Toyota Soarer: A Surprisingly Rich History

First made in the '80s, the Toyota Soarer was a groundbreaking model for the brand in terms of appeal to a luxury market.
Written by Allison Stone
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
A black and white photo of a Toyota Soarer from an arial view.
A precursor to what would later become
international luxury vehicle subdivision Lexus, the Toyota Soarer spent a decade becoming one of Japan’s hottest status symbols
The Soarer was officially launched in 1981, 10 years before the birth of the Lexus brand, and remained in manufacturing until 2004. The sophisticated coupe was sleek, sporty and a huge hit among Japan’s elite. 

The early days of the Toyota Soarer

First appearing in 1980 at the Osaka International Motor Show, the Soarer debuted with power and finesse.
Cars Directory
tells us it boasted both a rear-wheel drive configuration as well as advanced electronic features including touchscreen computer controlled air conditioning, and a digital LED speed and tachometer display. 
This was just the beginning of the Soarer’s long manufacturing run, as car-buyers in the Japanese market became entranced by the model’s relative power and advanced design compared to other popular models at that time.
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Product of a soaring economy

Following years of hardship, Japan began to experience an economic upswing in the late ‘70s. Domestic automobile production was thriving, and consumers started to become more and more interested in cars built for style and performance.
European-made luxury cars at the time lacked a competitive edge for the Japanese market because of vast cultural and political differences. Japan was tight on road space, and had even tighter emissions standards, not leaving much room for the comparatively expensive European models. 
You’d be much more likely to find well-to-do people in Japan behind the wheel of a domestic sedan such as the Toyota Crown or the Nissan Cedric.
Japanese automakers felt a push to give in to consumer demand for a car that delivered luxury, sport, and speed while still ascribing to the more conservative design regulations. Thus, the Toyota Soarer was born.
MORE: Not To Be Forgotten: The '94 Toyota Supra

The Toyota Soarer was aimed at new class of drivers

An emerging upper-middle-class of early 1980’s Japan was hungry for a vehicle that suited a more luxurious lifestyle, and the Soarer was launched in exactly the right place at the right time. 
The Soarer quickly surpassed its rivals, such as the Nissan Leopard and Mazda’s HB Cosmo, in sales and Toyota continued to expand the Soarer line to meet evolving consumer needs. 
Production of the first model, the Z10, ended in 1985, but it's rampant success ensured that there would be more to come. The Z20 was then produced from January of 1986 until April of 1991. 
All soarers made from 1991-2000 shared the following elements:
  • 4-speed automatic transmission for all models (or 5-speed manual transmission for the JZZ30)
  • Torsen torque-sensing differential. 
  • Almost no design changes aside from minor adjustments to rear lights and front grille 
The Soarer was also one of the first cars in the world to come with factory GPS navigation via cd-rom.
The popularity of the Soarer coincided with Toyota’s move into an international luxury market with the establishment of the Lexus brand, and continues to be a testament to Toyota’s penchant for innovation in the competitive world of luxury cars.

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