By on February 10, 2016

sc4302

From reader “Joey X” comes a tale of what it’s like to own what he calls “The most hated sports coupe ever.” —JB

Worst car in the history of the world. You try selling a car on Craigslist after getting that sobriquet slapped across its hood by Top Gear. The seller of my 2002 SC430 had the old girl listed for almost a year before I came by and snatched her for $10,000 in funny money Canadian dollars (roughly $7,200 US at the moment). She had 129,000 miles (not kilometers!) on her at this point and an iffy history containing no fewer than three previous owners.

It’s been a year since I got her — and I wouldn’t give her up for the world.


sc4301

Time for a little Q&A:

Q. Is the SC430 the worst car in the world?

A: Nahhh.

Q. Is it a car with a purpose and defined mission?

A: Yup.

Q. Do you all secretly love it but can’t admit that you love it due to the fact it’s contrary to all modern day perceptions of being an automotive enthusiast?

A: Abso-friggin-lutely.

Practically every automotive journalist ranted about the supposed sins of the SC430. It was, and probably still is, the scapegoat that journalists/bloggers love to use as the baseline comparison for something really horrible. Oh, you drove through minefields in Baghdad? The SC430 rides like that. A 14 day old hippo carcass in the Serengeti after hyenas chewed it up? Can’t be worse looking than the SC430.

The hell with all that. You want the truth about the SC430? You can’t handle the truth! The truth would mean that the original owner who paid almost $70,000 in 2002 for this “statement” wasn’t so cray-cray after all, because the truth is that this was the last genuinely honest Lexus and they don’t make them like this any more.

Saying this car was flawed or lacking performance compared to Cars X, Y, or Z just shows that you don’t understand its original mission. Similarly, if you take Aspirin hoping to cure hair loss and you wonder why it doesn’t work, you are missing the intended usage.

lexus-sc430-rainbow-small-19976

The SC430 was a different beast from the previous generation SC400/SC300. That 400/300 was basically a Supra (well, a Soarer anyway) with leather and a Lexus badge slapped on the front. The 430’s mission was different. Designed for Americans in America, the 430’s only desire in life was to ferry no more than two fat, rich Americans across interstates in absolute comfort and luxury. That means the NVH is exceptionally controlled and the seats and materials used can survive long durations without sagging or deforming.

On the occasional times that Mr. and Mrs. Murrica-RichLardo wanted to sniff the plebeian air, they could drop the top and go for a quaint drive around the countryside, all without a trip to the dealership beforehand to remove their hardtop the way they’d need to do with traditional convertibles. That’s it.

Comparing it to the Miata/S200/SL/SLK/Boxster would take away from its purity of intent. Yet every single member of the motor press did so. The designers for this thing were sent to France to study yachts. What did you think they would come back with? A Renaultsport Megane RS?

Of course not. They came back with a miniature yacht. Okay, that might be taking it a bit far, but Lexus never compromised on the mission. They added all the magical ingredients to make it work. A big, bullet proof, vibration-free V8? Check. Independent double wishbone suspension front and back? Check. Hydraulic steering? Check. Hard top convertible to keep the plebeians at bay? Check. Enough sound deadening materials to block out the loudest fart can Civic rolling by on the freeway? Double check! The SC430 had all of this, plus the greatest front seats in the history of the world, in one package.

The exterior isn’t too shabby either. Some would argue it looks like a melted potato but I would disagree with that statement. I personally believe the SC430 is the last of the great looking coupes. With the safety regulations shaping modern cars to all look more or less the same, you can tell the 430 was built in a different era. The long hood, long trunk and long overhangs cause the coupe to stretch out dimensionally. The proportions of the car look right to me and it doesn’t look any more dated than the rest of the 2002-era competition. I personally think the car looks better in coupe form then in convertible mode. The flowing organic lines are clearly visible with the top closed. Pictures don’t really do this car justice as it has much more presence up close. This is especially true with the right set of wheels.

Sure, she wasn’t the fastest flagship coupe for the day, nor was she able to lap the “Nuremberg” in a magazine worthy qualifying time. In my eyes, however, this was, and still is, the most honest vehicle Lexus ever made. Looking at the new LC500 shows how far they have fallen from their “relentless pursuit of perfection” — all the way down to just the relentless pursuit of BMW.

Admit it: you want to love the SC430. You want to drive one. You want to crank up the brilliant stereo and relax in the lounge chairs and just enjoy life. You just don’t think you can do it without having to burn all your Blipshift shirts and your annual ChumpCar license. Sucks to be you, is all I can say. The SC430 is absolutely an enthusiast’s car. It’s just for a certain kind of enthusiast: one who wants to enjoy driving, even when nobody is watching. Maybe especially then.

So what are you waiting for? Jeremy Clarkson’s approval?

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116 Comments on “Reader Review: 2002 Lexus SC430...”


  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I’ve never understood the hate for these.

    I just don’t like silver cars and don’t care for the rims on this car, or the ones in the ad shown. But, a V8 RWD hardtop convertible cruiser is a winner in my book.

    • 0 avatar
      GermanReliabilityMyth

      Anyone who hates these is probably just trolling.

      • 0 avatar
        baconator

        I think they’re eye-searingly ugly – does that count? And I find it vexing that this rolling tuber replaced the SC300/400, which to my eye is one of the best looking GT coupes ever.

        So there’s your counterpoint!

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          Agreed. “Melted potato” is the most flattering simile I’ve heard it called. These were and are dog ugly, especially against it’s earlier SC400 older brother. This was a car for the pot-bellied, comb-overed, white, wrong side of 40 dentist to drive on his way back from the Serengeti with that 14 day old hippo slung across the front. Gimme a SN95 Cobra convertible anyday over this bloviated septum on wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Yes the half-n-half replacement rims are a poor choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      I’ve never seen a reason to hate the SC430. I ridicule its target market and laugh that it was the last car sold in the US with a factory cassette deck, but Lexus sold too many of these to be wrong. Also I have seen an SC430 drift car in action so it can move. Like a Honda Gold wing in skilled hands there is a surprising amount of muscle under that bulbous sheet metal. I still say it’s bland and derivative looking and uninspiring to drive but Lexus but there is way too much “fat engineering” to call it crap.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      For me, the SC430 is like the Chrysler 300c: a car I admire, but it isn’t for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      The only reason I hate it is because I worked worked with a guy who owned one. He was the biggest asshole I have ever met.

    • 0 avatar
      Carzzi

      The wheels shown in the advertisement are the highlight. A pointedly nautical reference, reminiscent of a capstan.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I know the two aren’t really related, but whenever I see one, I think “Lexus Solara”. (I know that people ask my wife if her ’06 Solara Conv. IS a Lexus…)

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’ve never really had an issue with the SC 430. I’m not sure why everyone else does.

    • 0 avatar
      PRNDLOL

      The standard alloy wheels were and will always be horror show-ugly, this example thankfully isn’t sporting them.

      To me this will always be remembered as the car the female Terminator in T3 walked up to at the beginning of the movie and killed the driver for her ride and leather outfit. haha

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think there are a couple things.

      -It was too expensive.
      -People wanted an SC400 successor and they didn’t get one.
      -It was immediately purchased by men for their wives to drive to the hair dresser and yoga class and/or around their Florida elders community.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “It was immediately purchased by men for their wives to drive to the hair dresser and yoga class and/or around their Florida elders community”

        This was more or less the target demographic from what I have read.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          That was also the target demographic for the Mercedes-Benz SL back when it had a market. Today, it’s the target market of the Porsche Panamera. That’s who drives them too.

      • 0 avatar
        sorka

        What do you base your comments on? It was only 5K more than the the SC400 and was better than it in every way. I sold my SC400 with 334K miles on it and bought this was with 11K miles on it. I got my SC400 successor…thank you very much.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Although highly entertaining TG’s “Worst Car in the World’ special was disingenuous to the extreme.

    I laud the fact that rather than shooting fish in a barrel (the Trabant, etc) they aimed at a reputable manufacturer making more than an econobox.

    But when they trashed a Mark IV for not performing well in their miniature slalom course, that was just totally prejudicial and not at all objective.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Yeah it was typical TG silliness. There main take was they though the SC was some kind of sports car… and it wasn’t.

      My wife wants one of these very badly because as mentioned it ticks all the right boxes: small but not tiny, luxury but not over the top, quiet, smooth, elegant looking (to some) and all bolted together at top levels of quality. Other then RC does Lexus make anything like this now? The RC is a little too boy-racer, a bit too aggressive looking. Its not elegant at all. Personally I think its way over priced for the base turbo 4 model as well.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        “My wife wants one of these”

        In my experience, that is pretty much the number 1 reason “enthusiasts” fall all over themselves “hating” it. As well as it’s contemporary, and similarly targeted Volvo ‘vert. And, even the Benz CLK.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          That contemporary CLK was poorly made and had volumes of problems, even with interior trims. It’s also lame.

          The C70 convertible has transmission problems and trim issues as well.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The C70 was effectively a later 850 coupe with all of the joys of convertible ownership. Like many FWD Volvos, it can be kept going but isn’t worth it financially.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            About a year ago I saw a very perfect C70 coupe in that orange color they did early on. I thought “Man, that guy cares a lot.”

            https://i.ytimg.com/vi/J6KW-tks2mU/maxresdefault.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The coupe version is rare. I drove one once, it had decent pickup but due to its shapely looks you couldn’t see out of the rear windshield well at all.

            This one is located not far from here. I wish they weren’t such PITAs or I might already have one.

            http://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/ctd/5419852862.html

    • 0 avatar
      jdowmiller

      That coupe 28 linked is interesting. I can’t say I’ve ever seen one of those. I have the sedan version (1999) sitting in my driveway right now. It won’t die but is also undriveable because the emissions computers won’t “ready”. The interiors of these fall apart like nothing I’ve ever seen. All the plastics were eco-friendly soy-based and literally melt in the sun.

  • avatar
    shaker

    “Looking at the new LC500 shows how far they have fallen from their “relentless pursuit of perfection” — all the way down to just the relentless pursuit of BMW.”

    Niiice —

    I will further the insult that is does remind one of a Solara (sorry). That said, Clarkson was way over the top with his “critique” of the car

    • 0 avatar
      lemko

      By the front end styling of Lexus’ current lineup, looks more like the relentless pursuit of the 1961 Plymouth!

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      I remember watching one of Clarkson’s solo episodes where he once trashed a new MY05 Mustang convertible for “being useless as a sports car and definitely not for the track”. The whole while he’s rattling off the V8’s HP and torque, it’s cheap interior bits, terrible automatic transmission, tinny stereo and it’s “chariot” suspension while proving it by driving it around a track. But what is immediately obvious to anyone in ‘Murica who knows anything about cars was Jeremy was rollin’ in a rental base model V6 convertible that had no more business being on that track that he did. It was so disingenuous that I’ve looked at his comments with a jaundiced eye ever since.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    My neighbor bought one new in 03 I think, never had an issue with it, you could do much worse in a two seater vert, they are for people who live with their cars in the way the metro NY area is setup, fast enough for our roads, I am sure a bolster out handles it , if your lucky enough to live near a area that has great turns that is, a great car to cruise to dinner in or the beach.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’d much rather have the Soarer SC but I would have the SC430 for the right price because I think it is a fine piece of engineering. However the SC430 cost of entry was quite high last I checked.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’m very surprised he got his for this figure quoted, and I’ve NEVER seen one in the US for that kind of money. I think there is more sketchy history than he let on.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Agreed. I’m inclined to think this one must be a salvage or rebuilt.

      • 0 avatar
        badhobz

        This is my SC430. I did a car fax and took it to my local Lexus dealership before I bought it from the 3rd owner and both of them gave the car a clean bill of health. I checked the titles for the car while it was in the USA and no claims on it other than 2 owners. The second owner brought it up to Canada and he didn’t have anything on it either.

        I’ve had her for a while now and other than oil changes and regular maintenance, she hasn’t cost me anything extra.

        Drives amazing and everything still works for a 2002 car with 130,000 miles.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          “She had 129,000 miles (not kilometers!) on her at this point and an iffy history containing no fewer than three previous owners.”

          So is it iffy or awesome? You don’t seem too sure.

          • 0 avatar
            badhobz

            its iffy because its ex-usa car. Im not sure if our polarbear/poutine systems are able to pick up any accidents/damages that happened while the car was down there but luckily mine came out clean.

            These cars are surprisingly cheap up here. Most likely due to the fact that you wont have that much of an opportunity to drop the top.

            I recall back in 2002 when these first came out i went to the autoshow to gawk at it and the guy told me Canadian pricing would be 100,000. No wonder they didnt move that many of these up north.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Yeah these things hold their value pretty well.

  • avatar
    b787

    Does anybody make car buying decisions based on Jeremy Clarkson’s opinion? I love Top Gear, but its primary purpose is to entertain. They rank cars based on their expectations and a few other highly subjective criteria. Then they label them as either “brilliant” or “absolute rubbish” with no gray area in between.

    As for the SC430…its okay, but I’d much rather have the LC500.

  • avatar
    gasser

    We have a 2005 SC430, bought used when it was a year old with 14,000 miles on it. 10 years in, its been great. The horrible ride was remedied immediately by switching the “round rocks” of run-flats to conventional tires (plus a $75 Continental inflator kit). The ride is now up to the “cruising” character of the rest of the car. Two or 3 minor repairs in 10 years. Service has been easy and inexpensive (by Mercedes/BMW standards). The car is a pleasure to drive in, top up or down. The top mechanism, electronics, transmission, engine all function flawlessly. The exterior has held up well. Heavy and sturdy enough to ride on the freeway next to SUVs and not fear for my life. Gas mileage about 13 in town, 18 on the road. We’ve been really happy with it as shown by keeping it for 10 years. Many people have asked to buy it from us over the years, but no other convertible has caught my wife’s eye. Its a car with a limited audience, but if you’re in that audience, you’ll love it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think what hurt the SC430 is that despite the V8 it was never able to shake the “chick/old person car” stigma (similar to what happened with the retro T-bird).

    It’s a cruiser convertible with a very friendly, rounded, almost minivan-like exterior. And they were almost all painted white or champagne.

    The Boxster and Miata had enough performance to make up for their cuteness, while something like the SL, original SC, or an old-school Riviera made the driver look like a VIP corporate baron. Even a Maserati or high-dollar Cadillac at least made you look like an eccentric.

    Not many people (especially enthusiasts) were intterested in the $70k automotive equivalent of a weekend trip to Grandma’s house.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      White or champagney with gold emblems, yep.

      It does look too friendly, too much of a bar of soap. The first SC was so purposeful and had classic proportions. Thinking on price, it equivalent to the LS in pricing at the time.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Let me get the low hanging joke out of the way:

    It’s refreshing to see that there really ARE women who visit this site.

    I never liked the look of the SC430 or the fact that it was supposed to be a direct replacement for the SC300/400 (intentionally or not).
    But, I can definitely feel the pain of owning an unloved car and not understanding why everyone hates it so much. Anyone who’s had and loved their Holden-based GTO would understand.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    The ride quality complaints were, as far as I know, largely to do with the run-flat tires originally fitted to this car when it launched. There was absolutely no room for any kind of spare, so Lexus decided to fit run-flats, which destroyed the ride quality. The people I know that had these swapped them out pretty much immediately for regular tires and just took their chances.

    The original “Bugatti inspired” pizza pan wheels on this car were absolutely hideous. The ones in the picture shown were the attempt at a fix. Still not great, but at least they don’t make you want to stab your eyes out.

    Hydraulic steering – uh, this was 2002 bub. Everything had hydraulic steering then, and I can think of a number of current EPAS systems with MUCH more feel and MUCH more precision than this car. If you’re looking for good steering, this ain’t your ride.

    Fun fact! The SC430 was the last car on the market to be fitted with a cassette deck.

    Another fun fact! When designing this car, Lexus benchmarked the Jaguar XK8. Not the modern aluminum ’07+ car obviously. No, the bad, old ’97-’06 XK8. You know the one that was a reskin of the 1975 Jaguar XJ-S.

    That’s what this car was. Not a rolling yacht. It was a Lexus clone of an XK, with an interior that was a pretty shameless rip off of the Jag, and a similar (terrible) driving experience as the Jag with bones from 1975. The Mercedes SL from the same period didn’t work, but on the days when it did, it’s the car you wanted to be in.

    The fact that this car was unceremoniously killed off with no replacement, and no tears shed over that, should tell you pretty much all you need to know. Was it the worst car in the world? No, obviously there’s loads of East German, Russian, and BL era British garbage that’s all FAR worse than this car, but that wasn’t the point. As they said on the show, this thing cost A LOT, and it had no less than Toyota behind it, not Rover or Lada. It should’ve been a great or at least a good car, and it wasn’t.

    If you want a big lux convertibe on a four figure budget, obviously this is a MUCH smarter choice than any SL, BMW 6, or Jag XK. Just don’t think you’ve discovered “the secret” that nobody else has. There is no secret. This car sucked.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      This. Especially the reply to the joke-worthy hydraulic power steering comment. I don’t see how someone could be old enough to love this old-person car for what it was, yet not old enough to know that EPAS was not around in 2002.

      The Inverted Bathtub GT was a turd.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’m glad you wrote this.

    • 0 avatar
      Snavehtrebor

      Might I suggest that boats are not the best inspiration for styling handsome, tasteful cars. This beast looks like a prewar ChrisCraft made of tin foil, crossed with Goldar from Space Giants. Awful. Probably came with hair dye or veneers as standard equipment. Check the glovebox for the actual gloves that your grandmother wore with her authentic chinchilla stole. Ghastly.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    “I personally believe the SC430 is the last of the great looking coupes. ”

    I don’t see how anyone would say this is a great looking car. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that crap, but this isn’t easy on the eyes. It’s not the worst car ever and doesn’t deserve the immense hate poured on it, but it ain’t pretty.

    It’s predecessor was worlds better looking, and is probably one of the reasons why the restyled SC is so derided.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    When you consider that Britain made the worst quality cars in the West and they’re all now owned by foreign interests, it takes a lot of cojones for this Clarkson guy and that show to say that this is the worst car EVER. I never took it for anything more than a bad joke.

    • 0 avatar
      b787

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9ztUlve9jc

      Clarkson is well aware of the failngs of the British car industry. With the exception of Land Rover and Lotus, British cars are constantly made fun of in Top Gear.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Davekaybsc,
    Saying this car sucked is a bit overboard, it was a pure GT not a sports car , never was meant to be, the two seater market is pretty much dead at the price point these were sold out so it did not make sense to have another replacement, it is not like Lexus has a long history. There were better two seaters out there at the time as you mention but I am pretty sure this car has held up much better vs the Jag, SL, and BMW as you mentioned and that is the market Lexus goes for, the people who do not care about track times, or 0-60 times they want their car to work all the time and not give them any issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Davekaybsc

      There’s no question that this car was MUCH more reliable than any of its competitors, but that’s not really the point. Most of the buyers of these cars lease them, so other than the very unlucky folks with lemonlaw SLs, of which there were quite a few in the mid ’00s, they dumped them off to unsuspecting second owners and got another one.

      The market for high dollar two seat or 2+2 convertibles didn’t go away. The BMW 6 convertible still exists, and so does the SL. The SC doesn’t exist anymore because other than “it’ll never break” Lexus had nothing else. They couldn’t compete, so they quit, and nobody cared or really even noticed when they did.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      A pure GT should be able to get down a curvy road without absolutely tripping over itself.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/02/lexus-sc430/

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but ugly is just in your face.

    I hope the SC430 has a great sense of humor and makes its own clothes, because to call it homely is being nice. The front is only meh, but the back end gave the name to butt ugly!

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Her?”

    -Arrested Development

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “cray-cray”

    No no, none of that.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Not enough cachet value to appeal to the luxury crowd.

    Not enough sportiness to appeal to the sports coupe crowd.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    It is a hilarious boat of an old man car. Just because it says “Lexus” somehow makes it not a boat of an old man car? I don’t think so. You will find these along with Toyota Venza’s peppered across retirement village’s all across Florida. Some will have the bumper sticker ” My other car is a golf cart “. Which actually does not sound to bad.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      You missed this statement, turbo:

      “The 430’s mission was different…the 430’s only desire in life was to ferry no more than two fat, rich Americans across interstates in absolute comfort and luxury.”

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    If I want a big floaty coupe, I’ll buy an old land yacht.

    Especially since those land yachts are better looking than this melted Mounds bar looking thing.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      *cough cough*

      You already have one, T-Bird!

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        It’s not floaty at all, it’s actually rather sporty. Shockingly light and responsive steering too, my mom’s Sonata feels heavy and stiff in that department and I just don’t understand why.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          It’s because Koreans are not yet good at suspension designs. Riding in a new Sonata couple weeks ago I was seriously unimpressed.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I call it an almost good car because it rides smoothly and quietly and the interior is put together well, but it handles like sh*t and has weird electrical problems.

            I’m guessing the 2006 generation was at least a little better.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            What year is her example?

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Ah, I got the year wrong. It’s a 2004, with the next generation launching in the US in 2005. Last year of the 4th generation and relatively loaded (V6, sunroof, heated front seats).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ah ha. Yes the 06MY version won awards for fit and finish quality. I believe the roots of the <04 model were too far down in the past Korean market and the '90s to be much good.

            Before the early 2000-era, there was still a lot of old bits left in Korean cars from things they'd purchased. Mazda, Mitsubishi, etc. They weren't quite on their own two feet yet.

            That Jag face Sonata runs forever in shabby condition. They're all over S. Korea as taxis (or were as far as 2009 was concerned) labeled as the Grandeur.

            I'm sure someone will come yell at me that the Excel was excellent and much better than any Japanese car in a moment.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It got the reputation it did because it unwisely was given the SC name. If it had been called LC430, everyone would quickly have realized it was a discount SL500 competitor rather than a new-generation Lexus Supra, and been fine with it. Enthusiasts would have ignored it rather than trashing it.

    Personally, I don’t see a lot of benefits in having just two doors or seats in a big and soft car. But I agree totally that plain old luxury is underrated. It’s why I have a LS460.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    I don’t hate these, but I thought the predecessor was beautiful, and this one not so much. I haven’t seen a car with a retractable hard top that looks good yet. It requires the trunk to be too long and wide.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    OMG! This thing cost around 70K new?!

    But it’s *little*!

    Japanese so cray-cray.

  • avatar
    bortlicenseplate

    Fun review. Seems like a great car for the money. Still looks too much like a 50’s flying saucer to my eye, but whatevs. BTW lapping Nuremberg isn’t *that* impressive – the courthouse is like a square city block, max.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    “I personally believe the SC430 is the last of the great looking coupes”

    hahaha ha ha ha ha hahahahahahahahahahaha…

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Joey, good for you for defending your car and taking the time to give us your perspective. This car doesn’t appeal to me even when depreciated into a price bracket I could swing, but just about every car has qualities worth defending.

    However, I’d argue that a nice 2003 Lexus GS is a more appealing way for me to indulge your challenge: “Admit it: you want to love the SC430. You want to drive one. You want to crank up the brilliant stereo and relax in the lounge chairs and just enjoy life.” That car also seems to have missed its competitive set, but arguably has all the bright spots of the SC430 with fewer of the compromises.

    Here’s a pretty one:
    http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=84405&endYear=2004&modelCode1=GS_MODELS&showcaseOwnerId=54531244&makeCode1=LEXUS&startYear=2002&firstRecord=0&searchRadius=0&mmt=%5BLEXUS%5B%5D%5BGS_MODELS%5B%5D%5D%5D&listingId=421784980&Log=0

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I always thought these looked okay-ish, they’re not my cup of tea but they’re most certainly not the worst car ever. Their floor boards dont rust in 10 years (unlike Nissan), and thanks to Top Gear they will probably sell for a bit cheaper with time.

    I wouldnt glorify it though, not when during its time you could get a nicer-looking Audi TT, and imo, the most “Honest” Lexus was their early Mercedes-wannabe thing, it was an honest duplicate.

    The one car I brought based on Top Gear was a Volvo 850 (and this was older Top Gear), combined with previous Volvo experience. Now I laugh when I see one of those buggers in the scrap heap.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    A girl in my high school got one of these brand new from her daddy. That’s all I remember about them.

    I want to put one on air suspension with some Veilside Baccarats….

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    The SC430 was a highly disappointing successor to the the SC300/400 coupes. It was overpriced, heavy, underpowered, available as a convertible only, cramped, and not nearly as beautiful as the original.

    That said, underneath it’s still an RWD V8 Lexus, which means it will be fun to drive, (relatively) fast, and pleasantly reliable. It was less of a sales success than its predecessor, but it did sell in fairly large numbers, so there are enough spare parts lying around.

    No posers are flocking to drive the price of this thing up. Between its undesirability in general and the hardcore depreciation of luxury cars, it has the potential to be a brilliant bargain – which, in my opinion, is one of the hallmarks of a true enthusiast car.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      This thing of “The SC430 is a bargain used.” is just false! They hold their value well, and it still costs a lot to get into one. As we mentioned above – suspecting this one has a seriously sketchy past history.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Joey X – On the SC spare tire issue, this man claims the RX-8 spare fits the SC430 and there is room for it in the trunk.

    http://www.clublexus.com/forums/sc430-2nd-gen-2001-2010/367394-sc430-spare-tire-kit-substitute.html

  • avatar
    kmoney

    We bought one of these used for my 65 year old mother (yeah, I get that’s a burn in-and-of-itself) as her ‘fun’ car when she retired last year. They aren’t particularly well handling, or all that powerful — though definitely adequate — but they are awesome as a fun second, or weekend, car.

    The build quality on these is amazing (even a step above the LS and LX IMHO) and I actually think the interior is quite nice, even though I know it gets a lot of hate. They have absolutely no expensive maintenance, and I imagine are way more reliable and durable than an SL500. As CoreyDL says, they are still expensive, but if you don’t overpay, buying one at this point puts you way out in the long tail of the depreciation curve.

    These things were exactly why you buy a Lexus: it’s not as sporty as the competition, nor does it have the bleeding edge tech or top-shelf interior materials and switch-gear, but all you do is basically put gas in it and change the oil. We drove it from Vancouver down to the Hurst Castle last summer via the 101 and it was a sweet and definitely not the hurt locker that JC described it as on TopGear

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ Corey…My guess, for what its worth ? That particular vehicle came up from the USA , before more stringent controls re- damage, were in place.

    That’s not to say, that particular vehicle has been branded/damaged. With over 200,000 Klms, that vehicle is going to be a “tough sell” up here. The seller had been trying for over a year. He probably had lots of tire kickers. Was it certified, and E tested ..? That can get real ugly, real fast.

    Canadians, are kind of ???..”frugal”.. yeah, I know the other word that comes to mind. The seller has been carrying the insurance, plates, etc. Joey X shook 10 under his nose, and the guy went for it.

    I can see it happening.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ 28…Doing okay.. I’m still a regular reader here. I just don’t comment as much. Thanks for asking.

  • avatar
    pdq

    We have a ’99 SC300 with about 150k miles on it. It’s a great, great vehicle. Handles well, accelerates well and the cabin is spacious. The steering gives pretty good feedback, ride is a little rough and it’s not the quietest of cars, but I can deal with that. I would call it more of a “man’s car” because of the roughness, noise, etc. Not that women don’t drive it – I’m NOT saying THAT. But if I had to classify it, I’d call it more masculine than feminine. (NOTE to OP: Both the SC300/400 and the SC430 models were designed at Calty Design in California)

    A year or two after the SC430 came out, we had an opportunity to go to a Lexus event and test drive pretty much everything on a test track set up in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. We both felt that the SC430 had too much body roll and the cabin was extremely cramped compared to the first generation cars. It came across to us as the polar opposite of a sporty coupe/convertible. It’s a great car for ladies in their later years who appreciate creature comforts and gold plated emblems. I do have to wonder where they stow their golf clubs and their real estate signs though.

    I gotta say it – the SC430 is not just ugly, it’s butt ugly. It’s butt ugly just like the Toyota Camry Solara convertible that the Lexus shares so much with and just like the Buick Reatta convertible that all those little old ladies traded in when they bought the Lexus.

  • avatar
    RHD

    If it had a manual transmission, its reputation and following would be much greater. What a difference a transmission makes!
    As is, it’s a Southern California suburban upper-middle-class car, especially in champagne paint with gold trim, perfect for a trip to the nail salon and Starbucks. (No criticism at all of its comfort or quality or enjoyability!)
    With a manual transmission, it would be an expensive, luxurious 2-seater V8 Mustang.

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    These are mainly hideous because of their stock wheel and tire sizing. It has no sidewalls (supposedly sporty) but they the wheels are tucked in and tiny like a Toyota Echo econo-car.

    It’s like some old people got together to design this and said “those kids these days love them tiny tires, slap some of those on there!”

    With a lower offset wheel, something in the way of a BBS LM, they actually don’t look bad. But most people that did this went all “stance culture” and ruined it going with too low a sidewall for the cars proportions.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    I love its big butt, reminiscent of ’30s and ’40s business coupes.

    Except they weren’t *little*.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I just don’t get it – it’s not sporty, but the ride gets mixed reviews. It’s ugly, but not really for any good reason. It’s got a back seat, but it’s useless. Yes, a drop-top with great seats sounds appealing, but for similar money to one of these SC’s, I could also get a 2nd gen Volvo C70, and get a slightly more useable back seat. Or, for the sake of a weekend car, an XK8, which is disconnected and kind of floaty, and also a 20 year old Jag, but at least it’s pretty.

    If they’d literally just made an LS430 convertible, all boxy staid looks and typical Lexusness, with with no roof, I’d be cool with it. Unfortunately, the SC430 can be sensibly contrasted against the original SC (which will rightfully be a classic), and the IS convertible (which at least has some appeal).

  • avatar
    Nick

    ‘I came by and snatched her for $10,000 in funny money Canadian dollars’

    Are you kidding? My wife loves these and I’ve been keeping an eye out for a deal. I haven’t seen anything anwhere close. I guess Craigslist might be better pickings than Trader.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Don’t know what variety of Hoser you are, but here’s one for $11k just north of Toronto:

      http://www.autotrader.ca/a/Lexus/SC/RICHMOND+HILL/Ontario/19_9143091_/?showcpo=ShowCPO&orup=5_15_21

      Then again, Kijji is the place for the cheap stuff.

  • avatar
    vvk

    My friend had one of these and I was not impressed. It was slow and soft, while at the same time being rough-riding. The sound insulation with the top up was dismal compared to my SLK350. With the top down/windows up I would say anything above 50 mph was uncomfortable. My SLK was quiet and wind-free up to 85-90. Taking turns in this was an exercise in deliberation. The body flexed like crazy, while my SLK was solid as a rock. I did not like it at all and neither did my friend. Very substandard car, nothing good about it.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    Isn’t this the “two-seater with a backseat not intended for actually sitting, just insurance purposes”? All this two-seater talk… ?

    My ex-wife’s cousins had one of these. It was his pampered little baby. He was a rather successful nuclear powerplant evaluator who lived in Georgia. He and his wife had a total of 4 Toyota/Lexus products, including, but not limited to: a Toyota Avalon (commuter car, lol), Lexus GX470, and a Toyota Sequoia which he just up and gave to his son. Not to mention a loaded up Camry.

    He was the first person I have ever met to have that sort of brand loyalty. He was also one smug, arrogant sonovabich.

    Hard pass on the cushy “two-seater” Lex. Gimme the stately, old money slabside Lexus LS, please and thank you, although I still want to shift through the gears of a rather unicornish 5-speed SC300 one of these days. Eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      06V66speed

      Oh, I get it. The back seat is *invisible*. Noted.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go take my “two-seater” Porsche 928 out to the drive-through. I’m getting hungry.

      And oh yeah… those S-10’s pick-ups? With the jump seats in them? Those are two-seaters, too, donchaknow.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    A ride in my big bros SC430 convinced me to buy a Lexus (GS400). Best car I’ve ever owned, and hope to only ever drive Lexus. Reading this, I now get the hate-for-Lexus thing. Yes, Lexus cars are not the fastest, or the best handling or the most exciting cars in their classes. But, they do exactly what Lexus wanted them to do – Be supremely comfortable, competent, and reliable and to be able to last forever. And, do it all cheaper than Mercedes/BMW/Audi. There are a lot of people who want their car to be supremely comfortable, competent and reliable. What Lexus does is take those traits, elevate them to a particular high standard and never back down from it.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Ok ok I admit these have grown on me. I thought the refresh in 2004 improved the backend with the new tailights; overall up close the curves of the design mimic the soft curves of the early 356s. I liked the dark wheel designs, although wheels are cheap if you’re that offended. The dash was gorgeous if you could get the darker wood and red or black leather.

    This was not a “sports car” ala SC300/400. That was the SC430’s only crime….well, maybe a touch more road feel. It was designed to be a pace and grace cruiser that popped the top. The V* was smooth and responsive.

    They’ve held their prices quite well. I’d love to land a Pebble Beach Special Edition….

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    In my experience, most of these have blonde-colored wood trim inside which looks funny against darker-colored interiors. I did see one that was a Pebble Beach Edition, or somesuch, and it had black paint, lipstick red leather, and different wheels…it was pretty snazzy.

    Had a customer buy a new one but hated the little decklid spoiler…that thing was held on my no fewer than 9 fasteners, and the surgery involved with removing the spoiler and welding up the bolt holes was daunting.

    We also discovered that if you repainted the main roof panel, and baked it in the paint booth, the outer skin was glued to the inner structure in 3 places, and while it baked, the glued areas sucked the skin down and left 3 dimples. The only way to avoid that was to cut the glued spots loose before baking then reglue afterward. Had a big hail storm around 2004, and did LOTS of roof repairs on high-end cars at that time.

    Not my kind of car, but it takes all kinds…

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I never really had much of an issue with these. I like the way the rear quarters taper in a less severe manner than a Solara aka ES330 convertible. Just ditch the hidious wheels on early version and replace them with the ones on this or nice aftermarket model. I always thought the reason why they existed was as a halo coupe to compete with Benz SL and Jaguar XK. The Lexus dealer is usually located down the street in tony locals from those dealers so Mr & Mrs retiree would consider one instead of the Jag or SL they have dreamed of for the past 40 odd years. Plus those buyers had good experiences in the past with Toyotas.

  • avatar
    1UZ

    These were all the rage with rappers when they first came out, that stigma i can do without but the car itself is great. RWD V8 Lexus? I dont see whats not to like. Im not seeing them cheap yet either. Im just glad that SC 300/400s are still dirt cheap. Those cars are the best deal to be had at the moment. 3K dollar Supras? sign me up.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    I had the last year of the original RX300. It was an AWD Premium model and was great! Solid, great materials, quiet, good riding and I drove across the field from a highway to the VLA in New Mexico just to prove to my son that it really did have AWD. Great CUV, lexus has changed.


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