1996 Lexus SC 400

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1996 Lexus SC 400

Key specs

Base trim shown


1 trim

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

  • Base


Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1996 Lexus SC 400 trim comparison will help you decide.

1996 Lexus SC 400 review: Our expert's take


OK, I admit it.

This job can be a lot of fun when you have an automobile as fine as the Lexus SC-400 to tool around in for a week or so.

But then, you probably surmised that.

At an as-tested price of $58,618, this ultimate driveway accessory is not exactly cheap. But it’s less expensive than therapy — something you probably wouldn’t be needing after getting behind the wheel.

This beautifully sculpted coupe de grace was originally shaped using plaster and balloons. It’s elegant yet strong, and looks particularly menacing in black.

The menace continues under the hood. The “entry-level” coupe, the SC-300, comes with a plenty powerful 3.0-liter six that pumps out 225 hp at 6,000 rpm and 210 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. For the live-fast, love-hard, die-young crowd, the SC-400, the model tested here, comes with an over-the-top 4.0-liter, four-cam, 32-valve V-8. This rather healthy power plant provides 260 hp at 5,300 rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm. With the V-8, 60 mph comes up in 6.8 seconds (versus 7.3 for the six), and top speed is 149.

So, no matter what the numbers on the trunk lid say, you’ll be going somewhere fast.

Automatic transmissions come with either model; a five-speed manual is available only with the six. Press the pedal, and faster than you can say, “Yessir,” the scenery starts to blur.

The suspension handles all this power with equal finesse. It’s independent double wishbone, with gas shocks at each corner. Tires are 16-inch V-rated on the SC-400 and a full-size spare is included. The power steering is speed-sensitive, adjusting the power assist to how the car is moving. The result is sporty, precise handling but wrapped with an insulated feel. It’s sportier than the sedan and very luxurious.

The four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are huge and stop the car quickly.

Being that Lexus sprang from the fertile minds of Toyota, engineers have tried to address aparticularly aggravating aspect of living with a coupe: opening the door wide enough. The hinges on the doors of the SC-400 ar double-jointed, swinging the door out on both ends, making it easier to enter.

Once nestled in the comfortably firm buttery-soft leather seats, the steering wheel tilts and telescopes toward you automatically. (You didn’t actually expect it to just sit there, did you?) The gauges light up with an effect unequaled in other cars. Matte-finish maple — not the increasingly common gloss — accents the cabin.

The pampering continues with all the comfort and convenience features you’d expect. Nestled in this quiet cocoon, the optional 12-CD 280-watt Nakamichi sound system (complete with 10-inch subwoofer) will keep you entertained for hours. (It’s better than the sound systems of most homes I’ve been in.) The cabin is beautifully assembled, but the rear seat is best left as an upholstered package shelf, better to augment the small (9.3 cubic feet) trunk.

But practicality isn’t what coupe life is about. It’s about looking good and loving every minute of it.

What price sanity? With Lexus, it starts at $52,400.

1996 LEXUS SC400 Standard: 4.0-liter 4-cam, 32-valve V-8, four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission; speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering; gas shock absorbers; four-wheel power assisted anti-lock disc brakes; 225/55R16 V-rated tires; alloy wheels; dual airbags; dual remote electrochromatic mirrors with defoggers; electrochromatic rear-view mirror; intermittent wipers; automatic on/off headlights; theft deterrent system; maple trim; remote entry; power windows with auto down; power locks; retained power; power tilt telescoping steering wheel; power seats with memory; leather trim; automatic climate control; Lexus AM-FM cassette 170-watt audio system. Optional: Color-keyed rear spoiler; one-touch power moonroof; traction control with heated front seats; ll-season tires; Nakamichi 280-watt premium sound system; remote trunk-mounted 12-CD changer; wheel locks; carpeted floor mats; carpeted trunk mat. Base price: $52,400 As tested: $58,618 EPA rating: 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway Test mileage: 17.9 mpg Entry-level Lexus SC-300 has buttery-soft leather seats, the steering wheel tilts and telescopes toward the driver automatically, and the four-wheel anti-lock brakes stop the car on a dime.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 5.0
  • Interior design 4.3
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value for the money 5.0
  • Exterior styling 5.0
  • Reliability 5.0

Most recent consumer reviews



I bought this car with 320,000 miles on it. The normal minor SC issues were there (bad window motor, bad ac, dead lcd) and it was missing a door panel, but beyond that everything was great. I spent $30 on new steering bushings and installed them (took me 3 hours), so it handles like new! Even as a 25 year old car, it's one of the fastest on the road (yes I race ppl ;)). AND OH. SO. PREMIUM. Literally all the power options on both seats, a sound system that can handle songs that my 2015 ford struggles with, and then a lot of fun bells and whistles. IF I HAD ONE COMPLAINT, this car needs another gear. If I want to go 80, that's 4000 rpm, and that's really not fuel efficient in the least. This car has a 260hp V8, I wish they would use it to its full potential, since this is, after all a touring car. Anyway, 5 out of 5 very cool car you should get one.


An overlooked gem!

I've owned my SC400 for 4 years...4 happy years! I've owned over a dozen cars since the '70's and this by far the best one I've ever had. The good stuff in order of importance: absolutely reliable, quick, quiet and smooth, still pretty after all these years, oozes quality. Bad stuff? A little: some switches placed awkwardly, requires premium fuel (but runs fine on mid-grade), LCD screens and instrument lights tend to go bad (mine are ok). 4 stars for performance only in comparison to today's sports coupes. It's a gentleman's sport coupe, not a hot rod. 4 stars for the interior's poor switch placement and less than optimal use of space, again, compared to today's cars. The best thing about this car is VALUE! It's an overlooked, undervalued sport coupe. If you shop carefully, a minter can be had for less than $10K. Even if you drop a couple grand on repairs & maintenance, it's still a screaming bargain.


@12 years old, its more solid than many new cars

This is a 1996 SC400 we're talking about. 145k miles. It drives like a new car. Absolutely gets up and MOVES when you step on it. Lexus never had any recuring issues with the transmission or motor, and its as solid as the day it rolled off the showroom floor. Try that with just about anything else and you'll be crying or lying. Highly recommended, very fun to drive, very quiet, and moves like the wind. 120+ mph feels like 70 except more blur. Now for the bad news, if you can call it that. The speakers needed replacing, and the trim next to the windows has an issue with cracking from pressure applied with the arm during a turn. The plastic behind it snaps and you have to take the door panel off and repair it, then repair the trim. Other than that, everything inside and out works and will continue to do so, and it won't lose value until I cross 250k miles. My lexus mechanic has seen these things routinely cross 400k miles before any real service is needed.

See all 3 consumer reviews