Like the look of the new Lexus LC500 but can’t afford £75,000? How about another V8 Lexus coupé, the SC430, at £2750?
Everyone’s talking about the Lexus LC500 right now. It’s mega, sure enough, but then so is the £75k price.
If you like the idea of a distinctive Lexus V8 coupé at a somewhat more affordable price point, may we point you in the direction of the SC430?
Lexus built this Mercedes-Benz SL substitute between 2001 and 2009. When it was launched, not everyone rated its unusual looks or its jiggly ride on standard runflat tyres. The jury is still out on the visuals, but the suspension was improved twice, in 2002 and 2004, and you could say that a V8-powered 2+2 convertible Lexus for beer money has more of an appealing ring about it now than ever before.
The engine, Lexus’s renowned non-turbo 4.3-litre V8, sends 282bhp to the rear wheels via a five-speed automatic gearbox. The suspension is double-wishbone and there’s a (slowly) folding aluminium roof.
Inside, the beautifully crafted leather and wood 2+2 cabin is packed with gadgets, including a stonking Mark Levinson sound system, powered/heated seats, an electrically-adjustable steering column, a touchscreen sat-nav and an intelligent climate control system that factors in things like the roof being open or closed, the car’s speed, and the ambient temperature. Best of all, because it’s a Lexus, the chances are that most, if not all, of these desirable toys will still be working in cars you find on the used market.
SC430 prices begin at around £3000 for a 2002 car with 110,000 miles on the clock. Late 2002 models could well have the revised suspension that was further revised in late 2004 with new dampers and new chassis tuning to give the SC a more compliant ride and neater handling. You’ll be needing around £7500 for one of these mid-term cars. There was also a mild facelift in 2005, bringing new bumpers and 18in alloy wheels.
The thing with used SCs is that owners tend to keep them for a while and look after them well, so the cars you’re going to find in the classifieds will often have few previous owners, low mileages and full Lexus service histories. You can actually still pick up approved used SC430s from the Lexus dealership network, We found seven in the system during research for this story, ranging in price from £10,990 to £16,995.
Of course, even the youngest SC is nine years old, so it’s important to check for the usual used car troubles of body rust (especially at the back around the axle and subframe), noisy suspension, and a jerky gearbox. You’ll want to see paperwork evidence of belt and water pump replacement every 100,000 miles, and visual evidence of clean fluids to the right levels. If the coolant level gets low, possibly as the result of a leak from the lower radiator, it can lead to head gasket failure.
Fluid from the gearbox can leak into the coolant, causing judder in the transmission. The trans fluid needs to be changed every 45,000 miles. If the steering wheel makes an odd noise, it may be an issue with a spiral cable that is not cheap to fix.
The suspension has plenty of aluminium in it, but there are also steel parts which rust. Top suspension arms at the rear will wear, as will front wheel bearings. A harsh ride on early cars could be down to faulty front control arm bushes.
If the hard top hasn’t been used much, the position sensors can conk out. The subwoofer and door speakers can go on the fritz too.
Other areas for potential failure are oxygen sensors in the exhaust system, the tyre pressure monitoring system (which is an MOT fail even if you disable it), and the starter motor which is awkwardly sited under the inlet manifold.
Former Lexus technician Lee Massey has owned two SC430s, including his present 2004/04 80,000-mile car. “I remember the SC430 from my Lexus days as being reliable and well built, and my used ones haven’t given me any trouble,” he says. “If you like wafting about in something powerful and different that isn’t going to give you sleepless nights worrying about repair bills, it’s hard to beat.”