When Toyota decided to unveil a North American luxury division named Lexus in the late 1980's, a significant portion of their product development was derived from aping the current established order of the premium domestic and German automakers. This meant that Lexus geared themselves up to match their competition vehicle for vehicle as the company slowly grew in size and sales. In a few short years, Lexus was on the lookout to jump into the full-size personal luxury coupe market and make a splash that would attract attention to their sky-high aspirations.
Released in 1991, the Lexus SC 400 was a bold statement from the fledgling organization. Based upon the Toyota Soarer which was not sold outside of Japan, the SC 400 turned a lot of heads with its long hood, attractive greenhouse and classic styling. The V-8 engine found under its hood compared favorably with the motors powering the Lincoln Mark VIII, the Cadillac Eldorado and the Mercedes-Benz SL500, its chief competition at the time. The following year would see the introduction of a 6-cylinder edition of the car that boasted a manual transmission, a rarity in the luxury coupe segment that further set the Lexus apart from norm.
The 1990s would see a serious amount of flux in the car industry as the tastes of buyers underwent a quantum shift, moving away from personal luxury vehicles to instead embrace the grandeur of full-size sport-utility vehicles and a plethora of different crossovers that would slowly suck the life out of the full-size coupe market. One by one the major players in the game began to fall, with Acura and Lincoln dropping their big two-doors before the end of the decade. Lexus would hold out until the last possible moment, dropping the SC from the lineup after the year 2000, with Cadillac following suit with the Eldorado a mere two years later.
Recent interest in larger coupes from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz has turned the attention of the used market back to the venerable two-door flagships of old, and of all of these vehicles the Lexus SC has aged perhaps the most gracefully. With excellent Toyota reliability and timeless styling built into every example, the Lexus SC provides excellent value for secondhand buyers interested in scooping up a deal on a powerful, poised and comfortable coupe. This article covers the best used coupe available from Lexus, the 1998 - 2000 Lexus SC, and describes the features that make it a must-drive for anyone in the personal luxury market.
1998 - 2000 Lexus SC
One of the first things that most people notice when approaching the 1998 - 2000 Lexus SC is that it looks almost as though it could have rolled out of the factory yesterday. In fact, it could be said that the elegant lines of the Lexus SC inspired several of the popular coupes that followed it, most notably the Chrysler Sebring and the Chevrolet Camaro. With semi-elliptical headlights and a broad front end, the SC is at once both welcoming and a solid presence on the road that speaks of power and control.
Lexus SC drivers are treated to one of two excellent engines. The entry-level SC 300 makes use of a 3.0-liter inline 6 engine (one of Toyota's specialties), that produces 225 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque. The top of the line SC 400 is provided with a 4.0-liter, 32-valve 290 horsepower V-8 that also cranks out a very healthy 300 lb-ft of torque. This allows the large coupe to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just 6 seconds, with the somewhat slower SC 300 taking an additional 1.5 seconds to hit the all important benchmark. Both cars make use of a 5-speed automatic transmission to handle all shifting duties.
The interior of the 1998 - 2000 Lexus SC is not redolent in gizmos and features but rather impresses by simply doing everything it needs to do well. The leather seats are firm and supportive, the controls for the heater and the excellent stereo system are intuitive and fall easily within reach, and the dashboard gauges are quite attractively lit at night. Rear passenger room is somewhat of an afterthought, but those used to shopping in the coupe market will not be shocked by this turn of events.
The 1998 - 2000 Lexus SC represents one of the final examples of 1990's luxury charm, and its excellent chassis and still potent engines keep it competitive with much newer used coupes.