Walkaround and Interior

By November 10, 1999

Walkaround

With its long, bullet-like nose, dramatically aerodynamic windshield and on-the-prowl stance, the SC 400 looks as if it’s doing 100 mph even when it’s sitting in the driveway.

The redesigned grille is not just sportier, it’s also more aggressive looking – and that’s appropriate, considering the impressive powerplant under the hood. The fat 225/55VR-16 steel-belted radials and sturdy-but-sporty aluminum alloy wheels also contribute to the SC 400’s imposing visage.

Meanwhile, Lexus designers were wise not to clutter the car’s sleek, windswept countenance with a lot of needless accent trim. The SC 400 is a strictly monochrome affair, with its recessed door handles and mirror housings the same color as the body panels.

Around back, one flick of the remote entry switch pops open the trunk lid to reveal plush, deep gray carpet – and enough space for six to eight shopping bags. To the right sits the 12-disc CD changer, which can be removed with a click of a switch. And for those who are weary of searching for under-the-seat fuel-lid release switches, Lexus put its button on the dash; there’s also a trunk-mounted lid-release cord that serves as backup in case of a battery malfunction.

Interior Features

For a lesson in the stylish application of advanced automotive engineering, step right this way. First, insert the key into the SC 400 ignition switch and watch as the steering wheel slowly descends, Space Odyssey-like, into driving position. Remove the key and the wheel ascends, creating enough room for comfortable entry and exit.

Now, push the two buttons on the top of the door panel – marked L1 and L2 – and observe how both the seat and the steering wheel whir into a preprogrammed position that can be custom-tailored to the dimensions and preferences of individual drivers. Turn the ignition key and the gauge level needles light up – a brilliant red – before the gauges themselves actually light up. It’s all very civilized.

The sleek black instrument panel suggests an elegantly futuristic attitude without resorting to flashy computer graphics. Directly to the right of the premium stereo system – boosted by bass, treble and midrange knobs – a deft push on a lever yields a smartly engineered passenger-side cupholder.

A similar nudge on a clearly marked, console-mounted trap door reveals the driver’s cupholder, which is built into the console instead of extending away from it. It’s a simple yet brilliant concept that will spare drivers numerous laps full of hot coffee that they would undoubtedly be wearing in some other vehicles.

Also nearby, an overdrive button is very accessible.

One complaint: For some reason there’s a ridge that sticks out about an inch from the hard plastic modular unit that houses the drivetrain – right at the point where the driver’s right knee rests against it. The situation was uncomfortable enough that our driver actually had to wedge a handkerchief between his knee and the housing to get some much-needed relief.

Headroom was sufficient enough to allow our driver to don a hat with a 6-in. crown – surprising for a performance coupe. The 44 in. of front legroom isn’t overly generous – this is a sports coupe, after all – but the power-adjustable steering wheel compensates.

On a comfort level, the heated seats are covered with the same plush black leather that wraps the steering wheel.