In a word, convertibles are fun. Owning a convertible makes a very powerful statement to the rest of the world, one which says that the driver is concerned solely with their pleasure out on the open road, unfettered by the demands of practicality or economy. Convertibles are designed to tap into the passion that rests in the soul of every driver, helping people to connect more strongly with the road through the sound of the tires on the asphalt, the wind whistling through the open cabin, and the exhaust note singing just behind the passenger compartment.
Japanese luxury automaker Lexus received accolades when they first rose to prominence in the 1990s for producing vehicles that were well designed, competently put together and unfailingly reliable. Lexus enjoyed a reputation as the Swiss watch of the auto industry, thanks in large part to the pioneering efforts of their parent company Toyota when it came to investing in excellent accountability and control over a mass production system. While automotive journalists and driving enthusiasts alike could find almost no technical faults with Lexus products, there was one element that seemed to be missing from the entire lineup: fun. Yes, Lexus was certainly spearheading the automotive business' charge towards unrelenting excellence, but the price seemed to be the very soul of the automobiles they were building.
Realizing that they had best act fast before they suffered the same image of 'excellent but dull' that had befallen Toyota, Lexus went to work designing a vehicle which could revitalize their lineup's spirit. With the death of the full-size SC coupe a few years previous, Lexus had no two-door offerings currently sitting in showrooms. Taking the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, Lexus introduced the SC 430 in 2002 as a retractable hard top convertible, allowing year-round enjoyment of the niche vehicle. The first drop top ever produced by Lexus, the SC 430 was an engineering marvel thanks to its disappearing steel roof, a novelty in the industry at the time. Smaller than previous Lexus two-doors, the SC 430 was aimed at competing against vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class and the Audi TT, although it was heavily weighted towards luxury rather than sporty performance.
This article focuses on the best used convertible to bear the Lexus name, the 2002 - 2007 Lexus SC 430, and describes the driving dynamics and unique styling which have made the vehicle a favorite amongst grand touring convertible lovers.
2002 - 2007 Lexus SC 430
There are very few vehicles on the market which have the same kind of visual impact as the 2002 - 2007 Lexus SC 430. With thick battleship sides, blocky wheels and a gently curved roofline, the SC 430 defies the convention which states roadsters must be lithe and willowy. The impression made by its imposing dimensions and triangular front lights is one of strength and power, a ride which is to be taken seriously instead of dismissed as a toy like so many other diminutive convertibles.
This impression is carried further underneath the vehicle's hood, where a 4.3-liter V-8 engine resides. Producing 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, the engine is able to propel the nearly 4,000 lb convertible to 60 miles per hour in 6 seconds. Early versions of the car make use of a 5-speed automatic transmission, but this was replaced with a 6-speed in 2006. The suspension of the SC 430 is tuned to provide a comfortable and compliant ride, and given the vehicle's weight this can sometimes translate into body roll during hard cornering. However, in its natural element, the highway, the Lexus convertible is a very competent mile-eater that will make for happy road trips no matter how long the distance.
The interior of the 2002 - 2007 Lexus SC 430 is of course small, but care has been taken to ensure that front passengers have ample room to stretch out their legs. Rear seat occupants had best take the bus or perhaps trail behind in a second car, as spending any amount of time in that area of the automobile is an uncomfortable proposition at best. Drivers will find their every need attended, with excellent leather seats, a Mark Levinson stereo and automatic climate control doing its part to keep the cockpit temperature balmy even with the vehicle's top down.
The 2002 - 2007 Lexus SC 430 is a fun used convertible which coddles drivers in a sea of luxury that will keep them smiling from point A to point B and beyond.