The Lexus SC400 is the first generation under the SC series, a grand tourer that features a rear-wheel drive and a front engine. The SC series was in production from 1991 to 2010, but the SC400 variant was only produced from 1991 to 2000. At a time when Lexus was still feeling its way around since it was just founded in 1989, the launching of the SC400 reflected Toyota’s determination to compete with the mid-size coupe segment’s big boys, namely Nissan, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz.
To expand Lexus’ product lineup, it came up with a mid-size luxury coupe that could compete with the Infiniti M30, Acura Legend, and Mercedes-Benz SL. With the help of the California-based Calty Design center and under the leadership of design chiefs Erwin Lui and Denis Campbell, Lexus came up with a vehicle design that was based more on “emotion and feeling” instead of on technical aesthetics. The result was a uniquely styled first-gen SC400 with almost no straight edges. One journalist actually hailed the model’s distinct style as an influential automotive design at the time of its introduction.
Launched in 1991 as a 1992 model, the SC400 was equipped with a 4-L V8 1UZ-FE. Because of its unique design and powerful engine, it was included in Car and Driver’s Ten Best List from 1992 to 1998. In 1992, it was hailed as Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year.
Over the years, early SC400s received few minor upgrades. These included a restyled spoiler and new tail lamps during a mid-cycle refresh.
1996: Style and engine changes
In 1996, the SC400’s original engine was redesigned to increase the horsepower from 250 hp to 260 hp. This redesigned engine was partnered with a four-speed automatic transmission. In the same year, several cosmetic upgrades were added: a new front grille, a modified bumper, and restyled rocker panels and side skirts.
1997: Engine upgrade
In the following year, the SC400 was upgraded with a VVT-I engine. This resulted into a higher hp (290 hp) and increased torque (300 lb/ft.). Based on tests, the model’s acceleration from 1992 to 1995 was 0-60 mph in just 6.9 seconds. For 1996 and 1997 SC400 models, acceleration was 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds. For 1998 to 2000 models, acceleration increased to 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds.
In 2000, the production for SC400 was ended to make way for its third-gen successor, the SC430. Despite its discontinuation, the SC400 continues to attract buyers and enthusiasts who fell in love with the model’s unique design and reliable engine performance. As a matter of fact, the SC400 today is quite popular among hobbyists who restore vehicles because of its easy-to-find and affordable components, as well as maintenance-friendly engine.