2005 Lexus SC

Written by tonks on October 28, 2006

2005 Lexus SCLast year, for the first time ever, a Japanese luxury carmaker sold more vehicles in the U.S. than either an American or German luxury carmaker. That Japanese company is Lexus, and this upmarket division of Toyota pulled off this feat even though they don’t make a single convertible, a model considered essential to boosting brand image.

Now Lexus has finally filled that void, offering the 2002 Lexus SC 430, a car that in all ways had to be as flawless as every Lexus. That is, it had to be immune to exterior noise and the elements, and impervious as well to the structural instability and mechanical reliability issues that so often plague other top-optional cars. So rather than just chop the roof off of a coupe, Lexus had to design its new SC 430 from the ground up as a convertible. Actually, it seems that they designed it as both a coupe and a convertible at the same time.

The advantages of the foldaway hardtop are manifold. It allows the $58,455 SC 430 to hermetically seal its occupants in the noiseless, perfectly climate-controlled manner which Lexus owners have become accustomed to. Also, the issues of security, wear and tear and the garish look of canvas on a winter day are all sidestepped by electronically unpacking the folding aluminum roof.

So much attention is paid to the management of noise, vibration, and wind flow in the SC 430 that you wonder if the Lexus engineers belong to some sort of meditative cult. Even cruising down the highway at 70 mph, we found that wind buffeting was minimal and we were able to carry on a conversation without resorting to yelling or distracting gesticulations.

With the top up, the interior of the SC 430 becomes a cozy shell with the same quiet remove from the outside world as you’ll find in any Lexus sedan. Headroom is ample and both front passengers can stretch out their legs. Rear passengers, however, are not allowed to have any legs, or so the seating would suggest. The rear seats do provide a nice place to put a handbag or a very small dog just not at the same time.

Anyone with an appreciation for detail would be content just sitting in the SC 430, but driving it inspires so much more delight. Its 4.3-liter, 300-hp, aluminum V-8 is nearly silent, yet strong and boiling over with torque. It’s five-speed automatic never lags, but shifts imperceptibly smoothly (although control freaks will regret the absence of a manual override, which Lexus ditched to meet the ultralow emissions status known as ULEV).

The steering is smooth and silky, yet agile and responsive. This car can corner with the best of them and pin you to your seat with its acceleration, yet it is a comfortable cruiser as well. And even with the top down, it suffers from virtually none of the torsional twists and jitters so common in convertibles thanks to several structural reinforcements that Lexus has added to the body.

In fact, the SC 430 would be flawless if it weren’t for its overly soft body styling. Put directly, this is a car in search of a shape. From the side, with the top up, it looks like a direct rip-off of Audi’s brilliant TT, but the droop of its nose and tail make the car look a little melancholy one passenger said that the Lexus looked like an Audi TT that had been left out in the sun to melt for a while.

Nonetheless, the SC 430 is hardly offensive to gaze at. Once prospective buyers have experienced how sumptuous the SC 430 is on the inside or appreciated its perfect balance of crisp road manners and smooth-gliding ride, most will likely just ignore any misgivings they have about the aesthetics.

Posted Under: Cool Cars

Comments are closed.