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96 vs 99 SC400

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Old 11-15-14, 06:16 AM   #1
brucelee1
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Default 96 vs 99 SC400

Hi guys,

Looking for some experience based input from those of you who have owned the 1992-1997 SC400s and 1998-2000 models.

I have the bug again and am looking for my fifth SC. I have owned four older SC400s but never the 1998 and on model. I know the technical and appearance differences. I am wondering how the car feels, ride and comfort wise.

Clearly the 1998+ models are quicker and of course newer. Are there any other differences that might matter either way..

I am looking at a pristine 96 with 73K miles on it and I am might tempted.

Thoughts, opinions are welcome.

Thanks
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Old 11-15-14, 03:11 PM   #2
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I've had a 92, 95, and two 99s (one was stock, and my current one is modded).
Lemme tell you, the only other SC I would buy now is another 98+ or a GTE swapped one.
Don't underestimate the upgrades to the engine and drivetrain. The 5 speed transmission is leaps and bounds better than the archaic 4spd auto. The ECT button actually changes engine parameters to give you more power, rather than simply increasing rpm's by 1k like the older ones do. The vvti is quicker, quieter, and smoother than the older models (not to mention better on gas). You definitely feel the extra horsepower it has - it's not just a number to increase sales.
This is not to mention the interior and electrical upgrades that it comes with, they actually allow you to feel like you're driving a Lexus, rather than just a road dinosaur as I felt in the 95. It's been a while since I've had the 92 and 95, but I remember feeling amazed at the night and day difference between the cars. One of the things I remember was small, but something like the window motors actually stopoing working when they were all the way up/down, rather than a continuing working noise until you let go of the button. Add to this better lighting in the cluster, trip computer, HomeLink, and other creature comforts.

My current modded 99 is a whole different story altogether. Hands down the best car I've ever owned. Amazing power with some simple BPU, you'll be laughing. Also have some suspension/handling upgrades that really make it feel like a true sports car. The only things is missing is a manual tranny to really allow it to come to life, and maybe a tune. Then it'll be the perfect luxury/sports car in my opinion.

IMHO you'd be stupid to go for an older SC if you have a shot at a 98+.
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Old 11-15-14, 04:07 PM   #3
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Thanks very much. That was very useful info.

I have the dough and the time to wait for the right car. I will do so, now that you have shared your experience.

Thanks again.
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Old 11-15-14, 04:12 PM   #4
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I too have had a 92 then this 00 SC400 and I would never go back to the pre-98 models again unless it were a 97 5spd manual. All the subtle upgrades to both the drivetrain and cosmetics make the 98-00 significantly better than the pre 98 models. It is just more refined overall and the extra hp/mpg just add icing to the cake.
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Old 11-15-14, 05:16 PM   #5
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I have 3 Sc's. The only Sc I JONES for now, is a 98+ 400 with a 5 speed swap.
Next to a 800hp Sc300, it's my dream Sc.
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Old 11-15-14, 05:50 PM   #6
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Any 92-96 SC300 5-speed can be converted into 90% of what a 97 5-speed has going for it.

I also think you should get the 98+ SC400. It's just a great all-rounder and the transmission is indeed better than before. The engine is fantastic and brings the horsepower and torque (stock for stock) to pretty much the same level of the 1JZ-GTE Soarers. Unless you insist on having a stick shift (I still would, personally) it's pretty much the best stock-for-stock example of the breed in the USA next to the factory 5-speeds or clean and meticulously GTE swapped SC's.
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Old 11-15-14, 08:42 PM   #7
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I've only had a 92(sold) and my current 96. Both 400's, but I actually checked out a 2000 SC400 and passed it up about a year ago. It was expensive, and needed a lot of work, but I regret not buying it because it was the car I really wanted in the end. Even the color was my favorite, but at the time I was pissed as the guy told me engine and tranny were perfect when they were actually in horrible condition. Car had no power, and tranny was making noises on top of the brakes not working well...and I traveled four hours to check it out.... I'd probably still be paying to fix things on it to this day, but restoring a rare gem is worth it in my eyes looking back.

The interior, exterior, and engine upgrades are all worth holding out for in my opinion. Part of me wants 5 speed, the other part of me wants a clean 99-00 SC400 and keep it stock and mint. I say go for a 99 SC400. Just make sure you get the color combo you like.
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Old 11-16-14, 09:02 AM   #8
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If you are only looking at 400's I honestly can't see a reason to go pre 98...
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Old 11-16-14, 09:27 AM   #9
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I did drive the 96 SC400 yesterday and was disappointed. The car was pristine, no doubt. Great cosmetics. However, it felt slower than I had remembered and rode a bit harse (he had 18's on it).

I am looking for more refinement than speed. How fast do I need to go that 290HP wouldn't do the trick?

I also think the trans was not as smooth as I remembered it.

So, it is bye to the pre 98 models.

Thanks for all the input.
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Old 11-16-14, 07:23 PM   #10
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I have a 92 and a 95 SC400. The 95 has higher miles, and is faster, responds quicker, and rides nicer, but it doesn't sound even close to as cool as the 92.
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Old 11-16-14, 09:49 PM   #11
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If you are not into modding the 98+ is the way to go. its not only the transmission, but the rear end gearing is different. The sc400 has always has grunt to it, but the 98 one has that sort of pedal feel like it wants you to keep going, and it always seems to find a gear better with the 5 speeds downshifting is much more pleasant and more effective. Also with most things UZ related when there is a bump in horsepower, there is usually more of a bump in torque I would be interested to read what that number is. one of the later years they added perforated seats also which is a nice touch.
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Old 11-17-14, 08:49 AM   #12
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I agree with whats been said but in my opinion , at this point you should just try to find the lowest mileage , stock , SC you can find of any year.

If it comes down to a high mileage 98+ or a low mileage 92 or 93 id go for the older one.

They can also be had for very cheap now.

Theres a 93 with 100 000 miles near me now and ive got him down to $1800.

Might go grab it.
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Old 11-17-14, 09:23 AM   #13
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All this stuff sounds great but coming from a guy who's had 2 92s and a 97, I have no interest in a 98-plus SC. Truth be told, I did put the gated shifted in my current car (92) and a Shine kit for the look, and wired my fogs and got a 3-spoke wheel but that's about it.
Just the thought of even looking for a 98+ car that is JUST right makes me cringe, not to mention there are tons of 92-97 cars to be had on the cheap and can be made to run just as well.
I haven't driven one and believe there truly are just enough sublte differences that justifiably make the 98-pluses all around better cars than the ones before. For my time and money though....I don't need to find out.
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Old 11-17-14, 09:37 AM   #14
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I drove a '00 SC300 and was surprised at how nice the 5-spd A/T transmission is (before knowing it had a different tranny) compared to my '94 SC400. But then I discovered the A/T solenoid bypass and most all of that advantage was eliminated. The newer cars certainly have some performance benefits, but I'm not sure I like the trade-offs of an interference engine (uncertain maintenance status of a used car is always going to be an issue, even with records) and OBDII limiting what you can modify easily.
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Old 11-17-14, 02:32 PM   #15
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The sc300 never got a 5 speed automatic, only the 98+sc400.

notice the gated shifter on a sc300 has one less spot than a gated shifter from a sc400 (its because it has 1 less gear).
sc300 goes L, 2, 3, D where the sc400 one goes L, 2, 3, 4, D.
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