A V8-powered Lexus coupe doesn't have to be expensive.
The first-generation Lexus SC doesn't always get the level of recognition it deserves. Serving as the sleeker and sexier counterpart to the far more traditionally styled Lexus LS 400 sedan, the SC's platform was also later used to help develop the fourth-generation Toyota Supra. The SC's engineering and technology were that good.
Launched for the 1992 model year, the Lexus SC 400 came with standard V8 power and rear-wheel-drive. Lexus noted its main rivals at the time all offered coupes, such as the Mercedes-Benz SL and Acura Legend coupe. It wouldn't look good if the new luxury brand was lacking in this segment.
But unlike the LS 400, the SC 400 was designed in California. Since it was being predominantly aimed at American buyers, this decision made absolute sense. The result was a luxury coupe that had almost no straight edges and a drag coefficient of 0.31. Needless to say, it became a smash hit and one of the most talked-about cars of the year.
It received numerous awards, among them Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year. The SC 400 produced a total of 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The SC 300, a less powerful version packing a 3.0-liter inline-six with 225 hp and 210 lb-ft of twist, arrived in mid-1992. A four-speed automatic transmission was available on both, though the SC 300 could be had with a five-speed manual. It wasn't until 1997 when the SC was given a refresh. Along with a new five-speed slushbox, and some exterior and interior styling tweaks, both engines received variable valve timing with intelligence, or VVT-i. As a result, output increased to 290 hp and 300 lb-ft in the V8 and 225 hp and 220 lb-ft in the inline-six.
But was the SC fast? For its time, yes. V8 versions initially went from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, a time that dropped to 6.1 seconds by the end of its production life. The SC 300 also had a respectable 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds with the manual and 7.2 seconds with the automatic.
The mid-life refresh was good enough to get the SC coupe through the 2000 model year. In other words, it had an eight-year lifespan, which even then was unusual. Most vehicles typically required extensive redesigns in less time in order to remain competitive. But the Lexus SC was different because it was the model that forced competitors back to the drawing boards faster than expected. It set a new standard for luxury coupes in just about every way. Not bad at all for an automaker's first segment attempt.
The second-generation Lexus SC arrived in 2001, but let's save it for another time. There hasn't been an SC on the market since the second-gen model was discontinued after 2010. Fortunately, Toyota's luxury division still sells two amazing coupes, the Lexus RC and Lexus LC 500. For those who don't have the funds for either, or simply prefer something a bit more old school, we have another possibility for you.
This 1997 Lexus SC 400 is currently up for sale on Craigslist in the San Francisco area for only $3,800. The images show a car that's in remarkably excellent shape for its age, especially the interior (though there is a slight tear on the driver's seat). It does have a total of 148,000 miles on its odometer, but that's to be expected given it served as a daily driver for years. The seller recently invested in a new set of tires and the car also recently passed California's smog test.
Given its Supra connection, it's possible that one day the first-generation Lexus SC could become a collector's car. If so, this example's next owner can brag they bought it for dirt cheap.