2002 LEXUS SC 430 CONVERTIBLE
Used Car - 2002 Lexus SC 430 Convertible in Houston, Tx
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2002 Lexus SC 430 ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Sporty convertible, refined coupe in one sumptuous package.
Dismiss the image of conservative car styling from the elite Lexus brand because the new SC 430 confronts that theme by injecting eye-catching curves in a slinky design with a daring face, exaggerated wheels and bubble-back rump.
It's both a refined hardtop coupe and a sporty convertible fitted with a sumptuous leather-wrapped cockpit and the powerful mechanical hardware of a serious performance car.
With a muscular V8 engine shooting 300 horsepower to the rear wheels in a classic arrangement, the sleek SC 430 captures the essence of an aggressive two-seat roadster. Yet it elevates the concept to new dimensions by dressing the package in the elegant Lexus mode of lavish luxury layered with dazzling electronic displays and sophisticated vehicle controls.
Lexus builds only one version of the SC 430 ($58,455). It's loaded with sophisticated safety and performance hardware, then laced with luxurious appointments in leather, wood and chrome. Included is a Mark Levinson audio system with nine custom speakers designed to deliver full-bodied audiophile sound whether the top is up or down.
The sole engine, a four-cam 4.3-liter aluminum V8, produces 300 horsepower and mates to a five-speed automatic transmission with intuitive electronic controls.
Optional equipment is limited to three high-tech items: The Lexus Navigation System ($2,000) triangulates by satellites and coordinates with a DVD-powered data base to plot the vehicle's earthly position and display it on a dash-mounted video screen. Run-flat tires ($400) eliminate the need for hauling a spare tire and thus increase space in the trunk, and a thin spoiler ($440) added to the tail further reduces the car's already slick aerodynamic rating from a 0.31 coefficient of drag to 0.30.
Standard safety equipment includes frontal and side-impact airbags for front seats, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and traction control (TRAC), vehicle skid control (VSC), even a tire pressure warning system (TPWS).
Designers of the new SC 430 discarded all aspects of the previous Lexus coupe to develop instead a fresh format that functions both as a watertight hardtop coupe and an airy convertible.
With its top raised, the coupe reveals an arching profile that looks aggressive up front but retro in the rear with a round roly-poly rump that vaguely resembles a vintage Porsche 356 Speedster.
With the top dropped, the convertible looks fluid and fast like a racy roadster.
It's a bold design shaded by the stretched wheelbase, a squatty stance and curvaceous skin stretched tautly over exaggerated wheel wells. It's also a dramatic, eye-catching statement that appears quite different from the restrained styling of a typical Lexus sedan.
Up front, the elongated prow projects a dynamic face flashing glints of chrome from triangular headlamp clusters and a center grille in trapezoidal shape underscored by a body-colored air dam studded with articulated halogen foglamps. Two notched lines in the raked hood cut into inboard corners of headlamps to thrust the grille forward and bump the central hood section higher than the flanks. These hard lines also define a pair of sharp-edged shoulders, which are set above flared front wheelwells pegged forward with scant front overhangs.
The arching profile has fluid lines tracing from the aggressive rake of windshield pillars followed across the bowed roof to thin curves of rear pillars that stab into the bubble format of the back deck.
At the tail, a stubby shape integrates multi-lens taillights sculpted as triangles skewed with curves. The thin spoiler, attached at the factory as an option, interrupts curves on the bowed trunk above a thick bumper band in monotone, with chrome-tipped exhaust pipes protruding from both bottom corners.
The hardtop is composed of lightweight aluminum in two segments with a fixed glass rear window. It hinges in the middle and tucks into the trunk with a quick mechanical movement controlled by a console toggle switch. With the top concealed below the trunk's lid, the SC 430 morphs into its sleek roadster-esque posture marked by a high beltline and the hunkered stance with wheels pushed outward to the corners.
Slide into driver's bucket of the SC 430 and you'll sit on buttery leather in a lavish cockpit appointed with sophisticated electronic gear, high-tech car controls and perhaps the finest standard audio system ever to grace a luxury vehicle.
This is a deluxe and luxurious environment wrapped in supple leather and decorated in a profusion of glossy hardwoods. The wood, available in either light bird's-eye maple or dark burled walnut, appears on the steering wheel and gear shift knob as thin streaks across doors and dash, decking on the center console and flap doors concealing the audio unit and optional dash-mounted Lexus Navigation System.
The standard layout positions two contoured bucket seats on each side of the console that cradles the automatic shifter gate and a storage bin with leather-padded armrest on top. Behind the front seats, there's a pair of smaller form-fitting rear seats rigged with vertical backs, integrated headrests and three-point safety belts. Tally the number of seats and you'll get space for four, although the reality of spatial parameters in the rear make these rear seats comfortable only for Barbie and Ken dolls, or as a relief storage shelf for the diminutive trunk, particularly when the hardtop roof stows back there and consumes most of the package space.
Although the SC 430 contains a complex array of sophisticated electronic gear and power-motivated controls for virtually all mechanical equipment, organization of the cockpit is direct in a simple and accessible plan. The driver faces a steering wheel with tilt and telescope movements plus toggles for the cruise control system. Immediately ahead is the instrument panel with three chrome-ringed binnacles housing round analog gauges that display crisp white-on-black graphics and vivid red needles. Switches for windows and door locks dot the driver's padded armrest on the door to the left. To the right above the console, horizontal modules hold audio and climate systems, plus a video screen for the available DVD-based navigation system.
The automatic climate system has a separate LED display indicating temperature readouts and air flow, with independent controls for left and right sides of the cabin. This smart system includes temperature sensors scattered around the cabin and lap vents that deploy when the top is open to automatically compensate for warm sunlight flooding the cabin.
The 240-watt audio equipment was developed exclusively for the SC 430 at the Connecticut-based Mark Levinson company, which has a reputation for designing top-quality audio systems. It employs a seven-channel amplifier and nine speakers including an eight-inch subwoofer, cassette deck and six-disc CD changer in the dash. With digital signal processing (DSP) and automatic sound leveling (ASL), the complex equipment turns the cockpit of the SC 430 into a mobile sound box. The most impressive aspect of this system is that it maintains full harmonic richness and high audio resolution even when you're zipping along at freeway speed with the top down.
A toggle switch beside the climate system opens the top (the car must be parked). Press it and side windows dip, a trunk flap rises and the lid quickly folds in half and slips into recesses of the trunk, then the flap closes and windows descend into the doors.
Engineers who developed the SC 430 managed to blend classic structural and mechanical ingredients that foster aggressive performance and playful agility within the context of Lexus sophistication and supreme personal luxury. The resultant vehicle presents multiple personalities and can effect different attitudes, depending on the driver's mood, as easily as a person changes attire from shorts and a sports shirt to black-tie formalwear.
With the hardtop raised and symphonic sound swirling through the leather-lined cabin, this car cruises in the insulated Lexus mode of quiet motoring supported by dazzling electronic wizardry and effortless controls.
With the top stowed and fresh air flowing around the cockpit, you can put your foot in it and response is immediate with the force of 300 horses. It can rip down a straightaway at an illicit pace, but also cut through a mess of off-camber mountain curves with the dexterity of an athletic sports car.
We surfed along beach boulevards around San Diego in convertible mode with the stereo cranked high and a California sun baking leather seats. The only thing missing from the drop-top ride was a wind-battered hairdo, as the aerodynamic engineers at Lexus somehow managed to deflect the air flow away from the cockpit. Even at high speed, you feel little wind and can conduct a conversation with a seatmate without raising your voice.
Then we sealed the top for a run across pine-covered mountains east of San Diego to the low Anza Borrego desert for speed and agility experiments. Despite the luxurious accommodations and an elite quietness in the cabin, the car revealed an aggressive character that only becomes evident when you press it hard and swift through a wiggly route or run flat out on the desert floor.
The squatty stance sets up a flat-footed posture in the manner of a classic sports car with all of the right ingredients aboard: A rigid platform with stretched wheelbase, brief body overhangs front and rear, good weight distribution with the engine mounted up front and all torque applied to the rear wheels, plus independent suspension for all wheels and quick-to-respond rack and pinion steering.
That big engine, an aluminum quad-cam V8 measuring 4.3 liters, musters 300 horsepower at 5600 rpm and as much as 325 foot-pounds of peak torque at 3400 rpm. It's enough to hurl the SC 430 from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and send it to the quarter-mile post in 14.4 seconds. The top speed, guaranteed to peg the radar needle of any law enforcement official, hits 156 mph.
All the muscle channels through the automatic five-speed transmission that shifts discreetly with Lexus efficiency. It has three programmable shift modes (normal, sport and winter) and a gated shifter mounted on the floor console. Thanks to the C-shaped gate track, a driver can accurately flick the stick through all five gears for selective control that approximates a manual -- or leave it alone to make its own intuitive shift decisions.
The SC 430 also carries a complete complement of electronic controls to keep the wheels tracking safely straight. The anti-lock brakes link to traction and vehicle control systems that check tire slippage both forward and laterally. In severe corners entered too fast, we noticed a slight push from understeer followed immediately by oversteer. But that was easy to predict and was corrected automatically by the vehicle control sentinels.
Alloy wheels of 18-inch diameter are the largest ever from Lexus, and they carry low-profile Dunlop performance tires monitored by a tire pressure warning system. Run-flat tires by Bridgestone or Goodyear are optional, which eases trunk space by deleting a spare tire. However, the run-flat option introduces a ride quality that's slightly rougher and more noisy than the Lexus standard.
The rarity of a luxurious sports coupe from Lexus turns on the novel twist of a convertible hardtop design and outrageous styling. The SC 430 in this new design for 2002 is an ultimate personal luxury car with seats essentially for two and not much storage space. However, what it lacks in room is compensated by awesome on-demand performance, electronic wizardry and high-tech car controls, plus elaborate interior appointments. Best of all, the new Lexus converts with push-button ease from an insulated hardtop coupe to a fresh-air convertible.
SC 430 ($58,455).
Options As Tested
run-flat tires ($400); Lexus Navigation System ($2,000); rear spoiler ($440).
SC 430 ($58,455).