New Car/Review

Lexus

Lexus SC 400 Coupe (2000)

SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 55,905
     Price As Tested                                    $ 59,236
     Engine Type         VVTi DOHC 32-valve 4.0 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 242 cid/3969 cc
     Horsepower                                   290 @ 6000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               300 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.9"/70.9"/192.9"
     Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3681 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  20.6 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                              225/55R16 V-rated
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/25/22

     0-60 MPH                                        6.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          15.0 seconds @ 98.0 mph
     Top-speed                                           149 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

When the Lexus SC 400 coupe appeared in 1991, no one would have thought it would last almost 10 years without major changes. It was so advanced in engineering that as other car makers were changing models every two to four years, the SC stayed the same and sold well. The SC 400 still garners universal acclaim because it's a great tourer.

OUTSIDE - The SC 400 adheres to the low roof/sleek-line formula of luxury coupe building. It's been using the same design for a very long time but still manages to look timeless among the flood of vanilla- styled cars on the road today. Its long, pointed nose is purposely sculpted to assist in a low 0.31 drag coefficient, while a gaping valance scoop is set low in the front bumper to feed fresh air to the engine. A set of oval driving lights flank a slit-like grille which was added in 1997. Lexus-built quality means there are perfectly-measured seams between all of the body panels, and perfectly-matched lines between the polymer bumper caps and the cut lines of the steel body. Most of the bolt-on items of the car are body-color (door handles, outside mirrors, optional rear spoiler, etc.) but there's a small amount of chrome trim framing the windows and grille. Sixteen-inch alloy wheel and 55-series performance tires are standard.

INSIDE - The first thing to be noticed when climbing aboard an SC 400 is the way the doors open. Lexus engineers created four-link door hinges that allow the doors to pop outward while swinging open to enlarge the opening. This is especially handy when the car is squeezed tightly in a mall parking space. Its overstuffed front bucket seats are bolstered beautifully and are very soft, yet they hold their occupants firmly and are powered 10 ways with two memory pre-sets for the driver's seat. The steering column is electrically adjustable both in vertical and telescopic fashion, and it also swings away when the door is opened. The controls operate with a silky snap, and are placed logically for simple operation. The back seat is small (it is, after all, a coupe) and a lack of headroom up front for those over six feet tall. Standard features include automatic climate control, seven-speaker stereo, leather upholstery, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors (also heated) and cellular phone pre-wiring.

ON THE ROAD - The technical acumen of the Lexus line matches its exterior and interior quality. Our SC 400 tester came equipped with a very sophisticated 4.0-liter V8 engine that produces 290 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. It's technologically advanced with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, electronic throttle control and a new system from Toyota labeled "Variable Valve Timing with intelligence" (VVTi). The system provides infinitely adjustable camshaft timing to optimize the engine's breathing, regardless of the RPM. An electronically-controlled five-speed automatic transmission is standard, while traction control is optional.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The SC rides on true four-wheel double wishbone independent suspension. Its components include coil springs, gas shocks and front and rear stabilizer bars. Some of the suspension pieces are made of forged aluminum which saves weight, while "grippy" Goodyear Eagle all-season tires are optional. As expected, the ride is smooth and supple, and maybe a bit too muted for some. An exorbitant amount of insulation in the dashboard, cowl, floor structure and trunk partition quiets the cabin, while its snug-fitting doors seal out virtually all wind noise. Its speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering offers excellent road feel and precision, and four-wheel disc brakes are sized 11.6 inches up front and 12 inches in back. With a three-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS) as standard equipment (four-channel with the traction control option), stopping power is awesome. We pulled our test SC 400 down from speed quickly on both wet and dry pavement with little or no brake fade after repeated stops.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, ABS and side-impact door beams are standard, traction control is optional.

OPTIONS - Uplevel stereo: $1200; power sunroof: $1130; rear spoiler: $440; trunk mat: $66.

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