Photo of the Day – 1992 Lexus SC400 Soarer Drifting

In 1990, following the successful launch of its upscale Lexus division outside of Japan, Toyota commissioned its California design studio Calty to develop a new luxury coupe. In 1991, this vehicle debuted in the U.S. as the Lexus SC 300/400. In the same year, the third generation Toyota Soarer debuted in Japan as the Z30 series, replacing the Z20 series in that market.

The 1992 Lexus SC400 Soarer Conversion Looks Right At Home Drifting

The Z30 series Soarer shared the body style and key components with the Lexus SC, but featured different interior features, powertrain configurations, and other performance enhancements.

This new Soarer continued some of the features that Toyota had pioneered on the earlier models, such as digital dash instrumentation and integrated car systems control via the in-dash EMV touchscreen. For example, it was now one of the first cars in the world to feature factory GPS navigation via cd-rom, continuing the Toyota/Lexus tradition of not only equalling but surpassing the established luxury brands in price, quality and features. It had a luxury feel to it, yet the 2.5GT twin turbo model in particular was truly a very powerful sports car as well. Not surprising though, given its 1JZ-GTE engine was used for the MKIII Supra as well. Although the chassis is more akin the MKIV Supra with suspension, brakes, drivetrain, and engine pieces interchangeable for the most part.

The Toyota Soarers made from the years 1991-2000 were offered with a 4-speed automatic transmission for all models. In addition, the JZZ30 Soarer could be had with a 5-speed manual transmission. All models were available with a Torsen torque-sensing differential. Unlike their US Lexus equivalents however, the 30-series Soarer lineup never received a 5-speed automatic, and only the six cylinder versions received variable valve timing (VVTi) engines, in 1996. Also, the UZZ30 (equivalent to the Lexus SC400) was only sold from 1991 to 1993, and the JZZ31 (equivalent to the Lexus SC300) was not introduced to the Japanese market until 1994.

Styling-wise, the Soarer received only minor changes to (e.g. rear lights, front grille and front/rear bumpers as well as the addition of side-skirts) during its 9-year production run, a testament to the original design.

Starting in 1997, the Soarer was used as a high speed patrol car in multiple Japanese prefectures, using the 2.5GT trim with a 5-speed manual transmission.