- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

OK, here's another very good reason to earn lots of money or credit, inherit well, or win a lottery: the 2003 Lexus SC 430, a hardtop convertible with over-the-top luxury and performance.
This is what Gatsby would be driving, were he around and interested in driving himself. The SC 430 has the head-turning quotient of a nudist parade and the features to justify it. It's a standard-setter in the delightful category of exotic hot rods that don't require six-figure expenditures.
This is the sort of car that an adult, seeking respite from cantankerous children or pesky pets, might use as a refuge. After all, the driver's seat is as comfortable as most living-room recliners, the leather-and-wood interior of the SC 430 is downright pretty, and the stereo will reveal the nuances hidden in a Rolling Stones' song or put your favorite talk-show host in the seat beside you.
It's easy to appreciate the impeccable fit-and-finish of the SC 430. If the test car had a flaw, it wasn't visible to the unaided human eye.
The controls, many of which are set-and-forget in nature, are intuitive a fashionable automobile term that simply means the engineers and designers did their jobs correctly. The instrumentation, basic with no frills unless you count the trip computer, consists of a tachometer red-lining just above 6,000 rpm, a 180-mph speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges, and a gear-selection indicator.
The aluminum top glides up and down with military precision. Like some other high-end cars with retractable or disappearing hard tops, it can go up or down while the driver is sitting at a traffic light, in about 25 seconds, at the touch of a dash-mounted button. No reason to long for the good old days of manual ragtops that required stuffing, folding and not a little swearing to make them work.
The comfort level remains the same when the SC 430 is in motion, but appreciation for what Lexus has wrought is heightened. The balanced, speed-sensitive power steering is extremely user-friendly (3.3 turns lock-to-lock) but not assisted to the point of being off-putting. Stepping on the brake pedal brings the high-tech system, with electronic force distribution and anti-lock, into play, and it's an effective one, making near-sudden stops straight.
There's no more body movement during fast stops than there is during sudden cornering or lane changes. The handling gives you an idea of what race drivers mean when they say a car handles perfectly with tremendous grip and goes where pointed regardless (tire wear is likely to be faster than normal because of the compound used).
Owing mostly to the high comfort level, it's easy to forget that the SC 430, which does have vestigial rear seats, is such a small car. (Overall length is 177.8 inches, but curb weight is a hefty 3,840 pounds.) It quickly comes to mind, however, when an SUV fills your rearview mirror, or a big truck gives you the feeling its driver has not spotted you in his side mirrors.
Fortunately, and enjoyably under better circumstances, the SC 430 has the muscle and transmission to move out of such situations in an instant. Zero-to-60 mph takes less than six seconds when the 300-horsepower V-8 is pushed, and rolling acceleration is equally impressive. The five-speed transmission's shifts are seamless, but drivers who want more control can do it themselves with the console-mounted shifter.
But why bother? The SC 430 does things so well and with such style that there's no reason to get in its way. Just get in it, sit there or drive.

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