Premium sporty/performance car; Built in Japan
  • 2-door coupe
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,900 – $9,000*

1998 Lexus SC 400

1998 Lexus SC 300

1994 Lexus SC 400

1993 Lexus SC 400 interior

1997 Lexus SC 400

  • Acceleration
  • Antilock brakes
  • Build quality
  • Steering/handling
  • Cargo room
  • Fuel economy
  • Rear-seat room
  • Road noise

Undeniably expensive even with many years of service behind them, these coupes nevertheless rank near the top of our list of luxury sport models.


Launched in June 1991, this premium rear-drive 2-door coupe from Toyota’s luxury division carried a 4.0-liter V8 and 4-speed automatic transmission. An SC 300, with inline 6-cylinder engine, joined in June 1992. Both had a 2+2 notchback body, but front-end styling differed slightly and the SC 300 had fewer standard features. The SC 300’s 3.0-liter engine developed 225 horsepower, and came with 5-speed manual shift (automatic optional). Antilock all-disc brakes and a driver-side airbag were standard.

Yearly Updates

1993 SC 300/400
A passenger-side airbag went into 1993 coupes, joining the driver’s airbag. A new automatic headlamp on/off system included a lamps-on warning.
1994 SC 300/400
Adoption of CFC-free refrigerant for the standard air conditioning was the only change for 1994.
1995 SC 300/400
Grilles, taillamps, and alloy wheels are new. The SC 300 adopted 16-inch tires, matching the SC 400. Both models got structural refinements to meet the stricter 1997 federal side-impact standards.
1996 SC 300/400
A new V8 engine went into the SC 400, borrowed from the latest LS 400 sedan. It produced 10 more horsepower (now 260) and 10 extra pound-feet of torque.
1997 SC 300/400
More aggressive-looking exterior trim and softer seats marked the ’97 coupes. The passenger airbag moved to the top of the dashboard, and a trip computer was added.
1998 SC 300/400
Both engines were revised. The V8 gained 40 horsepower and 30 pound-feet of torque, courtesy of Variable Valve Timing. The 6-cylinder engine added 10 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed automatic transmission went into the SC 400, with a gate for manual shifting. No more manual-shift SC 300s were produced.
1999 SC 300/400
Daytime running lights were installed, perforated leather trim went on seats and steering wheels, and a new 6-disc CD autochanger became standard in ’99.
2000 SC 300/400
One new paint color became available, and new perforated leather upholstery was installed. SC took the ’01 model year off, reappearing in all-new from in ’02.


longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

From 1992 through 1995, both the inline 6-cylinder engine in the SC 300 and the V8 in the SC 400 were unchanged. The 3.0-liter dual-cam six produced 225 horsepower; the 4.0-liter dual-cam V8, 250 horses. The V8 gained horsepower and torque in 1996. For 1998, both engines were modified, the V8 gaining 40 horsepower and 30 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission was available in the SC 300 until 1998, with 4-speed automatic optional. Also in 1998, the SC 400 switched from a 4-speed automatic to a 5-speed version.

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 225
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 210-220
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/242
Engine HP 250-260
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 260-270
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/242
Engine HP 290-300
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 300-310
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic


Road Test

Lexus claimed a 1998-99 SC 400 would accelerate to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, versus 7.9 for the SC 300. Both rank as quick in our book. Transmission response ranks as silken. Body roll in tight turns is barely evident. Overall, the SC 400 is far more agile than expected from a car of its weight. The ride is supple, the suspension is a lot firmer than the LS 400’s, but never harsh. We averaged 17.2 mpg in an SC 400, versus 18 mpg in an SC 300. Both engines use premium fuel. Wind and engine noise are nearly muted, but road noise is a lot more noticeable.

Lexus promoted these coupes as 2+2s. With 6-footers up front, seats will likely be pushed far enough back to nearly eliminate leg room in the rear. Head room is skimpy in back but surprisingly good up front, though an inch or two of that space is eaten up by the optional moonroof. The trunk is quite small for a car of this size.

Visibility is clear even to the rear corners, despite the fact that the driver sits relatively low. A wide range of seat and steering-wheel adjustments helps each driver find the ideal position.

Entry/exit is easier than in most coupes, because of special hinges that push the doors slightly forward. Long doors still are clumsy, though, and entering the back seat is a tight squeeze–especially on the driver’s side.


Model Tested: 1998 Lexus SC 400

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 7
Fuel Economy - 3
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
Cargo Room - 2


Value - 4

Total: 41


2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
105.9 191.1 70.5 52.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
9.3 20.6 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.3 36.1 44.1 27.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 SC 300/400 2-door coupe


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 198
Injury 69
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: The car may not upshift, downshift, or may start in the wrong gear on electronically shifted transmissions due to a faulty ground circuit. (1992)
Dashboard lights
Description: A defective EVAP (evaporative emissions control) system charcoal canister causes the check-engine light to glow. Both new car and emissions controls warranties apply. (1997-98)
Dashboard lights
Description: Due to a problem in the printed circuit, outside temperature reading may report -22F. Removing the fuse for 30 seconds should reset the system. (1995-96)
Description: Defective hinges cause a popping noise when the front doors are opened. Revised hinges are available. (1992-94)
Keyless entry
Description: The screw that holds the battery cover in place on the key transmitter falls out. (1992-95)
Oil consumption
Description: Excessive oil consumption caused by sludge buildup on the cylinder heads. Company is extending warranty. (1993-00)
Audio system
Description: Because the radio antenna is not properly grounded, weak AM stations have static whenever another electrical device, such as wipers or turn signals, are used. (1992-94)
Suspension noise
Description: Popping, clunking, or rattling noises from the rear are often due to a loose retaining nut on the support. (1992-94)
Check-engine light
Description: The check-engine light may come on because of a problem with the fuel vapor emissions system. (1995-00)

Recall History

1996-97 SC 400
Description: Improper assembly of terminal for starter-motor switch can cause a short circuit.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.