In the United States, the Lexus SC300 doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Since its wheelbase and overhangs are a little too long, the luxury cruiser has never been considered much of a track car. Across the Pacific, however, it’s a popular drift car for several reasons. It shares the MkIV Supra’s chassis, as well as as the Supra’s vast aftermarket support. As we see with this carbon-clad rocket, the right touches can turn this heavyset GT into a real track weapon.
No driver has taken the Lexus SC300, known in Japan as the Soarer, to the same extremes as Racing Factory AutoBahn. Lightened, boasting plenty of aerodynamic grip, and producing nearly 1,000 horsepower, the AutoBahn Soarer now regularly tops the time sheets at time attack events which typically favor the Nissan GT-R, the Lancer Evolution, and the Mazda RX-7.
So much of this car’s success, and why it’s singular in the world of Lexus SC300/Toyota Soarer tuning, comes down to its extensive use of carbon fiber. Since the factory Soarer weighed in at around 3,400 pounds, it was in dire need of a strict diet. After twelve years of development, SightHound’s carbon covers the entire car. Even the gorgeous swan neck wing supports are crafted from carbon fiber. All those additions, plus Lexan replacing all the glass save for the windshield, bring the weight down to a mere 2,590 pounds.
However, it wasn’t only weight savings AutoBahn were after when they added the autoclaved dry carbon hide. The flowing ducktail is just one aerodynamic element which helps give this car the sort of stability needed to exploit the power available at higher speeds. Underneath the car, the diffuser and the flat carbon underbody further contribute to the absurd levels of grip through the faster corners, which are definitely this car’s strong suit.
Fortunately, the engine makes enough puff to test traction even in the fourth, fifth, and sixth-gear corners. Watch how it navigates Twin Ring Motegi’s Turn 6 (1:09 below) with the LMP1-rate of speed which no Soarer has ever passed through there before.
Racing Factory AutoBahn’s made its name mainly in drag racing, and it shows. The engine ought to be sitting in a dragster, but it’s been harnessed—just barely—to suit the road course. A hybrid of 2JZ-GTE bottom end and the better-flowing head from the 1JZ-GTE, the engine has a broad powerband and pulls relentlessly. The internals are mostly HKS, which increase displacement to 3.1 liters. The displacement helps spool the large Garrett GT4202 turbocharger, which has its charged air cooled by the an enormous intercooler mounted horizontally between the engine and the front bumper; keeping the weight more centralized than a front-mount would. Controlled by a Motec C-185 ECU, the package makes 950 horsepower that’s delivered in one big mule-kick, which is sent through an Albins ST6-1 sequential gearbox and onto the Volk RE30 wheels at the rear.
Somehow, it puts that power to the pavement fairly well for an FR car. While it can’t quite compete out of Tsukuba’s hairpins with the 4WD competition, it puts its 295/30R18 Yokohama ADVAN A050 tires to good use. Additionally, the flared fenders help give the Soarer squarer proportions and a more muscular shape; most would agree the car is a little long from the factory.
As we see in the footage below, the Lexus SC300/Toyota Soarer does put most of that power to the ground at the tight, technical bends at Tsukuba Circuit. This scorching lap showcases how, despite having great straightline speed and plenty of aerodynamic grip, the Soarer is capable everywhere. Watch how well it rockets out of Turn 11 (0:51 above/1:50 below). Even when dialing in some opposite lock, the car leaps out of the hairpin while laying black stripes on the pavement. Over his numerous trips to Tsukuba, driver Kunihiko Bando learned to dial back some of that aggression, square the corner off sooner, and get to full throttle within near GT-R fashion, which has dropped his time at Tsukuba by 1.3 seconds! This may well be the quickest JZ-powered car to ever lap the course.
That combination of low-speed traction, high-speed stability, and controllable power allow the AutoBahn Soarer to demolish all sorts of circuits. More than just the aforementioned traits, this versatility and wide-ranging success are due to the desire to prove the Soarer capable, a decade of development, and the involvement of some very bright minds. When you put all those together, the big Toyota GT cars of the nineties, with the right tuning, can hang with track-oriented cars some two decades newer.