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Shortly after the launch of the Lexus brand in the early '90s, this luxury automaker introduced its SC coupe. The original SC was initially available with a six- (SC 300) or eight- (SC 400) cylinder engine. But even with the debut of these sporty coupes, Lexus still lacked a convertible model. That gap in the model line was filled when the Lexus SC 430 replaced that pair of SC coupes. The SC 430 luxury convertible was one of the first modern production vehicles to popularize a retractable-hardtop design.
A handsome, richly appointed interior, a smooth and sprightly V8 and top-notch build quality were the SC 430's chief attributes. The few downsides include tiny, essentially unusable rear seats and an isolated driving experience. Viewed as a two-passenger luxury car first and a sporty convertible second, the Lexus SC 430 fared reasonably well. But if you're looking for sharper handling and more aggressive performance, most of the offerings from Germany's luxury automakers will serve you better.
Most Recent Lexus SC 430
The Lexus SC 430 had a long production run lasting from 2002-'10. On paper, the SC 430 could be seen as a sports car considering its V8 power, convertible top and essentially two-seater cockpit. But in reality the SC 430 was primarily a luxury tourer that was packed with amenities. The one-touch power-folding hardtop (the SC was one of the first cars to pioneer this technology) made the car ideal for all-season use, as it provided better security and noise reduction than a traditional fabric top.
The SC 430 was long on luxury and features. There was just one trim level, and it came very well equipped with items like leather upholstery, genuine wood trim and a navigation system. Under the hood was a 4.3-liter V8 that produced 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Initially, power flowed to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission.
There were only minor changes throughout the car's run. For 2005, Lexus retuned the suspension for a smoother ride. A new six-speed automatic transmission and adaptive headlights showed up the following year, as did updated exterior styling with new wheels and taillights. Inside, the Lexus SC 430 received a new gauge cluster, shift plate and revised trim. The V8's rated output also dropped slightly, to 288 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, though actual acceleration was unaffected.
For 2007, Lexus added driver and passenger knee airbags and a front passenger seat occupant sensor for airbag deactivation. For the SC's final model year in 2010, the navigation system was upgraded to include real-time traffic and other features, while satellite radio, an iPod interface and Bluetooth streaming audio were added to the standard features list.
In general, we found that despite the smooth V8 and somewhat sporty suspension calibrations, an involving drive and razor-sharp handling weren't a part of the SC's pedigree. Instead, the SC 430 placed plush ride comfort over sporty handling dynamics. The suspension soaked up bumps like a new sponge but the drive just wasn't very entertaining. But as a luxury convertible with a reputation for very good reliability, the SC 430 should serve you well.