Toyota Soarer (1991-1999) Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers

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Although Toyota never sold it here, the Soarer gained a strong following

Australia never saw the Toyota Soarer as an official model. However the name certainly came to notice during the 1990s as boat-loads of an all-new version began arriving.

Early Soarers were Cressida-sized with 2.0 or 3.0-litre turbo engines. They weren’t especially fast or elegant but the badge was destined for better things.

The UZZ and JZZ cars announced to Japan and the USA in 1991 were totally new and vastly more impressive than the previous model. They still had two doors but were appreciably longer and wider with styling that had far greater appeal to an international market.

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Most used the 32-valve Lexus 4.0-litre V8 which delivered a useful but not astounding 192kW. From 1993 there was also a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, non-turbo SC300 model. Accompanying the V8 at introduction in 1991 was a twin-turbo Soarer designated JZZ30. It used a 2.5-litre. in-line six, produced 208kW and was a very unlikely performance car. Most Soarers that came here had Toyota’s excellent four-speed automatic transmission, however a few twin turbo cars were five-speed manual. These run a standing 400 metres in around a second less than the auto and sell for 20-30 percent more.

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Three levels of trim were available in Japan however the lower-spec GT and more luxurious Limited are the ones commonly seen in Australia.

GT-spec cars, including all of the twin-turbos, have velour-trimmed seats with power adjustment, full electrics, a dash display screen and climate-control air-conditioning. 

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Step up to a UZZ31 Limited V8 and the dash sprouts slivers of timber veneer, the seats are trimmed in quality leather and the steering wheel covering is a two-tone blend of leather and fake timber. A UZZ32 model with complex Active Air-Bag suspension was sold in Japan but rarely seen here.

Soarers were promoted as a 2+2, however with a wheelbase only 300mm shorter than the big LS400 Lexus sedan’s, the back seat is palatial and available legroom relatively generous. Certainly there is more than in a similarly-sized Jaguar XJs or BMW 6 Series.

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The SC400 V8 wasn’t seen here or elsewhere as a performance car but once its 1640kg is on the move, the rate of acceleration increases impressively. Standing 400 metre times clocked by North American testers averaged 16.5 seconds, however the 2.5TT auto murders that number with a 15.06.

Every Japanese import yard during the late 1990s had a row or two of recently-arrived Soarers. Since then the numbers of available cars have dwindled due to age and mechanical gremlins but good cars still aren’t impossible to find.

The money being sought and paid for V8s is still illogically low and buyers should budget $10,000 for an excellent Limited. Turbos are dearer but automatics rarely exceed $15,000. If you do stumble upon a manual TT in sound condition at less than $20,000 don’t think twice because it very likely won’t be that cheap in 12 month’s time.

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Buyer's Checklist

Body & chassis

The Soarer was built to a high standard and survivors are good at avoiding major rust problems. Paint is another issue and metallic finishes in particular will suffer clear coat peeling and crazing over old repairs. Check window apertures, lower door skins, the boot-lid and boot floor for rust. The long nose is bound to have clocked the odd gutter or speed-bump so make sure the mountings aren’t broken, The headlights suffer tarnished reflectors but brand new light units ($600 for a set of four fronts) and rear clusters can be bought locally. Door hardware and mirrors are available too, but complete doors and other panels seem only to be available via specialist wreckers

Engine & transmission

Soarers provide three engine designs and unique points of concern depending on your choice of a V8 or straight-six. Turbo Soarers should respond immediately to a floored throttle, with little turbo lag and accelerate hard through each upshift. If the car feels sluggish, if there is blue or white exhaust smoke or the transmission doesn’t change crisply then find another car. V8s that are properly maintained can achieve 300,000+ kilometres before needing a rebuild. Look for exhaust smoke and crankcase fumes and check for overheating. New radiators and water pumps are available. The transmission is renowned for smoothness and longevity so if it thumps or takes more than two seconds to engage gears there is a problem.

Suspension & brakes

Lots of weight makes the Soarer suspension system work hard and parts are very likely to be worn. When in good condition the ride is serene and body roll through bends should be minimal. If the car you’re testing rolls, screeches and bounces at moderate speeds then considerable money will need to be spent. Sets of four adjustable coil-over spring units cost upwards of $1000. Power steer components will likely be old and leaks should be expected. New, good quality brake rotors cost $250-450 per pair.

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Interior & electrics

Even quality cloth after 25 years can split and the leather will at best need serious feeding. Door trim panels are available from on-line suppliers but make sure before paying that the parts on offer are suited to your car. Hood-lining that sags can be replaced by a motor trimmer with costs ranging between $450 and $700. Repairing faulty air-conditioning is costly, so try to locate a car with an air-con service and regas in its recent history. The sunroof - where fitted - may not work in a cheap car but make sure there are no signs of water entry. Also check the dash-mounted display screen still does something.

VALUE RANGE:

Toyota Soarer (SC400 Limited)

Fair: $2800
Good: $6000
Excellent: $9000

(Note: exceptional cars will demand more)

1991-1999 Toyota Soarer specs

NUMBER BUILT: N/A
BODY: all steel, integrated body/chassis two-door coupe
ENGINE: 2491cc in-line six-cylinder with overhead camshafts, fuel injection and twin turbochargers, 2997cc in-line six cylinder with overhead camshafts & fuel injection,   3969cc V8 with overhead camshafts & fuel injection
POWER & TORQUE: 208kW @ rpm, 362Nm @ 4800rpm (2.5TT)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h – 7.0 seconds, 0-400 metres 15.0 seconds (2.5TT) TRANSMISSION: four-speed automatic or five-speed manual
SUSPENSION: Independent with struts, coil springs and anti-roll bar (f) Independent with  coil springs, locating arms, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: Disc (f) disc (r) power assisted, some with ABS
TYRES: 225/60/VR16 radial (SC400)

 

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