The Relentless Grand Tourer

The automotive industry has been an ever-changing landscape. Some of the most celebrated Japanese motoring icons have come from the economic bubble of the late '80s and early '90s. Big grand tourers such as Sally (the team's own Fairlady Z32) and many others were born from it. One of its popular competitors was the Lexus SC/Toyota Soarer (JZ/UZZ30).

When the Lexus LS needed a stablemate to expand the new luxury divisions lineup in North America, it looked to Japan, where the Z20 Toyota Soarer was nearing the end of its life and was due for a successor. Since the new coupe was going to debut in America, it was agreed upon that the Calty Design Studio in California (Toyota’s design facility) would be used to shape the new model, after a few design studies (Toyota FXV-II and others) and some unconventional methods (using plaster filled balloons).

The new successor was decided upon and utilized a new approach to design with 3-D clay models rather than just sketches. In 1991, the Soarer debuted in Japan and other select countries, with the SC following in 1992. The coupe was badged in North America as the first-generation Lexus SC ( which stood for Sport Coupe) and elsewhere was known as the third-generation Toyota Soarer.

The new coupe looked nothing like its predecessor or competition. There were no straight lines or hard edges. Viewing the SC from the front, the headlights separated the high beams and starts a character line that wraps along the side of the car and ends in the taillights. The long hood and short trunk shout out the obvious that this is a grand tourer.

Multiple engines and transmission options were available throughout production, starting with the 1UZ-FE, an all-aluminum 4.0 liter V8 that originally produced 250hp and 260lb/ft of torque, and later the 2JZ-GE, an iron block 3.0 liter straight-6 that produced 212hp and 209lb/ft of torque. The Soarer had an exclusive third engine available known as the 1JZ-GTE. An iron block 2.5 liter straight-6 had a cylinder head developed with Yamaha (a partnership in existence since the 2000GT) and produced 276hp and 268lb/ft of torque. In 1997 with the introduction of variable valve timing and a few other changes, the 1UZ saw an increase to 290hp and 310lb/ft of torque.

The 2JZ also saw a bump to 227hp and 220lb/ft of torque. The 1JZ however, had power stay the same but received a redesigned cylinder head as well as a change to a single twin-scroll turbocharger. Most cars received the A340 4-speed automatic as it was tuned to be the most comfortable and luxurious. 2JZ powered cars were also available with a W58 5-speed manual, and 1JZ powered cars had an R154 5-speed manual option. The 1UZ powered cars received a new A650 5-speed automatic when the engines were updated.

Though the coupe looks quite large, through the use of many aluminum components managed to keep its weight quite reasonable at 1540 - 1730kg (3395 - 3814lbs). Options varied depending on the market and cars could be equipped with leather, power equipment sunroofs, and such. The SC coupes came with many options as standard features since they were being marketed as a premium luxury coupe in comparison to the Jaguar XK, BMW 8-Series, Cadillac Atlante, etc. However, they were a few specific options America didn't get to enjoy. UZZ31 Soarers in Japan were bestowed with an airbag or full active suspension (something that is now being seen on hypercars) if it was a higher spec UZZ32, In-dash navigation and television known as "Electro Multi Vision, sonar parking aids and ultrasonic mirrors (uses tiny vibrations to clear water droplets, etc.).

Underneath, the big coupe rides on double wishbone front suspension with a two-piece subframe and a multi-link rear suspension. The geometry was designed to keep the car from squatting under hard acceleration and diving under hard braking. Speaking of braking, the SC featured four wheel vented disc brakes with front two-piston sliding calipers and single-piston calipers at the rear.

ABS was standard and used 3 or 4 channels depending on the engine optioned and traction control was an extra add-on. 15" or 16" multi-spoke aluminum wheels covered the stopping power.

Is the SC/Soarer on your list of legendary Japanese cars?

-Team 604

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