Toyota’s luxury division launched its first convertible — a sport-luxury 2+2 coupe with a retractable steel roof — as a 2002 model. Last year brought a newly optional Lexus Link communication system. The only other options are run-flat tires and a rear spoiler. Seat recliners on 2004 models provide greater adjustment range.
A Pebble Beach Edition for 2004 features Azure Pearl paint, Ecru leather upholstery (including a golf bag), black bird’s-eye maple wood trim, run-flat tires, a rear spoiler and special badging. Approximately 400 SC 430 Pebble Beach Editions will be built.
A successor to the old SC 300/SC 400, the SC 430 features a low roofline and a sleek profile. Lexus promotes the SC 430 for its blend of “scintillating sport and style.” According to Denny 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 testing to ensure that it met Lexus’ standards for low noise, vibration and harshness. A fully independent suspension uses double wishbones. High-intensity-discharge headlights and fog lights are installed.
The SC 430 is compact in size; it stands 53.1 inches tall, measures less than 178 inches long overall and rides on 18-inch tires. A tire-pressure monitor is included.
Considered a 2+2 coupe, the SC 430 has a tiny backseat that’s meant mainly for luggage, which is helpful considering the car has a sliver-sized trunk. Seating is set up for four occupants, but legroom in the back is nearly nonexistent.
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 with an in-dash CD changer is standard. A wind dampener is installed behind the rear seat. Standard equipment includes a DVD-based navigation system, heated 10-way power front seats, and a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel.
Under the Hood
An all-aluminum, 300-horsepower, 4.3-liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine that features Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) generates 325 pounds-feet of torque. Shift Logic Control in the five-speed-automatic transmission can 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 Vehicle Stability 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, suggesting more than a hint of sporty behavior. Occupants feel some bumps more curtly than expected, but there’s no overreaction from the car’s firm yet largely yielding suspension.
No road noise of consequence disturbs the experience. The metal top raises and lowers silently, and it’s 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 but firm.