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By Jim Flammang
March 26, 2003
Vehicle Overview Toyotas luxury division launched its first convertible a sport-luxury 2+2 coupe with a retractable steel roof as a 2002 model. Little has changed for the 2003 model year except for a newly optional Lexus Link communication system. The only other options are run-flat tires and a rear spoiler.
A successor to the old SC 300/SC 400, the SC 430 features a low roofline and a sleek profile. European designers were inspired by the sights and styles of the French Riviera when they came up with the SC 430s lush, sensuously curved compact shape.
Lexus promotes the SC 430 for its blend of scintillating sport and style. According to Danny Clements, Lexus Group vice president and general manager, it screams luxury, and it screams performance.
Instead of a fabric top, the SC 430 features a retractable hardtop. The design was subjected to wind-wrap tests to ensure that it meets Lexus standards for low noise, vibration and harshness. A fully independent suspension makes use of double wishbones. High-intensity-discharge headlights, headlight washers and fog lights are installed.
The SC 430 is compact in size; it stands 53.1 inches tall and measures less than 178 inches long. It rides on 18-inch tires. A tire-pressure warning system sounds a buzzer inside the cockpit.
Considered a 2+2 coupe, the SC 430 has a tiny backseat thats meant mainly for luggage a worthy idea because of the sliver-sized trunk. Seating is set up for four occupants, but legroom in the back is nearly nonexistent.
Such natural materials as leather and wood are used throughout to recreate what Lexus calls the comfort of a luxurious living room. A 240-watt nine-speaker Mark Levinson stereo system is standard. A wind dampener is installed behind the rear seat. Standard equipment includes a navigation system, 10-way power front seats and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel.
Under the Hood
An all-aluminum, 300-horsepower, 4.3-liter, dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine employs variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i); it generates 325 pounds-feet of torque. The five-speed-automatic transmission incorporates Shift Logic Control to hold gearing under certain conditions. Torque Activated Powertrain Control is supposed to help ensure linear acceleration. Lexus claims a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 5.9 seconds.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and daytime running lights are standard. Safety features also include antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, Brake Assist, traction control and Lexus electronic stability system, called Vehicle Skid Control.
Luxury takes precedence over sportiness, but the SC 430 has a healthy dose of each attribute. Steering is easy enough, but it demands a bit of effort that suggests more than a hint of sporty behavior. Some bumps can be felt more curtly than expected, but theres no overreaction from the cars firm yet largely yielding suspension.
No road noise of consequence disturbs the experience. The metal top raises and lowers silently, and its a marvel to watch. Strong performance befits the large V-8, but the automatic transmission suffers a bit of a delay in downshifts when the pedal is pushed to the floor. Otherwise, its operation is barely discernible. The seats are exceptionally comfortable, if firm.