2003 Lexus SC 430 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Luxurious comfort and convenience features, beautiful interior, silky V8 engine, retractable hardtop, Lexus quality.
  • Sparse cargo space, cramped (and nearly useless) rear seats.
Other years
List Price Estimate
$6,344 - $13,491

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Though lacking the ability to provide an invigorating driving experience, the Lexus SC 430 does provide a serene top-down experience for a price considerably less than the competition's.

Vehicle overview

Introduction: Conventional wisdom states that if you run down the street naked, you're gonna get noticed. But ever since the advent of "Girls Gone Wild -- Spring Break Edition," ($19.99 plus tax, S&H), no one notices if you're naked anymore. Unless, of course, you're topless -- in the 2003 Lexus SC 430. Everyone will pay attention. You'll feel like a superstar.

This is, of course, totally unexpected for a Lexus. Just try to get the attention of the cutie sitting in traffic next to you while driving your ES 300. A radical departure for the normally staid manufacturer, the SC 430 has been dubbed the "jewel of Lexus," and has been penned to appeal to your emotional right-brain side. Designers drew inspiration by lolling about France's Cote d'Azur, studying the architecture and familiarizing themselves with the lifestyle.

Now in its second year, the SC 430 is Lexus' first and only convertible. The SC name dates back to 1992, when the first Lexus coupe debuted. The SC 300 and SC 400 coupe were decent cars, though sales decreased alarmingly over the years as the platform aged and younger, better luxury coupes sprang up. Beyond that, consumers shopping many competing models, such as the Mercedes CLK, 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. After nearly a decade on the market, during which time precious few updates were made, the car was allowed to fade quietly into the sunset.

The 2003 SC 430 is far from bland, though not quite as palatable to conservative tastes. The normally reserved automaker has taken a risk here, and the SC 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.

It is a vehicle for those looking for something luxurious, however. This car has one of the best interior designs you'll find anywhere. It's also comparatively inexpensive -- a Mercedes-Benz SL500 can easily cost $35,000 more. If you like the SC 430's looks, you should give it strong consideration.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: Though available in just one body style and trim level, the SC 430 comes packed with luxurious amenities. Standard features include a navigation system, supple leather seats with driver and passenger memory functions, an astounding 240-watt nine-speaker premium audio system and a sophisticated climate control system.

With a press of a button, the aluminum-alloy roof rises from its dormant state to provide shelter from the vagaries of the environment. It is truly a marvel, a waltz of levers and axes gliding toward their goal. Once closed, it seals tight to transform the SC 430 into a hardtop coupe possessing superior structural rigidity and little wind noise while cruising down the freeway.

Powertrains and Performance: The SC 430 is powered by the same 4.3-liter V8 engine that Lexus uses in the LS and GS sedans. It produces 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. It's connected to a five-speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels. Zero-to-60 mph acceleration occurs in about 6.5 seconds. Safety: Antilock brakes with a panic-assist feature and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) are standard, as are seatbelt pre-tensioners and front and side-impact airbags. The SC 430 also comes with traction control and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). The optional run-flat tires allow the car to be driven up to 100 miles at 55 mph without air pressure. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the SC 430.

Interior Design and Special Features: The interior is the highlight of the car, The cockpit is filled with real wood and leather, and much of the center stack can be hidden by spring-loaded wooden covers.

The only problem with the retractable roof is that when it's lowered there's very little storage space in the trunk. Equipped with a conventional spare tire, the SC 430's trunk allows 8.8 cubic feet of space. Ordering the optional run-flat tires and ditching the spare bumps the trunk size up to 9.4 cubic feet. Keep in mind that these numbers are with the top up; in topless form, luggage space is very scarce. Additionally, the SC 430's rear seats have ridiculously tight dimensions that render them last resorts at best. Driving Impressions: The 4.3-liter V8 allows the SC to leap from nearly any speed. It climbs to redline with no discernable strain. The exhaust note is nearly imperceptible, a trait that's either pleasing or disappointing depending on your point of view. Shifts from the five-speed automatic are always crisp, but with no manual shift mode, spirited driving takes more attention than it should. The suspension setup echoes the traits of the drivetrain, filtering out every bump and ripple in the road in an attempt to maintain civility at all times. This, in turn, results in less road feel and reduced driver confidence when pushing the SC 430 hard into the corners.

2003 Highlights

Other than the Lexus Link emergency and concierge service becoming available, there are no changes for the SC 430.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2003 Lexus SC 430.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Change the runflats
Jack Cunningham,06/28/2006
2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
Recently purchased a 2003 SC with 13k miles and have driven it 4k in 6 weeks. Initial impressions, this is the best car I've ever owned and fun to drive. Only complaint I had was the runflat tires that came with the car. The runflats were noisy and rode very rough. Changed to Pirelli PZero Nero's and WHAT A DIFFERENCE.. Quiet and smooth, like a different car. Opted for no spare and purchased a small tire pump and repair kit for $20.
Never too late
Chris,09/05/2008
2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
Received this beautiful little red car for my 65th birthday. I fell in love just looking at her but when I took her out for a drive... that was it. Had a Corvette when I was in my 30s and this car far surpasses it in feel, looks and fun to drive! I feel like I've gained 20 years back. Never too late to have fun on the road.
Great Car! but Expensive Repairs!
Stunt Jay,05/12/2010
2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
Runflat tires do cause a bit of hard ride. I hit a pothole without seeing it and it bent the rim very easily. Dealer wanted $600 for just the rim. I average 18 MPG as it stated I would. No big deal coming from a Tundra with 13 MPG. Convertible parts are very expensive. Overall I do enjoy driving the car alot and will probably keep it until it dies out on me. I haven't had any major mechanical issues at all with the car.
What was I thinking of........
fpwmerc,11/06/2003
2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
I am locked into buying an M3 BMW. Two test drives later I am wondering if a 61 year old "car nut", can live with the day to day adventure of a lurchy, non-seamless but sporty SMG transmission and a fairly rough ride on all but the smoothest road surfaces. On the day I was supposed to consumate the purchase, my wife said why don't we drive the Lexus? I was shocked as to how nice it was in every detail. I have had Porsches, MBZs, Zs, BMWs, an Audi, an Alfa. I drive alot and being in a rural area I can enjoy a car. This car is a pleasure. It is comfortable, sporty, quiet and the best sound and navigation system I have ever experienced.

More about the 2003 Lexus SC 430

Used 2003 Lexus SC 430 Overview

The Used 2003 Lexus SC 430 is offered in the following submodels: SC 430 Convertible. Available styles include 2dr Convertible (4.3L 8cyl 5A).

What's a good price on a Used 2003 Lexus SC 430?

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Which used 2003 Lexus SC 430s are available in my area?

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Should I lease or buy a 2003 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.

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