Used 2002 Lexus SC 430 Review

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.

What's new for 2002

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.

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.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.