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New Car/Review

1997 LEXUS SC 400

by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 50,800
Price As Tested                                    $ 55,077
Engine Type                            4.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 242 cid/3969 cc
Horsepower                                   260 @ 5300 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               270 @ 4500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.9"/70.9"/192.5"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3655 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  20.6 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     225/55R16V
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            18/23/20
0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                         16 seconds @ 91 mph
Top-speed                                           145 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

There are two Lexus 400-series automobiles, both loaded with technological features and comfort and convenience items. The LS 400 large sedan is the old-money estate on Long Island, with lots of room and elegance. It's opulent, and people know it's top-of-the-line.

On the other hand, the SC 400 coupe is the upscale studio in Manhattan. It offers less room than its four-door counterpart and does it in a very seductive shape. It's a vehicle that blends class with compactness and does it well.

OUTSIDE - The SC 400 curves exude elegance, from its long, tapering hood and voluptuous body design, to its shapely headlights and radically raked windshield. Access to the interior is made easier by unique four-link hinges that pivot the doors outside their frames. This gives more space to enter and exit, yet keeps the doors within easy reach when seated. Small improvements for 1997 include a new front bumper with restyled fog lamps. Between the front and rear wheels and across the lower portion of the body are new aero-style side skirts, which gives the car a more muscular, almost aftermarket appearance. Also new are restyled rear tail lamps and an optional rear spoiler. The alloy wheels are new as well, and they carry 225/55R16 V-rated tires.

INSIDE - The instrument pod wraps around the driver and gives a clear view of the electro-luminescent, white-on-black gauges. The Lexus SC 400 is a car that is loaded with luxury items and accessories, all of which are nicely integrated and unobtrusive. Its front bucket seats are very comfortable, with lots of lumbar and side support, and the leather upholstery is even softer this year. The steering column is adjustable and telescopes outward to one of two pre-programmed positions. This system also automatically adjusts the outside mirrors and seat travel. Almost every possible comfort and convenience item is standard equipment, but there are still a few options available, such as heated front seats, a more powerful 280-watt stereo and a 12-disc CD changer, as well as a power tilt and slide moonroof.

ON THE ROAD - Under the hood of the SC 400 is a 32-valve, dual overhead cam V8 engine that produces 260 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, the same powerplant used in its sedan counterpart, the LS 400. The coupe uses different intake and exhaust manifolds, and a hydraulically-operated cooling fan which is quieter and lighter. The engine is all-aluminum and gives strong power throughout the rpm range, yet is so smooth it can hardly be heard. Under hard acceleration, however, the dual the exhaust system announces that it's a brawny V8, not to be confused with its little brother, the six cylinder SC 300. The only transmission available in the SC 400 is an electronically- controlled four-speed automatic, which is equally as smooth as the engine. With 0-to-60 mph being accomplished in 6.8 seconds, acceleration can be described as "brisk" and merging into commuter-time highway traffic was accomplished with no problem.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Slightly revised bushings and anti-roll bars have made an excellent four-wheel independent suspension even better for '97. And although both the SC 400 and LS 400 use double wishbone designs, the suspension on this coupe uses more alloy components for lighter weight and increased rigidity. The coupe's front upper A-arms are attached to a subframe instead of the body structure which improves handling quality. Speed-sensitive steering is standard equipment, and offers good feedback through the wheel. Traction control is available and the computer-aided slip control provided is well worth the extra money. Disc brakes are at each corner, and a sophisticated anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard equipment. Our brake tests gave an average of 119-foot 60-to-0 mph stopping distance, which is very short, while we experienced little or no brake fade, even after repeated panic stops.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS, side-impact protection and pre- tensioning front seat belts are standard equipment.

OPTIONS - A power moonroof is $1,000, while a 280-watt stereo with a 12-disc CD changer adds $2,250. The rear spoiler adds $450.