Toyota's luxury division launched its first convertible — a sport-luxury 2+2 coupe with a retractable steel roof — as a 2002 model and said its styling was inspired by the French Riviera.
The SC 430 has received several updates over the years, notably new shock absorbers and an updated navigation system for 2005. For 2006, exterior revisions include a new wheel and front fascia design, as well as LED taillights. Updated interior cues consist of a revised instrument panel and shift plate, and new interior trim configurations. A sportier six-speed-automatic transmission replaces the five-speed gearbox and now features a sequential-shifting mode.
Under the hood, the engine's power ratings have dropped slightly due to new testing standards by the Society of Automotive Engineers, though performance remains the same.
Instead of a fabric top, the SC 430 features a hardtop that retracts in less than 25 seconds. Created with a low roofline and sleek profile, the design was subjected to wind testing to ensure it met Lexus' standards for noise, vibration and harshness. A fully independent suspension uses double wishbones. High-intensity-discharge headlights and fog lights are standard. For 2006, the headlights gain an Adaptive Front Lighting System that automatically swivels the lights several degrees for better illumination around curves.
The SC 430 is compact in size; it has a 103.1-inch wheelbase and stands 53.1 inches tall. A tire-pressure-monitoring system and 18-inch wheels are installed. A rear spoiler and run-flat tires are optional.
Considered a 2+2 coupe, the SC 430 has a tiny backseat that's intended mainly for luggage, which is helpful considering the sliver-shaped trunk. Rear legroom is nearly nonexistent. Cargo volume totals 8.8 cubic feet, but installing run-flat tires and deleting the spare yields a tad more space.
Lexus uses natural leather and wood to recreate what it calls "the comfort of a luxurious living room." Standard equipment includes a navigation system, heated 10-way power front seats, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a 240-watt nine-speaker Mark Levinson stereo with an in-dash CD changer.
Under the Hood
The SC 430's all-aluminum 288-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-8 features VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence); it generates 317 pounds-feet of torque. The power ratings fell slightly from 300 hp and 325 pounds-feet of torque in 2005 models due to new SAE testing standards, but actual power remains the same. New for 2006, a sequential-shifting six-speed-automatic transmission allows manual shifting and replaces the five-speed unit. Intuitive Powertrain Control is supposed to help ensure linear acceleration.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and daytime running lights are standard. Other safety features 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. Steering demands a bit of effort. Occupants feel some bumps more curtly than expected, but there's no overreaction from the 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. The seats are exceptionally comfortable but firm.