I purchased a 1995 SC400 about a year ago after a disastrous experience with my previous car. If you've read my Dodge Stratus review, you may say that any car would be a better one, but I've been exceedingly pleased with nearly every aspect of this sleek, luxurious machine. Sure there are some drawbacks, like the cost of ownership and the devils own volume knob, but what you get in return is quality in every detail.
Costs are a major consideration in purchasing a vehicle like this, especially considering that it is used and without warranties. Remember that beyond the new car price for a seven year old vehicle, you have other concerns like the $800-$1,000 it will run you to replace tires. Brake pads and rotors, routine maintenance and tune-ups are not just very expensive, but borderline criminal. You will become familiar to mechanics telling you "this is an exceedingly complex suspension" or other problems to justify higher labor costs. Also, a detail that crept up on me, especially the past summer, premium gas is very expensive and this car doesn't conserve it too well. Whatever the EPA quotes for this car is attainable only by a light foot and a dream. I would say that under normal driving expect around 13-16 city and 18-22 highway. Depending on how you drive, you would likely fall somewhere in that range. Needless to say, the city ratings are not impressive, but if you leave Speed Racer at home you can get some respectable highway figures.
Another far easier problem to deal with is the volume knob. At low levels the volume can be dialed in to fairly quiet or silent, nothing in between. Even more disconcerting trying to turn the volume off quickly for a cell phone, or god forbid, a police officer with a speeding ticket, music will keep coming out of the speakers. I thought that it was a loose knob or another problem, but reading the Lexus owners sites says that it is a common problem with this car, especially with the optional Nakamichi sound system.
The soft curves, commanding presence and distinctive shape are more or less subjected to the tastes of the viewer, but I fell in love with it the first time I saw it in Road & Track and I love it even more now that I own it.
If your checkbook allows you to accept the high maintenance costs and irritating volume control, you will be rewarded with one of the finest luxury coupes in the world. The 4.0 Liter V-8, producing 250 hp, is so smooth and quiet, you will wonder if the car is started. The transmission is a butter smooth 4 speed automatic; regrettably, manual has never been available in the 400 model.
As expected in any world-class luxury car, there is the requisite leather, power everything, telescoping steering wheel, seat warmers, etc. More impressive, are the thoughtful details like a sunshade for that space above the rear-view mirror where the sun always seems to get through to a passenger seat that tilts and slides forward automatically for rear seat access.
Of course one of the greatest advantages is the car itself. You get to answer, "What kind of car do you have" with "A Lex Coupe." You get to be seen driving it and your neighbor with the BMW 325 will finally be willing to trade straight up. The world is a better place when you own one of these. Women love it, men want it and friends want to ride in it.
As typical with most Japanese vehicles, expect this car to offer high levels of quality and refinement. Because of these historic traits, this vehicle maintains its value better than most in it's class. By reaping the benefit of having someone else take the initial depreciation hit of buying the car new, you can pick up a used or certified pre-owned vehicle for the price of a new economy car.
Amount Paid (US$):
1997Model and Options:
SC400 w/ Nakamichi Audio System and optional wheels