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ALL IN GOOD FUN

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Sep 13, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

ALL IN GOOD FUN

By JOHN GRAFMAN

‘Just another perfect day. We’re cruising along the California ocean side on Coast Highway, from Corona Del Mar down towards Laguna Beach. With a beautiful blonde in the passenger seat and the convertible in the top down mode, the Lexus SC 430 is in its element. The stylish, shapely car seems well built, quick on its toes, good looking, fun, and what many would find a very smart choice. The Lexus is in many ways a road-going version of my co-pilot.

Surprisingly, the SC 430 Is far removed from its automotive competition’s personality in just about every way. While the likes of Mercedes SL and others have a stiffer ride and an aggressive edge, the Lexus is soft and feminine in nature. I respect the direction this car takes, even if I lean toward a more athletic vehicle. Not every vehicle on the road aims to be an autobahn burner, and that is plainly evident here. There is a time and a place for everything. Finding the SC’s niche on this sunny afternoon in The OC seems like a perfect plan.

The SC lives up to the mark’s reputation for build quality, and the interior is what I expect with well-designed layout and supple ‘hides. The bird’s eye maple wood is gorgeous, and everywhere but a little overwhelming in such a small car. The fit and finish is top quality. The layout of the buttons and knobs are easy to become familiar with, however while the curvy shapes of the interior dominate the look, the buttons are rather out of place. They are Toyota standard fare block shape, which is out of step with the interior. Minor, yes, but notable nevertheless.

Operation of the top is a simple press and hold of the dash-mounted switch. The cabin airspace, with the top up is not too confining as the curvy roof panel gives a feeling of greater volume inside. The headliner finish is in line with the interior in both color and material. I am impressed with the sound isolation once the top is up. The SC 430 allows the occupants to be at one with the world, and just seconds later with just a touch of a button we can be in our own little world. The folding hard top also garners cheers from a passing flock of the pre-teen set. For them, the Lexus is a real life transformer. Being that this has been available for some time, perhaps we’re just a bit jaded that we overlook just how radical the folding hardtop is.

The seats are ever so comfortable. Let me rephrase that: The front seat is ever so comfortable. The rear seats are - well, I not really sure if they are seats. The seat back is so vertical and flat it almost inconceivable a full-size person could conform to that position for more than a few minutes. Rear seat legroom? With the front seat moved up a child just might get be able to do it, maybe. Pity those seats are finished so nicely, just as the rest of the car is. Yet, they won’t see much use by anyone. Functioning as a well-tailored parcel panel is the true use for the rear quarter. Investigating and tapping the exterior, I realize what I perhaps knew all along. There is a lot of plastic going on here. The wheels are an odd choice in Lexus’ quest for style at the expense of material substance. Those funky disc shape centers that appear to be metal are just plastic wheel covers. I am dismayed.

The hearty engine imparts an ultra smooth luxury feel without giving away anything in performance. Setting the transmission switch to the appropriate setting (the snow setting wasn’t warranted this August day) gives the SC the ability to move out fast and still be quite smooth about it. The smoothness belies how rapid the speed picks up. I expect a slight bit more get up and go - a suck-me–into-the-seatback feel. Nonetheless, the 4.3-liter motor’s performance is nothing to be ashamed over. The grace under power is beguiling as the car reaches 60 miles per hour as fast or faster than many others. The road down the coast is not very challenging, and the SC 430 is perfect for this jaunt. When pushing hard into tighter corners and faster turns the suspension doesn’t want to play. This ride is definitely on the soft side. The truth is becoming obvious: This is not meant to tear the road up but to glide down it. Once I was able to digest this concept, the Lexus and me got along much better.

Getting back to my passenger, Kristin, and the perfect California afternoon drive, this is indeed what the SC (and maybe life in general) is all about. Looking good and being free from senseless baggage, as well as others who might otherwise be along for the ride, is the real mission. As the shapely backside of the car does not yield any sizable cargo hold and it is not very accessible due to vertically placed spare in the rear near the bumper, opt for the run flat tires to gain at least some semblance of storage.

While many look at this picture and see a car that is far too compromising in space, I see this as freedom. When you are not responsible for picking up others, shuttling kids, transporting cargo and other such chores, this is truly freedom from so many of life’s unpleasant responsibilities. A diversion from the normal daily grind is a Lexus specialty. I get it For more information on this please go to www.lexus.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: $63,709.00 Engine type: 4.3 liter, V8, aluminum block and heads, DOHC 32 valve with continuously variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) Horsepower: 300 @ 5,600 rpm Torque: 325 lb.-ft @ 3,400 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed automatic, electronically controlled (ECT); gated shifter; “Power,” “Normal” and “Snow” modes Suspension: Front: Double wishbone with coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers, high-mount upper arms, stabilizer bar Rear: Double wishbone with coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers, stabilizer bar, strut rods Wheels and tires: Front: 18x8 JJ / five-spoke aluminum alloy 245/40R18 Z-rated summer, (optional) Run-flat summer tires (same size) Rear: 18x8 JJ / five-spoke aluminum alloy 245/40R18 Z-rated summer, (optional) Run-flat summer tires (same size) Brakes: Front: Ventilated disc brakes 11.7 inch diameter Rear: Solid disc brakes 12.1 inch diameter Four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) Overall length: 177.8” Overall width: 72.0” Overall height: 53.1 Curb weight (lbs.): 3,840 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 18/23 Top Speed, mph: 156 (electronically limited) 0-60 mph: 5.9.

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