Lexus SC430 vs. Mercedes-Benz CLK430 Comparison Tests – Page 2 – Car and Driver

23 Feb 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »
Lexus SC

Lexus SC430

Second Place: Convertibles 4.3

The distinctions were paper-thin, but still, the Lexus prevailed in almost all the acceleration categories, was quicker in the emergency lane change, turned in the better skidpad number, and repeatedly stopped slightly better than its opponent from Stuttgartespecially if you factor in on-track performance, as the Benz was a bit more prone to fade on Moroso’s road course. In fact, we set its pads on fire after just a few laps and had to adjust our braking points accordingly.

Beyond that, the SC held the edge in featuresmore goodies baked into its as-tested price, including a very good satellite nav system (a $2000 option), an in-dash CD changer (as distinct from the CLK’s trunk-mounted changer), and, of course, a hardtop that folds itself up like aluminum origami at the touch of a button. Although Mercedes pioneered the revival of the hardtop convertible, the CLK’s lid is fabric.

So why does the Lexus languish in the runner-up spot? It comes down to two elements: styling and vehicle dynamics. Both fall into the realm of the subjective, and there’s no doubt that our responses to this car don’t necessarily reflect the market at large. In fact, the only car in recent memory that’s attracted more positive attention during a road test is the Audi TT. Nevertheless, our own responses to the SC430’s styling and dynamics were uniform and unanimous: very nice, but not for us.

The SC isn’t a sports car, nor does it claim to be one. This first-ever Lexus convertible falls into that vague category called GT, for grand touring, which means fast and sporty, but not really at home on a racetrack, and that is precisely where our vague preference for the Mercedes hardened into certainty. Although the SC430’s brakes provided better pedal feel and more power, its deportment in hard cornering and quick transitions was reluctant at best, marked by lifeboat body roll and resolute understeer.

Our general lack of enthusiasm for the SC430’s clubroom seats came into sharp focus during the track session. All but devoid of lateral support, they force the driver to use the steering wheel to keep himself centered when the g-loads start coming at odd angles. The bottom line: By C/D standards, the SC430’s fun-to-drive index is below par.

We were a little underwhelmed by ride quality, too, although it was interesting to note that our test car’s Dunlop Sport performance tires were more forgiving than the run-flats (supplied by both Bridgestone and Goodyear, a $400 option) we’ve experienced on other SCs. Lexus has been touting them to save space in the tiny trunk by eliminating the spare tire. Still, for a car with soft springs and relaxed damping, the SC430’s reaction to sharp bumps is disappointingly harsh.

We were impressed, once again, with the performance of the SC’s sweet 4.3-liter DOHC 32-valve aluminum V-8. Augmented by Toyota’s VVT-i variable valve-timing system, the Lexus eight generates 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, an edge of 25 ponies and 30 pound-feet over the Benz’s three-valves-per-cylinder V-8, even though the latter is all but identical in terms of displacement.

Although the SC’s five-speed automatic takes its time serving up kickdowns for passing, this portly cruiser (3910 pounds) can hurry when prodded. We were a little disappointed with its 0-to-60 time6.6 seconds versus the 5.9 seconds forecast by Lexusbut it can’t be called slow, and the engine asserts itself smoothly and quietly right up to the redline.

Quiet operation, of course, is one of the big benefits of a hardtop convertible, and quiet is always a Lexus hallmark. We were also impressed with the serenity of the cockpit with the top open; the little glass spoiler just behind the rear seat does a good job of reducing wind buffeting and backdraft. The rest of the interior is pure Lexus, done up sumptuously in good leather and genuine walnut trim. The ergonomics are above reproach, the steering column tilts and telescopes (in contrast to the Benz’s, which lacks a tilt feature), and the optional nav system was more helpful than most (although in certain light conditions the touch-screen commands leave a plethora of fingerprints that make the display look like a freshly dusted crime scene).

We do have one major reservation about the interior: the rear seats, which are snug to the point of uselessness. Lexus calls the SC430 a two-plus-two, but the plus-two could only apply to a pair of hobbits.

The trunk, too, is extremely limited, thanks to the top and its mechanism, but the same can be said for the Benz. And in case you were wondering, the Lexus hardtop goes up and down quicker than the Benz’s soft one. The SC430 has an advantage of 7.3 seconds raising the top and 3.3 lowering it.

As far as its styling goes, we think it makes a better-looking coupe than convertible. Dropping the top accentuates the hefty haunches, and if we didn’t know better, it wouldn’t be at all difficult to believe the SC430 belonged to the Buick family, in spirit as well as appearance. In fact, one logbook comment summed up our collective reaction: Is this the next Riviera?

Other Stories You Might Like

Interesting Articles

Tagged as:

Here you can write a commentary on the recording "Lexus SC430 vs. Mercedes-Benz CLK430 Comparison Tests – Page 2 – Car and Driver".

Sign in, to write a review.

Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

Born in the USSR