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2006 Lexus SC 430 Road Test
It's like having an Earl Grey tea with a nice big heaping of honey
BY KEVIN 'CRASH' CORRIGAN
The SC 430 is the only convertible model offered by Lexus, Toyota's upscale line, and it is often referred to as “the jewel of Lexus.” I'd say it's with good reason.
The SC 430 is now in its fifth year of production and yet the exterior still retains its cutting-edge looks. Initially, this was a bold design move for the Lexus brand and possibly the designers were a little ahead of their time. Whatever way you look at it, with the way models change today, five years of looking totally fresh while undergoing only a few minor modifications to the exterior earns kudos for any design team.
The luxury convertible market has a growing number of players nowadays and Lexus has worked hard to carve its own niche in it. The SC 430 looks like a hardtop coupe that, with a touch of a button and less than 25 seconds, can be transformed into one of the best open-top rides on the road today.
The interior is worthy of the word luxurious with perfectly crafted wood accents, supple leather seating and all the high-tech features that you would expect from a luxury vehicle. It has an excellent satellite navigation system that is sophisticated technology, yet so simple to use, even I could figure it out! It also boasts an amazing 240-watt, nine- speaker Mark Levinson sound system with more than enough power to make your ears bleed.
The car is naturally full of the electronic wizardry that we have come to expect from vehicles in this class. I sometimes worry about all of this, as in my mind it just means more things to go wrong. However, there is a certain level of confidence to be gained here by just thinking where most of the world's electronics are made, and who makes this car.
The power for the vehicle is provided by a whisper-quiet, 4.3-litre V8 producing 288 horsepower. It is connected to an ultra-smooth six-speed automatic transmission. This power is put to the ground with the aid of a sophisticated traction control and stability system.
Also available as an option are run-flat tires, a good idea, as the loss of the spare wheel will gain you some much-needed space in the trunk. This is one area where the vehicle falls down slightly; there is obviously a price to pay for nicely stowing that aluminum hard top. Simply put, with the top up, you have space for a suitcase full of clothes and more. With the top down, an overnight bag and a toothbrush.
This room issue can also be seen in the rear seating. Yes, it seats four: two adults and two kids' teddy bears! Maybe they should forget about rear seats altogether or make them removable. What tends to happen in cars like this is that the rear seats get used as extra trunk space and end up looking shabby before the rest of the vehicle loses its shine.
Now those of you looking for a rip-roaring, tarmac-grabbing thrill ride might be somewhat upset by the Lexus. It's not that the SC 430 is a slouch -- far from it; the zero to 60-mph times are in the six-and-a-half second range. It also has stopping power to match, with four-wheel disc brakes, anti-lock, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and a panic-assist feature. It's not that the SC 430 couldn't see off a young pretender if it wanted to, it's just simply better suited to leisurely cruising. What's wrong with that?
In the world of high-end convertibles there are differing thoughts on what is right. Performance? Or comfort? Some go the true sports-car route with a race-tuned suspension that sticks to the road like glue even if your posterior pays the price. These can be immense fun to drive, but even I don't drive like that for the majority of the time (honest, officer!).
Lexus has gone with what I would call the middle-ground approach. It has enough performance and handling to put a smile on anyone's face but for most of the time it rides like a luxury sedan. I guess it all depends on what's your cup of tea. In my mind, the SC 430 is an Earl Grey with a nice big heaping of honey.
All in all, I liked driving this car; it has an air of understated elegance about it, which appeals to me. The badge on it shouts reliability, and it did everything that I asked from it in a pleasant and reassuring manner.
My thoughts are if you can live without the three-pointed star or the little pussycat, then you could save yourself quite a few thousand dollars and come out a real winner.
In Canada, the 2006 Lexus SC 430 is priced from $93,050.