Like other grand-touring roadsters, the Lexus SC 430 hardtop convertible comes stocked with a V-8 engine and plenty of top-shelf accoutrements. A limited Pebble Beach edition has exclusive colors and wheels. Competitors include the Jaguar XK, Mercedes-Benz SL and Cadillac XLR.
Toyota’s luxury division launched its first convertible — a sport-luxury 2+2 coupe with a retractable steel roof — as a 2002 model. Fairly thorough goings-over in 2006 and 2007 brought new styling, an upgraded transmission and more airbags. Changes for 2008 are few.
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. An Adaptive Front-lighting System 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.
The available Pebble Beach edition comes in exclusive colors — Lexus calls the outside Smoky Granite Mica and the inside Camel/Ecru — with new wheels.
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 re-create 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 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. A sequential-shifting six-speed automatic transmission allows manual shifting.
Six standard airbags include the mandatory dual front devices, as well as side-impact airbags for the front seats and dual knee airbags for the front occupants. 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.