Drive – Lexus SC430 Used Car Review

18 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive – Lexus SC430 Used Car Review
Lexus SC430

David Morley

Our rating: 3.5 stars (see ratings key below)

– Effortless performance from silky V8 and smooth-shifting transmission.

– Steel convertible roof gives best of both worlds.

– Extremely well equipped.

– Plenty of active and passive safety gear.

– Good prospects for long-term reliability.

– Looks a bit ungainly and off-balance from some (many) angles.

– Expensive to insure.

– Rear seat won’t accommodate bigger kids or adults.

– Still lacks cachet of Euro convertibles.

Selling expensive cars to well-off people often involves a fairly conservative approach. But when you are trying to do just that and you are the new kid in town, conservatism becomes a mantra.

And so it was when Japanese giant Toyota unleashed its Lexus brand on to the Australian market in 1990.

Initially a one-model brand, the LS400 was conservatism embodied. There was nothing confronting about the car, stylistically, mechanically or image-wise. But the LS400 was also the car that brought Lexus’ amazing standard of quality to our attention.

Subsequent Lexus efforts such as the ES300 were also vehemently non-offensive and it was only when the company gave us its BMW 3-Series-competitor, the IS200, that we started to see any overt styling flair.

But even the IS200 could not prepare us for what arrived in 2001 in the rather ponderous shape of the SC430.

Not only did the SC boast confronting styling, it also represented the sportiest and fastest Lexus on the market. The two-door Lexus looked like a conventional coupe, but like the Mercedes-Benz SLK and Peugeot 206CC, its metal top could fold away to reveal a proper convertible. Two cars in one?

That’s what the makers of such things would have you believe, and there is a bit to it, since you get the full security and weather-proofing of a hardtop with the wind-in-the-hair thing just a push of a button away.

In the SC430’s case, the button in question took about 25 seconds to lower the roof, stash it away out of sight and have the vehicle ready to tackle the nearest boulevard.

The styling job was the work of Toyota’s design team based in southern France. We are yet to find anybody who thinks it is the prettiest car they have ever seen, but more than a few have expressed a less than complimentary view.

The rounded lines make the SC look big and tall and, roof up or down, there are some clumsy angles. The alloy wheels and some of the detail work is a bit ostentatious too, and the Lexus sometimes looks as if it is trying too hard. Throw in the optional pearl-white exterior and champagne pink interior and it can be a bit too much.

Powering the SC430 was Lexus’ gorgeous V8 engine, which uses quad overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and a range of high-tech solutions to the problem of making it feel turbine-smooth and whisper-quiet. They succeeded, and the general efficiency and lack of intrusion of the engine is probably the SC’s most conservative element.

It can scoot along, though, and even with a standard five-speed automatic transmission (there was no manual option) and a kerb mass of more than 1700 kilograms (which seems a lot for a two-door, but the steel roof and its mechanism contribute plenty of that), the 210 kW provided by the engine made it feel quite purposeful.

Trim levels are among the best you will find anywhere, with leather, standard satellite navigation, a superb stereo and powered everything, including the front seats.

Lexus SC430

Typically, the SC was loaded with safety acronyms, including ABS brakes, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control and Brake Assist. You also got dual front, side and curtain air-bags.

When it comes to handling, it pays to remember that the SC430 was designed first and foremost with the North American market in mind. So, it is set up to provide a ripple-free ride on smooth roads, rather than any race-track aspirations. Its mass will also start to tell when you begin to throw it around, although it always feels reasonably stable and predictable.

Lexus called the SC430 a four-seater but that is drawing a pretty long bow. Certainly the rear seats are OK for kids over a short distance, but that’s really about it. Of course, carting around a family is never what the SC430 was all about, but you cannot help feeling it might have been a bit more convincing as a luxury cruiser had it been just a little bit prettier.

Nuts ‘N’ Bolts – Lexus SC430

Engine: 4.3-litre V8

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Fuel economy: City/Highway (according to government tests) 12.0/8.5 L/100 km

Safety rating: ( Not listed Insurance rating: (RACV, assumes a 40-year-old, rating 1 driver living in a medium-risk suburb) $1348.58

Need to know

Lexus’ paint technology is impressive stuff and leads to a great finish. But crash repairs need to be done by somebody who knows their stuff to get a proper match.

The engine needs regular oil changes to be a long-term proposition. Any ticking noises in the engine or black, sludgy oil should be treated with absolute suspicion.

It is important the correct coolant has also been used in the engine.

Make sure the roof operates properly. We haven’t heard of one that doesn’t, but it’ll cost a bomb if it goes wrong.

Lexus SC430
Lexus SC430
Lexus SC430
Lexus SC430
Lexus SC430
Lexus SC430
Lexus SC430
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