A Walk Through The Four Generations of Toyota Soarer

Table of Contents

Toyota Soarer or EX-8? ACoupe or a Convertible? Renowned as a High-Performance Glider? This post unravels the confusion as we look into all you need to know about this automotive icon.

Overview of Toyota Soarer

Toyota Soarer is a piece of art. An art that could propel you through time and space with grace and power. You read it right. It evolved over generations into such a masterpiece that experts still cannot stop talking about it.

Soarer made its first appearance in 1980 at the Osaka International Motor Show, while it was officially introduced in 1981. This personal GT coupe is believed to be an iconic work of Japanese art that covered four generations and stayed up till 2005.

It went through a lot of changes to get all the hype. But what exactly was all that? Let’s find out together in this article.

History

The Toyota Soarer is a legendary nameplate among Japanese luxury coupes. It is a personal luxury GT coupe (emphasizing comfort over performance) that has a history spanning four generations from 1981 to 2005.

Its first generation, introduced in 1981, was called the Z10 series, which debuted as a rear-wheel drive vehicle featuring a  touchscreen-controlled air conditioning system and a digital dashboard. These features earned the Toyota Soarer Car of the Year Japan Award in 1981.

Later, in 1986, the Soara was launched with the A70 series Supra platform. This was part of the Z20 series. It was also the time when the world’s first electronically controlled semi-active full-air suspension was introduced by the second-generation Toyota Soara. It received a thorough facelift in 1988, along with some engine improvements.

The Z30 series was launched in 1991, and it coincided with the debut of the Lexus SC 300/400 in the US market. Again, Toyota didn’t disappoint us in bringing an innovative GPS automotive navigation system via CD-ROM. Digital dashboards, powerful and diverse engine options, and luxurious appointments were some of the notable features of the third-generation Toyota Soara.

The fourth and final generation, the Z40 series, was introduced in 2001. This generation model also came with significant changes. A retractable hardtop convertible was its notable feature. It was the epitome of luxury and performance in general.

The table below summarizes all four generations of Toyota Soarer.

GenerationYears ProducedModelEngineSpecial EditionFacelift
1st (Z10)1981–1985Soarer2.0L 1G-EU I6, 2.8L 5M-GEU I6, 3.0L 6M-GEU I6Minor changes
2nd (Z20)1986–1991Soarer2.0L 1G-E I6, 3.0L 7M-GTE turbocharged           1988: TOM’S C5 Limited Model Package   1989: Aerocabin Limited (500 units)1988: grille and rear taillights redesigned, minor changes in the interior
3rd (Z30)1991–2000Soarer (Lexus SC)2.5L 1JZ-GTE I6, 3.0L 2JZ-GE I6, 4.0L 1UZ-FE V8JZZ30 Soarer,   JZZ31 Soarer,   UZZ30 Soarer,   UZZ31 and UZZ32 Soarers (luxury GT versions)Minor external changes
4th (Z40)2001–2005Soarer, aka Lexus SC4.3L 3UZ-FE V8Received a convertible top

Engine, Transmission, and Performance

The first-generation (Z10 series) Soarer came with a range of engine options from a 2.0L to a 3.0L DOHC I-6, coupled with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The second generation followed suit and offered diverse options, too. The popular engine options were 1G-GTEU and 7M-GTEU, which were capable of producing 197 horsepower and 237 horsepower, respectively.

The third-generation Soarer of the early ’90s came with advanced technology and even a factory GPS navigation system. It got its power from engines like 1UZ-FE V8 that could deliver around 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.

As for the fourth generation, it was introduced in 2001 and marked a significant shift to the 3UZ-FE V8 engine, producing approximately 282 horsepower and 313 lb-ft of torque paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission.

Exterior

The first few Soarers had a classic angular design, which was popular at that time. Those models were sleek, two-door coupes with prominent grilles, retractable headlights, and a distinct rear end. But the second generation Toyota Soarer turned into a more rounded coupe, whose retractable headlights were complemented by smoother contours. Since the 1988 model received a facelift, there was a change in its front grille and some parts of the interior.

The third-gen model had a lot of body components in common with the Lexus SC. This model received only minor external exchanges while embracing smoother lines, flush headlights, and a refined front grille. The distinctive pillarless hardtop design was also a feature of this generation’s models.

The Z40 series shared its platform with the Lexus SC 430, featuring a retractable convertible hardtop. You would see a sleek roofline and smooth curves on its exterior. However, the front end maintained the brand’s signature grille. It had a more top-heavy and compact look.

Inside the Toyota Soarer

Beginning with the first generation, the Soarer had a clean and functional layout, accommodating four passengers, and the cabin was made of high-quality material. This trend of driver-centric interiors continued to the second generation but with more improved materials and features like electronic adjustable suspension settings. The interior further improved in quality in the third generation with the addition of a pillarless hardtop design. At the same time, the Z40 series marked the production of convertible variants and more comfortable seating.

As for the comfort, all the models from Z10-Z40 proved very comfortable. The Z20 series, having an enhanced suspension, contributed to a quieter ride. Similarly, the pillarless design in Z30 leads to an open and airy feeling inside the cabin. However, the fourth generation exhibited better insulation and, hence, more comfort due to the convertible top.

Being a coupe, all the four-generation models had decent trunk space that could accommodate a couple of small bags only. The Z30 series turned out a little more practical than its predecessors. However, the convertible top in the fourth generation greatly affected the cargo space, but the convenience of a convertible design outweighed the compromise for many consumers.

Considering the infotainment features, the Z10 series was pretty basic, featuring audio systems and optional features like cassette players. These audio systems were upgraded in the second generation. It was the Z30 series that featured more advanced features like automatic climate control, a center display, navigation systems, and 2 to 5 speakers. Touchscreen displays, premium audio options, and connectivity features were later introduced in the fourth-generation models of the Toyota Soarer.

Driving Experience

As good as the interior features and comfort, the Toyota Soarer’s driving won’t disappoint you. As you turn the key, the engine ignites with a refined hum, and its acceleration turns out super smooth and poised. Even it remained super composed on the road. Things get fun with responsive steering that is coupled with a well-tuned suspension.

No matter if you go through highways or cruise through city streets, the Soarer knows how to maintain its balance and grip. While its supportive seats cushion you, the suspension system absorbs imperfections from the road. Overall, it is perfect evidence of the grand touring luxury of the Japanese bygone era.

Conclusion

The Toyota Soarer was one of those vehicles that left its lasting marks in the automotive industry, particularly for always being a step ahead of its time. A standout in the GT coupe category, the Soarer offered a range of engines and other technological features throughout different generations. Its luxurious interior and powerful engines remained the features most appreciated by consumers.

Moreover, the Soarer’s special edition models have a separate fan base. Models like JZZ30 gained a lot of appreciation for their commitment to thrilling driving experiences. The discontinuation of production in 2005 limited its availability, while some of its models faced taxation issues and increased production costs that made the Toyota Soarer less accessible to a wider market.

Pros

  • Advanced features, even in earlier generations
  • Diverse engine options throughout its production
  • One of the first cars to feature a GPS automotive navigation system via CD-ROM.
  • Comes with a convertible option, too

Cons

  • Some models were extremely costly
  • Generally, less fuel-efficient
  • Limited availability of some features

Automotive Journalist Verdict

Experts acknowledged its role as a pioneer in introducing technologies that actually became commonplace in the automotive industry in the later years. Journalists appreciated the evolution of its designs and, most importantly, the special edition models with their outstanding features.

FAQs

Is the Toyota Soarer a Collectible Car?

Yes, most of its special edition models attract the attention of collectors, being one of the best models of the bygone era of Japanese luxury and performance cars.

Is the Toyota Soarer a Sports Car?

Yes, it was a sports coupe packed with high-end features and mainly marketed in Japan and other Asian countries.

What transmission did the Toyota Soarer have?

Almost all of its models were equipped with automatic and LSD transmissions. However, 5-speed manual and 5-speed automatic transmission were also offered in some models.

What does the term “Soarer” in Toyota Soarer stand for?

It is pronounced as Toyota Soara in Japanese and means a high-performance glider as it allows for aerodynamic and effortless flight.

Written by: Motorcardata

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