The Lexus SC Is The Bargain Coupe If You Can't Afford A Supra

Smart Buy / 33 Comments

People are hyped about the Supra but have forgotten the SC.

The MKV Toyota Supra has finally arrived at dealerships and as with most brand-new sports cars, the dealer markups are already criminal. Some dealerships are charging over $100,000 for the brand-new Supra and you can't do much better buying the older MKIV model. Some people are even paying close to $200,000 for low-mileage examples of the MKIV Supra Turbo, putting them out of reach for most enthusiasts.

So, if you can't afford to buy a low-mileage Supra, why not buy a Lexus SC instead? The first-generation Lexus SC was sold from 1991 to 2000 before being replaced by the completely different (and terrible) SC 430. You may not remember the first-generation SC but it was essentially a more luxurious version of the MKIV Supra.


Why You Should Buy One

As we mentioned, the original SC was the closest thing you could get to a Lexus Supra. It was designed to be a two-door flagship coupe, meaning it used the best available technology possible. Just like other Lexus vehicles of the period, the SC was known for bulletproof reliability and, just like the Supra, offers a large aftermarket with immense tuning and modification possibilities.

Prices have now become extremely affordable because, unlike the Supra, the SC isn't as well remembered for being a tuning legend. The SC was never the hero car of Fast and Furious and it never dodged a train while doing a quarter-mile drag race, which is why you can take advantage of its anonymity.


The Price

Finding a well-preserved SC is becoming difficult given the car's age, having left production back in 2000. But even some of the low-mileage, well-kept examples can be found for less than $20,000. This is a fraction of the price being paid for MKIV Supras right now and if you can handle buying a fixer-upper, prices begin for as low as around $3,000. Given how reliable and well-built the SC was, we highly recommend it as a first project car for young enthusiasts that want something more unique than a Mustang or Camaro.


The Performance

Lexus offered the SC in two flavors - the SC 300 and the SC 400. The SC 300 may have been the base model but they are now the more desirable of the two. This is because the SC 300 was powered by the same 3.0-liter 2JZ inline-six as the Toyota Supra. It produced 225 horsepower (5 hp more than the Supra) and 210 lb-ft of torque going out to a four-speed automatic (later a five-speed) or a rarified five-speed manual. Finding a manual example is difficult because Lexus only offered it from launch until 1997. 0-60 in the SC 300 took around 7.2 seconds or 6.9 seconds with the manual.

The SC 400 was powered by the same 4.0-liter 1UZ V8 found in the LS 400. It initially produced 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque but was upgraded twice, first to 260 hp then again to 290 hp with the addition of variable valve timing. The V8 was buttery smooth and reliable but Lexus never offered it with a manual transmission. 0-60 was quicker in here, taking around 6.1 seconds in the later cars.


The Interior

The SC's interior looks extremely simplistic by 2019 standards but was top notch at the time. Most of the interior plastics haven't aged well visually but this is a Lexus after all, so most materials have held up better than other cars from the late '90s and early '00s. But even with Lexus fit and finish, these cars are now over 20 years old and they weren't exactly babied as collectibles. Finding one with a pristine interior will be difficult but is certainly not impossible.

The Practicality

The SC came at a time before rakish rooflines and thick pillars for crash tests, so it is fairly spacious inside for a two-door coupe. All SC models have a four-seat layout with a slightly cramped 27.2 inches of rear legroom. For reference, a brand-new Ford Mustang offers 29 inches of rear legroom. The trunk is fairly limiting as well with just 9.3 cubic feet of cargo volume, though this is nearly double the space found in the brand-new Lexus LC 500.


Young enthusiasts are always looking for hidden gem cars that stand out from car show parking lots full of Mustang and Camaro drivers. The Lexus SC may not be as idolized as much as the Supra but with clean examples being more difficult to come by, it may not be long before the "Lexus Supra" starts becoming collectible. Prices are very low, though you may have to spend money swapping in a manual transmission should you not be able to find a stock one.


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