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Making a Personal Statement

Two varieties of wood and several colors of leather enhance the interior. So I asked Lexus' U.S. General Manager Denny Clements if Lexus planned on more individual options, a la Mercedes or BMW.

"Our dealers do so with independent vendors...As delivery times decrease, it is certainly business we have to go after," he said. "As the market for luxury broadens, individualization of even niche products seems inevitable."

The SC 430's instruments cluster in three-deep, bright-trimmed cylinders. It is a proven and effective design with tachometer left, speedometer center, and a right pod with fuel level, water temperature and gear annunciator. Other messages are via warning lamps.

Broadening the view, you'll find the one-piece dash pushed away from driver and
passenger for greater visual space. The leather-covered, wood-accented, center console extends rearwards to minimal rear seats. Console storage has a capacious bin (I easily fit in a dual band cell phone, digital camera, and a dozen CDs) and an under-cushion area for maps, gloves, or docked cell phone. Quality of carpets and leather is a non-issue. One special touch is an illuminated rocker panel cover; at night it subtly paints the Lexus logo in orange.

In your hands is a masterful steering wheel built by Miroku Firearms, a company that also crafts rifles and shotguns for Winchester and Browning. In open sunlight the wood appears stunningly liquid and alive. Its built-in left hand audio controls take a while to master. Speed control is the same found on every Lexus.

Power Underfoot

The soul of a great automobile is a great engine. The 32-valve 3UZ-FE 4.3 liter engine that powers this car (also LS 430 and SC 430) is as good as they come. It produces 300 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 325 pound feet (4.743 Nm) of torque at 3,400 rpm. Lexus Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i) is instantly torquey at anything above 3,000 rpm and packages neatly into the engine compartment. Coupled to a 5-speed automatic, the combination is Ultra Low emissions certified. We expect no manual transmission options.

Chassis inspiration comes from GS 430 and uses similar double wishbone suspension front
and rear. In front, the upper control arms are high-mounted. Lexus claims better body rigidity than Jaguar XK8 or Mercedes CLK. Part of this results from using the engine as its own dynamic damper. Curb weight is 3,840 pounds (1.741 kg.)

Topping It Off

The most outrageous claim of all is that this is a convertible so quiet that you can converse normally when the metal top is folded into the boot. A worthy challenge. So we put the top down. Or rather, we tried to put the top down. We pushed the button, shifted gears to neutral and park, stepped on the brake. Nothing would activate the top until we removed a camera bag from the boot and hoisted a special panel, like the privacy curtain in an SUV, that bisected the space.

There is a pressure sensor in the boot to prevent attempting to lower the roof while an obstructive object is in the storage area. Once that panel was lifted and secured, and the camera bag moved rear of the panel, the aluminum top moved smoothly down in under 25 seconds.

Our vehicle had Bridgestone run-flat tires, a $400 U.S. option. This left us with space behind the panel for a set of golf clubs. With a normal spare tire the usable luggage space is barely large enough for two soccer balls! Luggage will have to go into the vestigial rear seat. Like many vehicles with a a 103.1 inch (2618.74 mm) wheelbase, no adult can sit in the rear seat unless a very short driver or passenger is ahead of them.

Topdown Challenge Redux | Next Page


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