The History Of Toyota Soarer

The Toyota Soarer was a personal luxury GT coupé sold by Toyota in Japan from 1981 to 2004. The Soarer débuted in 1981 with the Z10 series, replacing the Toyota Crown Coupe, which took the form of an angular two-door coupé. In 1986, a more rounded Soarer was launched (the Z20 series). In 1991, the third generation (Z30 series) Toyota Soarer premiered in Japan. The Z30 series Soarers were also known as the Lexus SC 300/ 400, a luxury coupe Toyota had commissioned for its new upscale Lexus division outside Japan. While sharing the same body style and multiple components as the first Lexus SC, the Z30 series Soarer lineup offered different powertrain specifications and multiple unique vehicle configurations.

The Soarer was a competitor to the Nissan Leopard coupe. All versions of the Soarer used a Griffin as the logo throughout the vehicle.

In 2001, Toyota introduced a convertible successor which appeared in Japan as the fourth generation (40 series) Toyota Soarer, and elsewhere as the Lexus SC 430. In contrast to previous versions, the fourth generation Soarer and Lexus SC models were largely equivalent. In 2005, following the introduction of Lexus in Japan, sales of the Z40 series Soarer were discontinued and the Lexus SC 430 became available in the Japanese market.

The Soarer made its first appearance at the 1980 Osaka International Motor Show with the name "EX-8", and the Z10 series Toyota Soarer was produced from February 1981 to December 1985, with 2.0L, 2.8L or 3.0L DOHC I-6 variants. The first generation Soarer debuted with a rear-wheel drive configuration . It boasted numerous technological items, such as touchscreen computer controlled air conditioning climate control, digital speed and tachometer display using LED, among other elecronic features.

The suspension utilized Macpherson type front struts with trailing arm type IRS in the rear. The vehicle also came with self-diagnosis maintenance reminders.

There were a number of different engines available.

  • GZ10=1G-EU or 1G-GEU
  • MZ10=M-TEU or 5M-GE
  • MZ11=5M-GE
  • MZ12=6M-GE

Early MZ10s were differnent in some regards to later MZ10s. Some of the difference are listed below.

  • Later MZ10s had a water to air intercooler
  • Later MZ10s had an oil and water cooled turbo (as opposed to the oil cooled only turbo in the early MZ10s)

The Z1 series Toyota Soarer was honored as Japan's Car of the Year for the 1981-1982 model years.

The MZ12 was equipped with the following features:

  • ABS
  • Cruise Control
  • 7 way adjustable (driver only) leather seats
  • Toyota Electronically Modulated Suspension (TEMS)
  • Digital Automatic climate control
  • Electro multivision display (CRT type display), GT LTD Only

The Z20 series Toyota Soarer was produced from January 1986 to April 1991, and came in four variants: a 2.0L DOHC I-6 (1G-FE), a 2.0L naturally aspirated or twin turbo DOHC I-6 (1G-GE or 1G-GTE), and a turbocharged 3.0L DOHC I-6 (7M-GTE) with available air suspension. The styling of the second generation Soarer is similar of that of the MX73 Toyota Cressida and GX71 Toyota Mark II. . The Soarer shared its platform with the newly introduced Toyota Supra.

A limited 500 unit production of the Aerocabin version was also available. This was the Z2 series with a convertible top.

There were a number of different engines available. GZ20=1G-EU or 1G-GEU or 1G-GTEU MZ20=7M-GTEU MZ21=7M-GTEU

In 1988 Soarer Z2 got restyling - rear taillights changed and minor interior changes (climat, dash). Other than that engines were improved: 1G-GTEU 180 -> 210 hp 7M-GTEU 230 -> 240 hp

Also from that time M-series engines got oil squirters to cool pistons from that time.

See also: Lexus SC 300 / SC 400

In 1990, following the successful launch of its upscale Lexus division outside of Japan, Toyota commissioned its California design studio Calty to develop a new luxury coupe. In 1991, this vehicle debuted in the U.S. as the Lexus SC 300/ 400. In the same year, the third generation Toyota Soarer debuted in Japan as the Z30 series, replacing the Z20 series in that market. The Z30 series Soarer shared the body style and key components with the Lexus SC, but featured different interior features, powertrain configurations, and other performance enhancements.

This new Soarer continued some of the features that Toyota had pioneered on the earlier models, such as digital dash instrumentation and integrated car systems control via the in-dash EMV touchscreen. For example, it was now one of the first cars in the world to feature factory GPS navigation via cd-rom, continuing the Toyota/ Lexus tradition of not only equalling but surpassing the established luxury brands in price, quality and features. It had a luxury feel to it, yet the 2.5GT twin turbo model in particular was truly a very powerful sports car as well. Not surprising though, given it's chassis was used for the MKIV Supra as well. The chassis though, was originally designed for the Soarer. Both cars' suspension, brakes, drivetrains, and engine parts were interchangeable.

The Toyota Soarers made from the years 1991-2000 were offered with a 4-speed automatic transmission for all models. In addition, the JZZ30 Soarer could be had with a 5-speed manual transmission. All models were available with a Torsen torque-sensing differential. Unlike their US Lexus equivalents however, the 30-series Soarer lineup never received a 5-speed automatic, and only the six cylinder versions received variable valve timing (VVTi) engines, in 1996. Also, the UZZ30 (equivalent to the Lexus SC400) was only sold from 1991 to 1993, and the JZZ31 (equivalent to the Lexus SC300) was not introduced to the Japanese market until 1994.

Styling-wise, the Soarer received only minor changes to the rear lights and front grille during its 9-year production run, a testament to the original design.

Starting in 1997, the Soarer was used as a high speed patrol car in multiple Japanese prefectures, using the 2.5GT-T and a 5-speed manual transmission.

30 Series Soarer models

  • JZZ30 (1991-2000) - 2.5L 6 cyl twin turbo/ single turbo VVTi
  • JZZ31 (1994-2000) - 3.0L 6 cyl base model 6 cylinder (equivalent to Lexus SC300)
  • UZZ30 (1991-1993) - 4.0L 8 cyl base model 8 cylinder (equivalent to Lexus SC400)
  • UZZ31 (1991-1997) - 4.0L 8 cyl air suspension, "EMV" TV/ touchscreen system
  • UZZ32 (1991-1996) - 4.0L 8 cyl active suspension, four-wheel steering, "EMV" TV/ touchscreen system

JZZ30 Soarer

The JZZ30 was the only model sold continuously from the introduction of the 30 series in 1991 til production ceased in 2000. As the sportiest model in the range it was also the only one available with a manual transmission. Like other models in the range there were two different equipment grades available, the base GT-T and the better-equipped GT-TL which added electric seats, wood trim, cruise control and Toyota's TEMS electronic damper adjustment to the list of standard features.

The JZZ30 was powered by the 2.5 litre 1JZ-GTE turbocharged engine. Initially featuring two identical small turbos running in parallel (unlike the sequential twin turbo systems of the Supra and Mazda RX-7, for example) it officially produced 206kW (280PS; 276hp) and 363N·m (268lb·ft) of torque at 4800 rpm. This was in keeping with the Japanese Manufacturers' advertised power limit agreement, however real-world power outputs were somewhat higher. In August 1996 the engine received Toyotas' variable valve timing system (VVTi) and in conjunction with a single, more efficient turbocharger, produced substantially better low and mid-range torque (in fact, 378N·m (279lb·ft) at just 2400 rpm - see The Toyota JZ Engine Guide below) while still producing the "official" 206kW (280PS; 276hp) of power and better fuel economy.

JZZ31 Soarer

While the Lexus SC300 was available from the start of the new series' US introduction in 1991, the equivalent Japan-market Soarer model - the JZZ31 - was not introduced until 1994, where it became the new base model Soarer.

The JZZ31 was powered by the 3 litre 2JZ-GE engine which initially produced 165kW (224PS; 221hp) at 5800 rpm and 285N·m (210lb·ft) of torque at 4800 rpm. Like the JZZ30 the engine also received Toyota's VVTi system in 1997 which increased output to 169kW (230PS; 227hp) at 6000 rpm and 304N·m (224lb·ft) at 4000 rpm while simultaneously improving fuel economy. While the SC300 in the US market became a popular Lexus for performance upgrades due to its shared engine with the MKIV (JZA80) Supra, the JZZ31 Soarer was somewhat overlooked since unlike the SC300 it was never offered in manual gearbox form and had neither the performance appeal of the turbocharged JZZ30 nor the luxury and equipment of the UZZ31/ 32 models.

However with the increasing cost (and slowing sales) of the V8 Soarer models in the mid-late '90s, the JZZ31 would remain in production along with the JZZ30 until the end of the 30 Series in 2000.

UZZ31 and UZZ32 Soarer

The UZZ31 and UZZ32 Soarers were the luxury GT versions of the range, with substantially more features and equipment than the 6 cylinder models and the Lexus SC300/ 400. The EMV (Electro Multi Vision) touchscreen system which was pioneered in the Z10 and Z20 Soarers was again available and provided a screen with television, GPS navigation, diagnostics, car computer, reversing camera and touch control of all functions of the climate control and sophisticated 7-speaker (with subwoofer) balanced-signal audio system with 12-disc CD stacker and digital signal processing.

Both models and the base-spec UZZ30 were powered by Toyota's acclaimed 1UZ-FE quad-cam all-alloy 4 litre V8. While producing marginally less power and torque than the turbocharged JZZ30 (191kW (260PS; 256hp) @ 5400 rpm, 353N·m (260lb·ft) @ 4600 rpm) the V8 was renowned for its smoothness and refinement. Although receiving a minor update in 1995 which improved responsiveness and bumped outputs to 195kW (265PS; 261hp) / 363N·m (268lb·ft), production of the V8-equipped Soarers ended before the powerplant received VVTi which substantially increased outputs in the Lexus SC400 and other models. However, supercharged and turbocharged modifications are becoming increasingly common given the strength and durability of the engine, and power outputs up to double the factory levels are being seen on internally-standard engines.

The UZZ31 featured a driver-adjustable air suspension system that had two settings for both ride height and damper stiffness. The air 'bag' pressure was controlled by an electric pump mounted at the front of the car.

The UZZ32 was the top of the line 30 series featuring four wheel steering and a complex hydraulic computer- controlled active suspension system. This did away with conventional springs and anti-roll (stabiliser) bars in favour of hydraulic struts controlled by sensors that detected cornering, acceleration and braking forces. The system worked well and gave an unusually controlled yet smooth ride with no body roll, but the weight penalty of the system affected straight-line performance somewhat, and the car was costly to produce. As a result, only 873 UZZ32's were made and are now collectors items in the UK and Australia. To put the rarity in perspective, some later model and very low milage examples of the UZZ32 can be seen for sale between $20,000-$35,000+ AUD where as the majority of the other soarers (Non active V8, I6 and TT models) can be had for $8,000-$15,000.

Further information: Lexus SC 430

The 40 series Soarer model was largely identical to its Lexus equivalent, sold outside Japan as the Lexus SC 430 since 2001. The Z40 series Soarer 430SCV featured a hardtop which could fold into the boot of the car, in the fashion of the contemporary Mercedes-Benz SL. The coupe was equipped with the 3UZ-FE VVTi (variable valve timing) 4.3 litre V8 motor - as was available in the Lexus LS 430 luxury sedan. It produced 208kW (283PS; 279hp) and 430N·m (320lb·ft) of torque. This enabled the coupe to accelerate from a standstill to 62mph (100km/ h) in 6 seconds. The shared body style of the Z40 series Soarer/ SC 430 was developed by Toyota designers at design studios in France and Japan. Compared with the Z30 series, some observers generally considered the fourth generation a retreat in visual style due to its more compact and top heavy appearance. As a result it had lost the long sleek look previously seen and admired greatly in the Z30 series models.

With the Z40 series Soarer, design and production synergies culminated in the development of a single shared design configuration for both the Soarer and Lexus models, unlike the previous generations. The rise of Lexus as Toyota's premium worldwide marque also contributed to the design focus on the Lexus model configuration rather than a separate Toyota-branded series of Soarer coupes. On July 26, 2005, Lexus was introduced in Japan with the 2006 SC 430 TSOOH in its lineup. The debut of Lexus and the SC 430 coincided with the conclusion of Toyota Soarer sales.

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