Released in 2002 and refreshed in 2006, only minor detail changes appear in the 2008 version of Lexus's luxury hardtop convertible coupe. With an impressive debut almost seven years ago, the SC 430 also incorporates a few drawbacks that have remained unaddressed over the years while the competition has moved on.
Powered by a smooth four-cam, 4.3-liter all-aluminum V8 with variable-valve timing and electronic throttle control that produces 288 hp at 5,600 rpm, this sleek convertible coupe can rush from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. A six-speed automatic with manual shift control sends power to the rear wheels. Top speed is electronically governed to 143 mph.
The SC 430 is one of the most refined highway cruisers available. Quiet, smooth, and comfortable, it's an ideal long-distance driver, but not a canyon carver. The SC 430's suspension is tuned to provide a lush, yielding ride, which will turn to understeer when pushed to the limit in tight corners. With top up or down, there is minimal wind buffeting at any speed, which testifies to the extensive wind-tunnel testing Lexus engineers used to achieve their tough standards for noise, vibration, and roughness.
The retractable aluminum hardtop is also a wonder of Lexus engineering. Press a switch, and in less than 25 seconds the trunk flap raises, the roof folds into the trunk, the trunk flap closes, and the windows lower. What isn't so wonderful, however, is the resulting trunk size. Starting out with only 8.8 cubic feet - which can be expanded to 9.4 cubic feet by checking off the run-flat tire option and removing the spare - the trunk shrinks further with the top down.
Where can you store long-weekend baggage? In the rear seats, which reviewers found adequate for hauling purposes only - even small children will complain about the lack of legroom back there. Up front, the driver and passenger are treated to the full complement of Lexus luxury. Rich leather enfolds comfortable but supportive contoured bucket seats. Luxuriant genuine wood trim graces the cockpit, with more leather on the doors and console top. Gauges are easy to read and ergonomics are, as is usual in a Lexus, perfection.
With an extensive list of standard features, the list of safety features is also wide-ranging. Front-seat, side, and knee-protecting airbags compliment ABS brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control systems, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Reviewers find the SC 430 a luxurious highway cruiser that has been surpassed by the German competition. The BMW 335i, for example, offers a retractable hardtop, functional rear seats, and genuine canyon-carving credentials - all at a lower price point.