Full 2009 Lexus SC 430 Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Lexus SC 430 remains unchanged from the previous year except for the addition of turn signals integrated into the side mirrors.
Back when the Lexus SC 430 debuted for the 2002 model year, we described this convertible as "elegant" and "innovative" -- the latter thanks to its retractable hardtop design. Since then, however, the SC 430 has stayed pretty much the same while competitors have released their own four-seat drop tops that best the Lexus in a number of aspects. The Lexus SC 430 can no longer rest on its laurels; it's time for a makeover.
But it's just more of the same for 2009. The SC 430 has some positive attributes. The convertible maintains its reputation for exceptional build quality, resolute reliability and civilized road manners. Unfortunately, it also keeps its hindrances: limited trunk storage with the top up (which becomes almost nonexistent when the folding top is stowed), laughably small and uncomfortable rear seats and a notable lack of driving fun.
With any luck, Lexus will breathe some new life into this underperforming model, but with sagging sales and shifts in buying habits, it's more likely that the SC 430 will be shelved after this year. Anyone considering the purchase of a 2009 Lexus SC 430 would be well-advised to take a look at other four-seat convertible models such as the BMW 335i, the Jaguar XK8 and the Mercedes-Benz CLK550, which deliver more convenience, performance and rear-seat comfort.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Lexus SC 430 is a luxury convertible with a power-retractable hardtop that folds into the trunk. The drop top's single trim level comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive HID headlights, a navigation system with a tilt display and voice activation, leather upholstery, power/heated front seats with memory for the driver, a 10-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, an in-dash six-CD changer, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control and genuine wood trim in bird's eye maple or walnut, depending on leather choices.
Given the vast selection of standard features, few options are available for the SC 430. These include run-flat tires, a rear spoiler and additional wheel choices. Returning for a sixth year is the Pebble Beach Edition SC 430, which has a limited production of 360 units. These cars set themselves apart from the others with special badging, wheels and other unique details. But the added expense really only makes sense for avid golf enthusiasts.
Powertrains and Performance
As in previous years, the 2009 Lexus SC 430 is powered by a 4.3-liter V8 producing 288 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. The sleek convertible manages to reach 60 mph in a respectable 5.8 seconds. Fuel economy is comparable to that of other luxury convertibles at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
In keeping with Lexus' reputation for safety, the SC 430 is equipped with antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags and front-seat knee airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Lexus SC 430 transforms from hardtop luxury coupe to open-air convertible in less than 30 seconds. Witnessing the metamorphosis is a bit like watching a ballet, as the top disappears completely under the rear deck lid. As with any Lexus, the SC 430's interior features top-notch materials and an attractive design. Occupants are enveloped in supple leather and rich wood trim. Features such as climate control lap vents that adjust to top-up or -down driving conditions add to the experience.
Unfortunately, the SC 430 can really be enjoyed only from the front seats, since the minuscule rear accommodations could easily make a child contortionist wince. Trunk space is similarly limited, with a maximum of 9.4 cubic feet with the top up while running on run-flat tires. With a spare tire, capacity drops to 8.8 cubes, and with the hardtop stowed, you have just about enough space for a box of Tic Tac mints.
Although the 2009 Lexus SC 430 is dated, it remains a solid choice as a luxury convertible. Practically every road imperfection is smoothed over by its compliant suspension, and the engine readily and quietly spools up to redline with minimal drama. These qualities make for a great road-trip coach (as long as you don't have much luggage) or boulevard cruiser, but they also reduce any sporting capabilities. The SC 430's lack of feedback and lethargic handling are likely to disappoint driving enthusiasts.