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In the late 1980's after many market and consumer studies, Toyota decided to enter the luxury car field. Up until that time, with the exception of Honda's Acura line, top level luxury cars had mostly been produced by British and German manufacturers overseas, as well as Cadillac and Lincoln in this country. For the 1990 model year the Lexus nameplate appeared on the LS400 sedan. To establish the Lexus name in the luxury sports car field in 1991 the SC400 coupe was introduced. This model was crafted in Toyota's Southern California's Calty Design studios specifically for the North America automotive market. Utilizing the 4.0-liter V8 engine from the LS400, the SC400 had its own distinctive styling and chassis, and was definitely not a two-door version of the LS400 sedan.

In order to broaden its luxury product line, Lexus introduced the SC300 in 1992. It combined the chassis and styling of the SC400 with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. It can be distinguished from its stable mate only by wheels and badging. With a little less weight from the lighter engine and only slightly less power then its V8-powered relative, the SC300 gives away little in performance and costs substantially less. Unlike its automatic-transmission-only V8 sister, the SC300 is also available with a 5-speed manual transmission. Equipped with the 4-speed automatic, the SC300 is a refined luxury coupe. With the 5-speed manual, the sporting character of the car is highlighted.

A week of all-purpose driving in the 5-speed SC300 left these impressions:

APPEARANCE: The styling of the SC300 is neat, clean and functional. Its design was developed using hand-molded clay models rather than a computer. Its well-lighted front-end treatment is distinctive because of projector beam head and driving lights, a below -the-bumper air-intake and a newly styled grille. Its overall styling reveals a wedge influence, highlighted by some enhancing body creases. Low profile Goodyear Eagle GS-D performance tires mounted on newly styled 16-inch alloy wheels and large side mirrors augment the side view. Its short, high rear deck sports a discrete spoiler and new rear tail lamp treatment, while two large exhaust pipes more than hint at available power.

COMFORT: There is a fine balance of luxury in the SC300. It is completely and tastefully outfitted with a host of convenience items - some expected, some unique. Among the expected are soft leather, upholstery, all of the power amenities, a highly visible electronic analog instrument panel, a very quiet automatic climate control system, and discrete wood trim. The unique items include easy access 4-link door hinges that allow the wide doors to open wide for easy access. Also, the front passenger seat electronically moves fore and aft to allow easy access to the rear seats. For custom comfort the driver's seat has ten-way power adjustments which, along with the side mirrors and tilt and telescope steering wheel can be pre-set for two drivers. The hi-fi stereo sound system has plenty of power and fidelity, and when fitted with the available 12-CD auto changer can provide over 12-hours of music. For added vision a tilt and slide glass sun sunroof can be ordered.

SAFETY: The Lexus SC300 is equipped with dual front airbags, three-point seat belts, four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, front and rear energy absorbing crumple zones, and a theft deterrent system.

ROADABILITY: This sport coupe has impeccable road manners that are the result of refined suspension dynamics combined with solid chassis engineering. For 1995 the suspension and power steering have been slightly re-tuned to further improve stability and road feel. To make manual shifting even easier the shift lever has been lowered and moved closer to the driver. Goodyear performance-rated unidirectional Eagle GSD 225/55 tires mounted on new, larger 16-inch wheels provide excellent adhesion when maneuvering. Large ventilated antilock disc brakes insure safe stopping on a variety of road surfaces. New thicker insulation reduces interior noise levels even further for a very quiet ride. The SC 300 is a grand touring machine that is fun, and safe to drive - almost anywhere in almost any weather.

PERFORMANCE: The double-overhead cam, 24 valve, multiport fuel injected, straight six-cylinder engine that powers this Lexus develops 225 horsepower. This nimble energy is delivered to the rear wheels via a very smooth shifting five-speed manual transmission. The stick shift adds a great deal of sporting character to the car, as well as added control on twisty roads and tight turns. While the engine runs quietly, the exhaust system imparts a powerful rumble.

CONCLUSION: The Lexus 300 sport couple is high on quality and sets a benchmark for fit and finish. It offers everything a luxury car should, including the power and the feel of luxury.


           Base Price              $  40,000
           Price As Tested         $  44,403
           Engine Type             I-6, dohc-24 valve, mpfi
           Engine Size             3.0 liter/183 cid
           Horsepower              225 @ 6000
           Torque (ft/lbs)         210 @ 4800
           Wheelbase/Length        106"/191" 
           Transmission            five-speed manual w/od 
           Curb Weight             3560
           Pounds per Horsepower   16
           Fuel Capacity           20
           Fuel Requirement        Unleaded premium (91 oct)
           Tires                   Goodyear Eagle GSD 225/55 VR16
           Brakes                  antilock standard  vented disc/vented disc
           Drive Train             Front engine/rear drive
           EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
             city/highway/observed         18/23/21.7
           0 to 60 mph                     7.5 sec  
           1/4 mi (E.T.)                   15.7 sec    
           Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)       .32