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Be the first to review this 2000 Lexus SC 300.


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2000 Lexus SC 300
Ted West

Introduction
Though it has become a familiar sight, the Lexus SC sport coupe has proven to be that great rarity, a classic from day one. At curbside, it exudes an elegant, timeless grace. Settling into its interior--surprisingly spacious for a sport coupe--you find the beautiful leather, handsome bird's eye wood trim and all the other features expected of a premier luxury car.

The SC 400's 32-valve V8 exhibits the ice-cool smoothness associated with every Lexus. But this demure circumspection is combined with truly fiery performance whenever you stamp your foot down. The SC 400 is the kind of all-purpose trophy car that makes you feel smarter, younger, better-looking. What's not to like about that? Model Lineup
Two models are available: SC 400 ($55,905)and SC 300 ($43,405).

While the SC 300 and SC 400 share underpinnings, their individual engines endow them with distinctly different characters. SC 300 shares its high-output 220-horsepower 3.0-liter inline-6 with the Lexus GS 300 performance sedan. SC 400 comes with a 4.0-liter double overhead-cam V8 that produces 290 horsepower. Both come with electronically controlled automatic transmissions.

ABS-regulated ventilated disc brakes are standard all around. (In most cars fade-resistant ventilated discs are used only in front.) Other safety provisions include dual front airbags and front seatbelt pretensioners. Traction control is optional and comes bundled with heated seats.

Standard SC 400 features include defogging outside mirrors with automatic dimming and an automatic headlight-on/off system. A lengthy selection of options can be added to these well-equipped models. An automatic garage door opener is incorporated in the moonroof option, and the car's security system includes a fail-safe engine immobilizer. Walkaround
In appearance, the SC inhabits a category of one. Sleekly formed without being excessively melted or lacking in character, nothing else looks or feels like this personal coupe. Its long, lean lines form a smoothly modeled wedge that seems not to have aged one week since its 1991 introduction, neither flashy, on the one hand, nor dowdy, on the other.

Lexus will be introducing a new SC in fall 2000. Interior
Despite the SC 400's gathering age, its interior is as expected in any Lexus, elegant and ergonomically superb. Location and operation of all the controls and switchgear is intuitive and pleasing. The instrumentation is composed of a large, easily readable speedometer and tachometer, both featuring Lexus' striking electroluminescent night-lighting. With the running lights on at night, your instruments seem suspended in mid-air. Climate and audio controls are gimmick-free and straightforward, a model for others to copy. Similarly, the cruise control foregoes any main on-off switch. You simply select, cancel, accelerate, decelerate or resume with one simple manipulation of the control.

The steering wheel has both vertical and telescoping adjustments, coupled with automatic memory and an automatic tilt-away function for easy entry. The latter also draws the seat rearward to make way for you as you climb in, then readjusts to your preselected driving position. Memory for two different seating positions is standard, as are two cupholders, one of which pops cleverly out of the dash for the passenger.

Our test car was furnished with heated leather seats. The seats are adjusted with intuitive analog adjusters, essentially copied from the original Mercedes-Benz analog adjusters of the mid 1980s. These adjusters are located on the outside of each seat cushion. The seats themselves are very sporting in character, providing good support and lateral positioning, while their glove-quality leather is utterly delicious. The SC 400 shows its age in one area here, however -- no automatic-up is provided for the windows and only the driver's window has an automatic-down.

Our test car had the Lexus audio system in place of the high-end Nakamichi audio option. This rich and responsive audio package proved highly satisfying. Volume adjusts automatically to compensate for ambient noise by rising vehicle speed. A six-disc CD automatic changer comes standard. Our test car also included the optional power tilt and one-touch open moonroof, together with the companion electronic garage door opener.

SC 400 is a sport coupe, and there is very little rear legroom. But otherwise, the rear seating is quite generous for a coupe of this type. If you look at the SC 400's roofline, of course, you see immediately why its headroom is excellent. The trunk's capacity, however, is just as should be expected, with 9.3 cubic feet, just about right for a road trip by two adults, with a smidgeon more for additional purchases along the way. Driving Impressions
Hidden behind the SC 400's dignified contours is a performance-built weapon that can accelerate to 60 mph at just a tick above six seconds flat. Begin selecting gears manually and getting after its 290-horsepower throttle pedal, and the SC 400 is swiftly transformed to a masculine apex-strafer of the first order. Like few other personal cars, this SC has the ability to be all things to all drivers.

The glass-smooth four-liter Lexus V8 features continuously variable valve timing, which further enhances the stellar performance, fuel economy and clean-burn qualities of this engine. Power is transmitted through a superb five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. This superb drivetrain is electronically limited to 149 mph.

With 220 horsepower, the SC 300 can sprint from 0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds with a top track speed of 146 mph. It comes with a four-speed automatic. (The five-speed manual is no longer available.)

This is not a small coupe, and the minute you take it into traffic, you become aware of its considerable bulk. Its gear selector follows the staggered multi-gate approached used by Mercedes-Benz. If you are in constant-state touring mode, you'll likely never move the selector out of Drive. The SC 400 is extremely quiet at cruising velocity, and even at prurient rates of speed it makes barely a whisper of wind noise. It's phenomenal.

However, a fine sport coupe surely deserves better than an entire lifetime of straight-and-level Interstate duty. And when you veer off the highway onto a curvy road, the SC 400 really comes to life. It is still a large vehicle, but its front and rear sway bars and double wishbone suspension deliver excellent control in vigorous maneuvering. Body roll is reassuringly mild, and our car's optional Goodyear Eagle GT+4 all-season tires proved grippy and very stable.

The SC 400 suspension system is composed of genuine double wishbones at each corner, damped by gas-pressurized shock absorbers that resist overheating and fatigue. The SC 400's speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is particularly quick and sporting, needing only 3.1 turns lock to lock.

The SC 400 five-speed automatic can be selected nearly as authoritatively as would be allowed with a good manual transmission. Suddenly, this boulevard-ready freeway cruiser becomes a back-country ridge runner. Its turn-in is positive and stable, and its steering input, while not Porsche-like, is certainly crisp enough to encourage moving your average speed up a notch.

Yet the minute you return to the Interstate or the endless urban muddle, this plainclothes ridge runner goes right back to appearing demure and innocent, as if it would never dream of chirping a tire. The most spectacular side of this coupe is that its suspension is so gentle-riding and forgiving on rough surfaces, and at the same time, so agile and well-controlled when asked to hurry along. That is a balancing act that, until very recently, only the best Europeans had mastered. With the SC 400, Lexus is right up there at the peak of multi-purpose versatility.

The traction-control system available on the SC 400 has three settings. In descending order of activation, they are ECT (electronically controlled throttle), PWR, and Snow. The latter virtually overrides the system to allow the wheelslip encountered with snow and snow chains, while the former two allow for varying degrees of activation. We found this three-choice system excellent and perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the sporty SC 400. It lets the driver select a moderate activation schedule, allowing small amounts of wheelspin before summoning the ABS system. This permits a degree of sporting driving that is impossible with some much more obtrusive, short-fused traction-control systems. On the other hand, if you want to be securely nailed down to the pavement in wet going, the ECT setting works best. Summary
The Lexus SC 400 is the automotive equivalent of the Renaissance Man. It has as many areas of expertise as any luxury automobile you can find. It's equally at home in hard corners or stealing silently up to the country club. Its elegance has made it extremely popular in a market that supposedly shuns the personal sport coupe.

But this car is more than just another pretty face. Its enormously exciting V8 comes on with a delicious growl the instant the throttle slams down. If $56,000 seems steep, much of the SC400's wonderfulness is available in the $43,405 SC 300. No matter your preference, you'll find something to like about this truly superb car.

Model as tested
SC 400 ($55,905)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Kanji, Japan
Destination charge
495
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
43405
Price as tested
59276
Options as tested
Color-keyed rear spoiler ($440); moonroof garage door opener, sunshade ($1,130); traction control ($1,240); all-season tires (NC); carpeted trunk mat ($66)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
SC 400 ($55,905); SC 300 ($43,405)
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, ABS standard; traction control optional
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
4.0-liter dohc 32v V8
Transmissions
5-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
automatic climate control, cruise control, automatic dimming inside/outside mirrors, automatic on/off headlamps, theft deterrent system w/ engine immobilizer, birdseye maple trim, remote keyless entry, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power locks/windows/mirrors/seats/antenna, trip computer, two-position memory, leather, AM/FM/cassette/CD audio

Engine & Transmission
Engine
4.0-liter dohc 32v V8
Drivetrain type
rear-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
290 @ 6000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
19/25
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/vented disc with ABS
Suspension, front
Independent
Tires
P225/55VR16
Suspension, rear
Independent

Accomodations
Seating capacity
4
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
38.3/55.1/44.1
Head/hip/leg room, rear
36.1/39.2/27.2

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
9.3
Wheelbase
105.9
Length/width/height
192.5/70.9/53.2
Turning circle
36.1
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
3655
Track, front/rear
59.8/60.0
Ground clearance
N/A
Curb weight


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