2002 Lexus SC 430 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Luxurious comfort and convenience features, avant-garde styling, wonderful engine performance, retractable hard-top, Lexus quality.
  • Sparse cargo space, cramped (nearly useless) rear seats.
Other years
List Price Range
$12,500 - $13,987

Used SC 430 for Sale
Select your model:
See all for sale

cash graphic with confetti

Get More For Your Trade-In

2002 Lexus SC 430 appraisal values can range from $4,156 - $10,411.
Find out what your car is really worth in minutes.
See your car's value

Edmunds' Expert Review

This is the bragging rights car du jour, and if you're willing to sacrifice a bit of driving dynamics for the latest cool gadgetry, this is the car for you.

Vehicle overview

The new Lexus SC 430 is the first convertible ever offered by the Japanese automaker. We think it's a prizewinner right out of the gate. Based on the sporty Lexus GS 430 platform, the SC 430 promises luxurious appointments, nifty technology, precise steering and handling and ripping performance.

The automatic aluminum convertible roof stores magically into the trunk for al fresco motoring and with the roof up it's a hardtop coupe with little wind noise and superior structural rigidity. In fact, Lexus claims the SC 430 has better body stiffness than the Mercedes CLK and Jaguar XK8. The only problem with the retractable roof is that when it's lowered there's very little storage space in the trunk - a problem endemic to 2+2 coupe/convertibles. We wish Lexus would have skipped the token back seats (only a person with legs as thick as rope could fit back there) and made the trunk larger.

But this is the only problem we have with the SC 430 design. Lexus designers spent several weeks in the French Riviera and were inspired by the many high-performance luxury yachts that ply the deep blue Riviera waters. Consequently, there is a nautical resonance in the SC 430's sculpted, aerodynamic lines. It resembles the wooden speed boats of the 1930s with a classic, streamlined look that makes it different and instantly appealing.

The interior maintains the elegant, modern simplicity of the exterior. The cockpit is filled with real wood and leather. Many of the controls (e.g. the stereo) are hidden by spring loaded wooden covers, so that the console has an uncluttered feel, again much like a classic speedboat.

Lexus has equipped the SC 430 with the amenities expected of a luxury auto, including a navigation system, leather seats with driver and passenger memory functions, an astounding 240-watt, nine-speaker premium audio system and a sophisticated climate control system that automatically adjusts to provide either hot or cool air depending on outside air temperatures and the speed of the car.

The SC 430 is powered by the same 4.3-liter V8 engine that Lexus uses in the LS and GS sedans. The double overhead cam aluminum powerplant produces 300 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 320 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400. Lexus brags that the SC 430 rockets from zero-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, which is faster than a Porsche Boxster. The five-speed automatic transmission provides butter-smooth shifts exactly when they're needed.

The SC 430's structural rigidity, combined with front and rear double wishbone independent suspension and standard 18-inch alloy wheels with high-performance 245/40ZR18 Dunlop tires, helps provide a wonderfully smooth ride. The steering is solid and precise, creating a tangible connection to the road and the SC's four-wheel disc brakes with ABS ensure true stops.

If you get carried away in the SC 430, it's equipped with Brake Assist (a system that applies maximum braking power during emergency stops), VSC (vehicle stability control), traction control, seatbelt pretensioners and dual front and side airbags.

And it would be easy to get carried away in this wonderful new convertible.

2002 Highlights

After nearly a decade out of the sport coupe spotlight, Lexus returns with a compelling entry. Since its debut of the SC coupe in 1992, Lexus has largely been overlooked by shoppers who wanted avant-garde styling, sports car performance and luxurious appointments. And it has never before offered a convertible roof. They need look no further. The new SC 430 delivers all that in spades.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2002 Lexus SC 430.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

'02 SC430
2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
Bought the car 1 year ago @ 12 years of age with 100K and loving. All original equipment is still functioning perfectly and car is running strong, with the exception of 3 busted speakers that I replaced.
great car
Dave Iwinski,03/07/2016
2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
I never keep a new car past 4-5 years. I have owned my 2002 SC430 14 years. I still struggle if I want a convertible again, what is better?? I have pampered it like a baby and it still looks new. If you can find a well kept one, buy it.
My fifth one
2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
I just purchased an 02 SC430 and I am loving it!! Let me start by saying this is my 5th Lexus. I've owned 2 LS400, SC400, GS300 and now this SC430. I had no problem purchasing this vehicle w/98,000 mile on it and it looks brand new. (Garage Kept) The car has had every scheduled maintenance service since the car was purchased. It drives just like the 2010 and I saved thousands.. I've owned many other brands, but Lexus is my favorite. Now that I'm hitting mid life crisis I will stay w/Lexus from here on out!!
SC 430 ("02")
2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
Ok, I've owned this "02" for only about 3 months, but only drives it for weekends only. I also own a "91" LS400 which is still running like new with a 140K plus. The SC is a all that and more from the modern exterior to the flawless interior (except for the cup holder, no biggie). Every time I drive, I'm always stopped to ask whether it's a 2010 or what? This most definitely was ahead of its time for a "02" I'll tell anyone, once you drive a LEXUS, you wouldn't want to drive anything ELSE!

More about the 2002 Lexus SC 430
More About This Model

We always felt the Lexus SC was an expensive compromise. Brilliantly engineered and first introduced for the 1992 model year, the luxury-performance car languished on the market after its initial popularity wore off, seemingly forgotten by Lexus, and buyers, as competitors such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo introduced less expensive, roomier, and in some cases, better coupes. Beyond that, consumers shopping competing models could choose between a two-door with a solid roof or a ragtop for open-air motoring on sunny days. The SC came only with a fixed roof.

Beyond price and configuration, what were the primary problems with the SC? In its later years, as competition grew fierce, the Lexus didn't offer cutting-edge technology, expected luxury accoutrements, distinctive styling or class-leading performance. After nearly a decade on the market, during which time precious few updates were made to the increasingly dull SC, the car was allowed to fade quietly into the sunset.

The new SC 430 is far from bland, though not quite palatable to conservative tastes. The normally reserved automaker is taking a risk here and the SC 430, inspired by luxury themes of the French Riviera, is the most radical styling exercise ever to wear a Lexus nameplate. It's not a vehicle for those who like to blend into the background.

Some of us find the controversial shape striking, especially painted in darker hues. They flatter the high rear trunk line that blends into the extremely low roof. In other colors, some of the SC's crisp contour lines disappear and then it just looks odd.

That's with the top up. Like the Mercedes SLK, the SC is a hardtop convertible with a retractable aluminum roof that magically folds into the trunk at the touch of a button. In convertible mode, the 430 looks far more conventional.

The advantages of a collapsible hard roof over a soft top are manifold, according to Lexus. Such a design offers better structural rigidity (Lexus, in fact, claims better chassis rigidity numbers than the Mercedes CLK and the Jaguar XK8), less wind noise and greater safety in the case of a rollover. The disadvantages boil down to one -- stowing the roof eats precious cargo space.

That problem is exacerbated by the standard trunk-mounted temporary spare tire, located aft of the area reserved for the folded roof. With the roof raised, there's enough storage space for a weekend getaway, but with the roof retracted, there's barely room for a toothbrush.

Optional Bridgestone or Goodyear run-flat tires (245/40ZR18s) eliminate the need for the onboard spare (they also come with a built-in tire-pressure monitoring system that checks tire pressure every 15 seconds), greatly improving cargo capacity. Even with the roof collapsed, the run-flats ensure enough trunk room to carry a full-sized golf bag. We can't believe that anyone with this kind of money to spend would fail to consider opting for these optional tires.

Lexus' rationale for offering the standard Dunlops is their allegedly superior grip and ride. Run-flats need stiffer sidewalls and different compounds, resulting in some compromise on these fronts. Lexus spokespeople were especially concerned with the higher-tech tires' greater propensity to squeal when pushed hard through corners. However, those likely to buy the $58,455 SC are unlikely to be doing Mario Andretti impressions on public highways. Indeed, we found precious little difference between the optional Bridgestone run-flats and the supposedly stickier standard-issue Dunlops.

The new SC is plenty sporty no matter what tires you choose, thanks mainly to the performance of the new 4.3-liter V8. This is the same engine used in the LS and GS Sedans, but in SC guise, the double overhead cam powerplant produces 300 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, 10 more than the LS 430 and matching the GS 430. Thanks to the powerband-stretching abilities of VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) technology, there's also 320 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400 rpm, good enough to launch the SC to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds says Lexus, nearly half a second faster than the LS 430 and a distinct improvement over the last SC 400 Coupe we tested. The quarter-mile takes 14.4 seconds, according to Lexus, and the top speed is governed to 156 mph. Despite this enviable performance, the SC still manages EPA fuel economy ratings of 18/23 for city and highway, no doubt aided by its 0.31 coefficient of drag (0.30 if you opt for the rear spoiler).

A little quicker on its feet than its predecessor, this new coupe-vertible is equally sophisticated. A model of refinement, the V8's operation is barely perceptible at idle and butter-smooth as the revs rise. The five-speed automatic transmission is similarly subdued, with shifting points passing almost unnoticed. However, its gear ratios aren't as closely spaced as the sportier automatics offered on focused performance machines. It also seems that Lexus has abandoned the toggles on the steering wheel that manually shift the five-speed automatic transmission. They would have been a welcome addition to the sporty SC 430.

Since the SC's chassis and four-wheel double-wishbone independent suspension is based on the sporty GS 430's underpinnings, it emulates that car's precise steering and handling. There's surprisingly little body roll in turns, something Lexus attributes to the new coupe's low roll center as much as its firm dampers. Whatever the reason, the SC 430 is decidedly sportier than the old SC 400, and Lexus has avoided over boosting the power steering, so the new coupe feels stable through high-speed corners. Despite all this sporting intent, Lexus hasn't forgotten that the majority of SC 430 owners will simply want sporty, not sports car, levels of performance and have balanced the damper calibrations for a surprisingly supple ride.

On the active safety front, the SC's four-wheel ABS disc brakes with EBD (electronic brake distribution) are backed up by a nifty Brake Assist feature that determines if the driver is attempting emergency braking and whether she has applied enough force to engage the antilock brakes. If not, the computer applies more braking power to achieve the minimum stopping distance. Lexus' VSC (vehicle stability control) system and traction control are also standard. If an accident is unavoidable, there are both dual front and seat-mounted side-impact airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and ISO-FIX anchor points in the rear for securing child seats.

Inside the SC 430, Lexus has liberally ladled on luxury amenities, and the cabin is coated with wood and leather. Among the noteworthy features is the magnificent new Mark Levinson audio system. Loud enough to power a Steppenwolf concert and clear enough to satisfy all those legion Bartok fans, the sound system is nothing short of astounding.

The Levinson audio setup replaces the Nakamichi system that previously adorned Lexus dashboards. While the new 240-watt, nine-speaker system is glorious, the reason for the switch is more pragmatic. The Nakamichi unit is reportedly incompatible with Lexus' navigation system and, according to chief engineer Yasushi Nakagawa, Levinson is owned by Harmon-Kardon, which is, in turn, associated with JBL, provider of some of Toyota's other audio systems.

Along with the phenomenal stereo comes a new automatic climate system with a burnished metallic face. The design may be new, but the execution is familiar, with the various controls arranged in Lexus' normally meticulous fashion. Designed to account for both outside air temperature and the speed of the vehicle, this new climate control system will, according to Lexus, allow the SC 430 to be driven al fresco in more widely variant temperatures than competing models.

Three different leather-clad cabin color schemes are available. The saddle-tone version caused some controversy among writers gathered for the SC's press unveiling, but we found it quite pleasing. Nonetheless, we prefer the monochromatic black leather that Lexus executes so well. Stylists spared little expense inside, with even everyday items like the steering wheel getting special attention; a specialty firearms manufacturer in Japan manufactures it.

The only option besides the run-flat tires and the rear spoiler is a DVD-based navigation system. Like other navigation systems, the display is an LCD screen, in this case displaying 256 colors. What's neat about the Lexus system is that you can tilt the screen a total of 14 degrees to keep sunlight from washing out visibility. The system does have a disconcerting quirk, however. In one of its modes, the arrow remains pointed in one direction while the map rotates to indicate changes in direction. On one long off-ramp, the darned thing almost rotated 360 degrees and we defy anyone to make sense of its directional information in this mode.

The interior also contains our major quibble with the SC 430. For some reason, Lexus was determined to make a four-seater out of the car no matter what compromises were required. With the extra space necessary to stow the hardtop, there's virtually no legroom in the essentially useless rear seats, even with the driver's seat positioned quite far forward. It's suitable only for parcels and baby seats. The rear bench also prevents the front passenger seat from fully reclining, should the occupant want to snooze on a long trip. Since those in the SC's snack-bracket are likely to have another car that serves as more practical transportation, the SC would have been better served with more spacious accommodations for two passengers and perhaps a little more cargo capacity as well.

That faux pas is unlikely to diminish the SC 430's appeal, however. Lexus has effectively been out of the sport coupe game for years, and this is the company's first convertible. With the all-new SC 430, it's back in both segments with a vengeance.

Used 2002 Lexus SC 430 Overview

The Used 2002 Lexus SC 430 is offered in the following submodels: SC 430 Convertible. Available styles include 2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A). The Used 2002 Lexus SC 430 comes with rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed automatic. The Used 2002 Lexus SC 430 comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 6 yr./ 70000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2002 Lexus SC 430?

Price comparisons for Used 2002 Lexus SC 430 trim styles:

  • The Used 2002 Lexus SC 430 Base is priced between $12,500 and$13,987 with odometer readings between 101702 and161550 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2002 Lexus SC 430s are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2002 Lexus SC 430 for sale near. There are currently 2 used and CPO 2002 SC 430s listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $12,500 and mileage as low as 101702 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2002 Lexus SC 430.

Can't find a used 2002 Lexus SC 430s you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Lexus SC 430 for sale - 12 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $9,488.

Find a used Lexus for sale - 9 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $7,412.

Find a used certified pre-owned Lexus SC 430 for sale - 10 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $10,379.

Find a used certified pre-owned Lexus for sale - 7 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $17,332.

Should I lease or buy a 2002 Lexus SC 430?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Lexus lease specials
Check out Lexus SC 430 lease specials