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JDM cars are more popular than ever, with a loyal, growing fan base in the U.S. Dozens of importers provide services to deliver the vehicle of your dreams. It starts with picking out the right car, handling all the import paperwork, and then delivering it to your door. The vehicles imported range from diminutive Kei cars to luxurious cruisers to high-performance sports cars.  

One car that gets overlooked is the Toyota Soarer, a luxury grand touring car with much in common with the Lexus SC. Perhaps it’s overlooked because of the SC, but as a fraternal twin of the Lexus, it also shares DNA with the Toyota Supra.

A brief history of the Toyota Soarer

The Soarer was Toyota’s personal luxury coupe sold in Japan from 1981 to 2005, according to Cars Directory. The first two generations featured more formal styling, looking like a grown-up Corolla or two-door Camry. Even then, they shared a platform with the Toyota Supra, including turbocharged and naturally aspirated versions of the 2.0 and 2.8 liter inline-6 engines. 

In 1991, the third-generation Soarer debuted. It was in every way a badge-engineered version of the Lexus SC for the Japanese domestic market. In other words, it’s the same car, except it wears a Griffin logo instead of a Lexus badge. Additionally, it’s just as closely related to the Supra, again sharing the same platform and inline-6 engine.  

Toyota produced the third-generation Soarer / Lexus SC / Supra up until 2000. However, here’s where the cars diverge. In 2001, Toyota launched a new Lexus SC 430 with a retractable hardtop and discontinued the Supra. However, the Soarer continued as the Lexus SC 430 for the Japanese market, again wearing a Griffin instead of an ‘L.’ 

The Toyota Soarer and Supra share a lot in common

A white-silver Toyota Soarer hardtop convertible coupe sports car model in Tokyo, Japan
A Toyota Soarer hardtop coupe | YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images

The Toyota Soarer pioneered many advanced features throughout its life that eventually trickled down to the masses. As a JDM car, it was even more technically sophisticated than the Lexus SCs. Digital dash instrumentation, integrated car systems with a touchscreen controller, and GPS navigation made it into the Soarer before spreading to the Lexus cars in the U.S. market.

Because the Soarer and Supra shared the same platform, the parts were interchangeable. A J2Z engine swap is a common and easy modification, as are the transmissions. Installing the Supra’s brakes, steering, and suspension gives the Soarer lively handling and performance. In Japan, the cars are as popular to tune and upgrade as Fox Body Mustangs in the U.S.

The GR Supra is the closest thing to a modern Soarer

Still, the Soarer is no Mustang, and if Toyota produced a modern version of the car, it would most likely be like the Toyota Supra.

First, let’s look at specs and prices. The 2000 Toyota Soarer’s base price was between $29,000 and $35,000, according to Ate Up With Motor. That price is the equivalent of about $50,000 to $55,000 today. Buyers could choose between two engines, a 2.5-liter inline-6 or a 3.0-liter inline-6, with various performance configurations. The Soarer was a true four-passenger car, while the Supra had a token uninhabitable backseat, making it practically a two-person vehicle. This is because the Supra was about a foot shorter with a 5-inch shorter wheelbase. However, those smaller dimensions gave it a better performance because it weighed about 300 pounds less. 

According to Edmunds, the base price of the 2023 Supra is $45,135 for the 2.0-liter four-cylinder or $54,095 for the 3.0-liter model, straddling what the Soarer would cost new today. Granted, it’s on a BMW platform, but that platform is BMW’s CLAR platform, which underpins many of BMW’s vehicles, including the 4 Series.

Therefore, it’s not a stretch to think of the BMW 4 Series as a modern competitor for the Toyota Soarer. The 4 Series’ dimensions are even within a few inches of the 2000 Soarer. Starting at $50,095, the price is close to the Soarer and occupies a similar spot on BMW’s roster. Depending on your opinion of the current Supra, a Soarer based on the BMW 4 Series could make sense if Toyota ever decided to revive the nameplate.      

Related Is the Toyota Soarer Emblem a Griffin or Lion?

Is the Toyota Soarer Emblem a Griffin or Lion?