What is it?
This is Lexus’ first sports car, created in two generations. It is actually described as a grand tourer and features a classic front engine, rear-wheel drive layout with seating for up to four passengers.
When and where was it made?
The first generation (upon which we will focus) debuted in 1991 and was sold until July 2000. The SC was produced alongside the Toyota Soarer at the company’s Higashi Fuji plant at Susono, Shizuoka.
The first generation of the model was offered with an inline-six and a V8 gasoline units, sending power to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual, or four- and five-speed automatic transmissions. Initially, only the more powerful motor was available, delivering 250 horsepower (186 kilowatts), shortly after upgraded to 260 (194 kW). The addition of an upgraded VVT-i system in 1997 boosted the power to 290 hp (216 kW).
Was it that bad?
Well – no. Not at all. It had enough power, drove well on highways and looked good. In fact, when it debuted with a drag coefficient of 0.31, its design was considered influential for the whole segment. It was well built, had comfortable interior, and sold well.
Then, what’s the problem, you might ask? It was positioned somewhere between the traditional grand tourers and the classic sports car. To put that into context, there were better GTs on the market at that time and far better sports cars. But probably the biggest issue was… the Toyota Supra.
The two cars shared many components and even the engine was almost identical (in the SC 300). But while the Supra was tuned to deliver fun behind the wheel, the SC was only good at straights. Yes, most people buy grand tourers to drive them on the highway, but when the power is close to 300 hp (224 kW), good handling is a must.
And, yes – probably the SC should not be classified as a sports car, but when you have all the characteristics of such, you have to compete against the best. Some say the SC was a nicer, more luxurious Supra, we say it was a slower and heavier Supra.
We don’t all agree
Explaining why the Lexus SC was actually a great car is not a tough job. First, it looked great, even in the late 90s when it was already more than five-years old. It had a distinctive exhaust note from the outside, but when you were inside the car it was comfortably quiet – just like a real grand tourer should be. Add a perfect ride quality, high build quality, and good materials. And, yes – it was not a great sports car, but a fantastic GT.
- Brian Potter, Director and co-founder of Motor1.com, UK