While Lexus’ have always leaned towards the sleep-inducing end of the luxury spectrum, among the brand’s more stimulating early efforts was the original SC 400 personal luxury coupe, sold for the 1992-2000 model years. With sensual styling inside and out, a luxuriously appointed cabin, and a superbly-smooth 4.0L V8 rated at 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft torque (290hp and 300lb·ft, in later years), the rear-wheel drive SC 400 was a compelling choice for those wanting luxury and performance, along with Lexus’ high level of fit-and-finish and low cost of ownership compared to most German and American rivals. But what if the SC 400’s power and price tag were just a bit too much?
Enter the SC 300. Introduced one year after the SC 400, the SC 300 featured the less brawny 3.0L DOHC inline six from the Lexus GS 300/Toyota Aristo sedan, fewer standard features, and a $6,700 price cut over the SC 400. Accounting for inflation, the SC 300 represented an $11,259 cheaper starting price in 2017 dollars, making it a substantial discount for those who wanted the SC for its looks and comfort, and were willing to sacrifice a bit of power and top-shelf appointments.
And in reality, its not like the SC 300 was any weakling. Making 225 horsepower and 210 lb-ft torque, the SC 300 was capable of zero-to-sixty times in the low-7 range with its available 5-speed manual, which was not offered with the V8. Most convenience features found standard in the 400 were present in the 300, though in the place of the SC 400’s standard leather interior, the SC 300 featured rather nice cloth upholstery as standard. A leather trim package consisting of leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats and door panels, and seat and steering wheel memory was available, however.
That being said, being so used to seeing the SC 400 makes this SC 300 rather plebeian, with its smaller wheels (not to mention this car’s non-stock left-front steel rim) and cloth seats. Apparently SC buyers felt that way too, as first generation SC 400 sales far outnumbered those of the SC 300.
Photographed: Hingham, MA – February 2017