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The Lexus SC300 Was a More Luxurious Mk4 Toyota Supra

Although its vehicles, even the off-road-capable LX SUV, are best-known for luxury, Lexus does have a performance side. And it’s been on display even before the LFA supercar. The early Lexus IS300 sedan combined better-than-BMW reliability with the 2JZ engine from the Mk4 Toyota Supra. But it wasn’t the only contemporary Lexus with that engine. So, if you want an upscale Mk4 Toyota Supra, you may want to take a look at the Lexus SC300.

Lexus SC300 vs. the Mk4 Toyota Supra: specs and features

When it launched in 1992, the rear-wheel-drive Lexus SC was the brand’s first coupe and sports car, Automobile, and Motor1 report. Much like the later Audi TT, its curved exterior design would prove fairly influential. But we’re interested most in its mechanicals.

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In the beginning, the Lexus SC, known as the Z30-gen Toyota Soarer in Japan, wasn’t necessarily that sporty. It debuted in SC400 trim, with the 250-hp 4.0-liter V8 and 4-speed automatic from the contemporary LS400, Hagerty reports. Though to be fair, the Mk4 Toyota Supra could also be ordered with that automatic, Car and Driver reports.

A blue Lexus SC300 coupe at the waterfront
1996 Lexus SC300 | Bring a Trailer

However, in 1992 Lexus released the SC300. Like the SC400, it had wood trim, leather upholstery, and power-adjustable “everything,” Dust Runners Auto reports. And traction control was an optional extra. But instead of a V8, the Lexus SC300 has a 3.0-liter six-cylinder rated at 225 hp and 210 lb-ft. It’s the same engine found in the 1st-gen IS300, making it essentially a Mk4 Toyota Supra motor.

The tan leather interior of a manual-equipped 1996 Lexus SC300
1996 Lexus SC300 interior | Bring a Trailer

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Although it had less power than the SC400, the Lexus SC300 weighed less. As a result, its 0-60 time is identical to the more-expensive V8 car, Club Lexus forum users report. But there’s one more thing that made the SC300 arguably closer to the Supra than the SC400. Until 1997, buyers could spec it with a 5-speed manual.

Driving and tuning the Lexus SC300

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To be fair, the Lexus SC300’s 2JZ-GE six-cylinder isn’t exactly the same as the Mk4 Toyota Supra’s 2JZ. It lacks the twin turbochargers and piston-cooling oil squirters and has a different intake manifold, DriftWorks forum users report. But because it shares the same basic block and internals, it’s just as robust, Autotrader report. As is the JDM Soarer’s smaller 1JZ engine, Jalopnik reports.

Some critique the Lexus SC300 for not being as sharp as the Mk4 Toyota Supra, Motor1 reports. However, many forget that the Mk4 Supra was as much a GT car as a sports car, Road & Track reports. In fact, it rides on the same platform, and uses some of the same suspension components, as the Lexus SC300. Only the Lexus came out first.

And it’s not like the Lexus SC300 isn’t fun to drive, Automobile reports. It’s not quite up to modern sports car standards, but it’s still enjoyable on a back road, CarThrottle reports. The steering is excellent, and the car grips well. The stock suspension is a bit “floaty,” The Smoking Tire reports, though it is very comfortable. But with a few tire, suspension, and brake upgrades, it’s possible to turn the ‘Poor Man’s Supra’ into a racer or a drifter. And if you really want, you can always give the Lexus SC300 a turbo or swap in the Supra’s engine.

Pricing and availability

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Finding a manual Lexus SC300 isn’t easy. Lexus built less than 4000 of them in that spec, Hagerty reports. However, thanks to the 25-year rule, it’s possible to find imported Toyota Soarers with manuals. And they’re noticeably cheaper than Mk4 Toyota Supras, too.

As of this writing, Duncan Imports has a manual 1992 Soarer available for $16,930. And on Bring a Trailer, Lexus SC300s typically go for $10,000-$20,000. A well-maintained Mk4 Toyota Supra can go for twice that amount, Hagerty reports.

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