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2006 Lexus SC 430 Review

The Best of Both Worlds

A three-quarter front view of a red 2006 Lexus SC 430

In short: A refined, ultra-luxurious hardtop convertible.

To gather inspiration for the SC 430 luxury convertible, Lexus sent its designers on a fact-finding mission to the posh Cote d’Azur in the South of France—rough assignment. Realistically, they probably spent most of their time sunbathing, but they did manage to incorporate some of the area’s ritzy trappings in creating the most un-Lexus-like Lexus shape ever. Contrasting sharply with the sterile modern designs indicative of Toyota’s luxury division, the SC’s curvy lines and a chunky sculpted body appear inspired by a 1940s classic drop top or a royal yacht.

Although there are now about sixteen retractable hardtop convertibles sold worldwide (there was only one when the SC debuted in 2001), watching the roof neatly stack into the trunk in about 25 seconds never gets old. In place, there is little evidence it is anything other than a standard coupe—there’s no rattling over rough roads and head room is generous. Top down, occupants are treated to a serene environment with little buffeting made possible by a high beltline and glass wind deflector. Therefore, the best of both worlds can be enjoyed at all times … but at a $66,000 price.

2006 Lexus SC 430

At 3,840 pounds, the SC is a hefty specimen and requires every stallion in its 288-horse V8 to make it scoot up to 60 mph in a respectable 6.7 seconds. With the six-speed automatic in normal drive mode, the engine can seem lethargic and hindered by the car’s weight. But flip it into sport mode and quite surprisingly, the V8 is an entirely different animal eager to pounce away from stop lights and onto highway on-ramps.

Handling is competent with a fair amount of feedback, but in classic Lexus/Toyota tradition, is more appropriate for a light cruise in the country than anything remotely racy. The big eighteen-inch wheels and hard summer run-flat tires make the SC sports-car rough over pot holes, expansion joints and other road imperfections. Yet, the suspension is set to traditional Lexus-soft levels and feels floaty in dips. These contrasting elements create a ride that can be best described as odd and inconsistent. When the run flats go bald, we would probably opt for softer standard rubber and a can of tire sealant.

The hardtop roof of the 2006 Lexus SC 430 retracts in about 25 seconds

There are no such complaints about the SC 430’s sumptuous interior, however. All power features move and glide into place with meticulous precision, such as the nifty wood panels that automatically cover the stereo and navigation screen when the SC is locked with the top down. Even the few surfaces that aren’t covered in rich leather and walnut trim are made of top-notch plastics.

The radio and HVAC controls are of last generation Lexus design, but are still good looking and ergonomically correct. The Mark Levinson sound system features nine thumping speakers coupled to an in-dash six-CD player guaranteed to drown out most of that pesky highway wind noise. The standard navigation system has a convenient touch screen and intuitive software, but it sits a little far away and the visuals can be washed out when the sun hits it just right.

With hardtop convertibles now being produced by such pedestrian marques as Pontiac and Ford, the retractable roof is hardly the jaw-dropping gimmick it once was. But the benefits of owning one will never diminish, and the SC still looks beautifully unique after more than five years on the road—especially in our test car’s sexy Matador Red Mica paint. Come rain or shine, the Lexus SC 430 is an exquisitely made, classy automobile that fits right in with the Cote d’Azur surroundings that inspired it.

A three-quarter rear view of a red 2006 Lexus SC 430

Warranty/Service: 4-year/50,000 basic warranty; 6-year/70,000 powertrain warranty; 24-hour roadside assistance; free first maintenance.

Base Price: $66,005 /As tested: $66,845

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2+2-passenger, 2-door hardtop convertible

Engine: 4.3-liter V8
Horsepower: 288 bhp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Curb weight: 3,840 lbs
Wheelbase: 103.1 in
178.5/72/53.1 in
Turning circle: 35.4 feet

Brakes: four-wheel disc with ABS and electronic brake assistance
independent front and rear
traction control, vehicle stability control

Safety: front air bags, front side airbags, tire pressure monitor

0-60 mph: 6.7 seconds

Top Speed: 156 mph (governed)

EPA City: 19 mpg
EPA Highway: 25 mpg

Likes: Precision retractable hardtop; regal interior trappings; rock-solid structure; torquey engine in sport mode; Lexus build quality; un-Lexus curvy looks

Dislikes: Strange ride with run flat tires; navigation screen washes out in the sun and is far away; right-rear blind spot

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(Updated: 12/19/11 NW)

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