soon rise in value.
The SC400 uses the Lexus LS400's 1UZ-FE 4.0-liter V-8, rated at 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. With shorter gearing and 246 fewer pounds of mass than the LS, the SC400 managed a zero-to-60-mph time of 6.7 seconds, 1.2 seconds better than the sedan. The 1997 SC400 added 10 horsepower, and the '98 gained even more power (reaching 290 horses) and an extra gear (now a five-speed automatic).
Toyota fans will recognize the SC300's 2JZ-GE 225-hp inline-six as being shared with the Supra. The most crucial difference between the SC300 and SC400 isn't just the engine: Only the SC300 offered a manual transmission, and only through 1997. The SC also shares a platform with the fourth-gen Supra. Supras have shot up in value, especially the 320-hp twin-turbo version. For years, the more refined and luxurious SC, specifically the SC300 with the five-speed manual, was the cheap alternative to a naturally aspirated Supra. But with only around 4000 manual-equipped SC300s ever made, they're now easily the most expensive SC.
The market for SC coupes is growing. A decade ago, good SCs were just a few thousand dollars; these days the price range for cars in good condition is $7000 to $15,000, with some outliers at both ends of the spectrum. Being the rarest-spec model, any SC300 with the five-speed manual transmission will command a higher price. As with any used car, factor in maintenance costs and aim to buy the best example possible.
Common issues include cracked dash vents, broken window regulators, dead LCD displays and gauge-cluster lights, and worn lower control-arm bushings and lower ball joints. More serious problems include power-steering pump leaks that can damage the alternator and cracks in the coolant overflow reservoir. Ideally, service records will reveal the age of the timing belt, water pump, and power-steering pump.
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