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Hunting the Perfect Sports Convertible
The Lexus SC 430

By Thom Cannell

Worldy Inspired

Styling for SC 430 took place in Europe at Toyota's design studios. Inspiration, we are told, was garnered on the French Riviera with luxury yachts a focus. Some of the character lines of the region's yachts are reflected in this car, replacing traditional wavy lines, Nakagawa says. You might imagine this car as a flying bridge. Others see influences from Audi TT, Alfa, Porsche Boxter and 356. It is surely far chunkier than the svelte SC 400 it replaces.

When we saw the Lexus Sport Coupe concept in Tokyo it was clearly of production intent. The problem was an all-weather metal convertible top to suit Lexus' standard for quietness. The solution lay in a 1989 Soarer Aero Cabin remembered from that year's Tokyo show. It featured an early electronic (electric motors, microprocessor-monitored) all metal Targa top. If developed, according to Yasushi Nakagawa, SC 430 Chief Engineer, it could provide the standard he demanded.

SC 430 has graphic elements of its own: Twin chrome exhaust pipes, the first 18-inch wheels in Lexus history, integrated (yellow) fog lamps, front lighting pods containing HID headlights and independent halogen high beams, outlined billet-style front grille. Proportions are grand, with bulging hood and powerful haunches.

Nakagawa-san also stresses the importance of interior design. When the top is down the interior is highly visible. The result is a design that appears as wide open as a ceremonial tea cup, featuring wooden accents in traditional dark woods or birds-eye maple of enviable quality.

In the center, all controls but HVAC are disguised beneath cabinetry doors. Behind one is the seven-inch, 256-color navigation system's touch-screen display (U.S. optional/U.K. standard. And can anyone do something about the fingerprints?) Behind another, the ash receiver. Behind yet another is a Mark Levinson audio system (U.S. standard/ U.K. optional) that eclipses every other automotive audio system I've heard. It's better than most home systems and is valued at $6,000 (U.S. dollars). And worth every penny, farthing or pfennig.

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