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2005 Lexus SC430

      Want to look like a movie star? Just get behind the wheel of this Lexus.
     It’s the svelte SC 430, a hard-top convertible that seems like it belongs on the streets of Beverly Hills. With a powerful engine, upscale technology and fabulous cabin, it makes you feel like a star and look like one, too.
     Unlike most Lexus vehicles, which pamper their occupants without turning heads, the SC is clearly meant to get attention with sinuous curves and a sexy stance. No matter which angle you see it from, it looks like it’s ready to pounce.
     If you think the SC stands for “sports car,” though, you’ll be disappointed. Sure, it can pounce, but it’s so gentle that it takes nearly all the fun out of driving.
     It’s not that the engine isn’t powerful enough. The 4.3-liter V8 makes 300 horsepower, enough to reach 60 miles per hour in slightly less than 6 seconds.
     Instead, the problem is its 3,840-pound weight, which makes it feel more like a flabby truck driver than a world-class figure skater. In other words, it’s like driving a typical Lexus sedan, not a sports car.
     With a soft suspension tuned for cruising silently on the highway and smoothing out rough roads, the SC doesn’t feel as enticing as you’d expect from looking at its sporty lines. It tends to wallow slightly in corners, a function of both its heavyweight status and marshmallow suspension, and the overall feeling is rubbery and sterile.

     And, as long as we’re being picky, its back seat is a total joke. It’s big enough to carry a few bags of groceries, but even tiny kids would find the legroom cramped. Only ask adults to ride in the back seat if you hate them.
     Aside from those gripes, this car is the model of perfection — but don’t ask me. Ask J.D. Power and Associates.
     In 2004, the SC 430 set a record for being the highest quality vehicle in North America with an average of only 44 problems per 100 vehicles. That’s the highest quality score ever recorded by the J.D. Power surveys, contrasting with an industry average of 119 problems per 100 vehicles.
     The attention to detail shows in every aspect of this car. Materials and construction seem absolutely perfect and are impressive even by Lexus’ lofty standards, with a rich interior that bathes passengers in luxurious high-end leather and wood. Nothing feels flimsy or cheap.
     This luxurious feeling extends to the car’s amenities, including a fantastic stereo system by Mark Levinson that comes standard. Other standard features include a DVD-based navigation system, power heated seats, audio controls on the steering wheel, and a wonderful climate control system.
     Plus there’s the power folding top.
     Unlike a typical convertible’s soft fabric or vinyl top, this one is rigid to keep noise to a minimum. With the top up, it’s almost as silent as a Lexus sedan, but the push of a button makes the top fold away into the trunk for a fantastic open-air driving experience. Watching the top disappear is like watching an intricate dance, and you can’t help but wonder how many years of engineering went into making it operate so flawlessly.
     You could wonder the same thing about the whole car. It feels solid, looks magnificent, and drives like a dream — so long as the dream doesn’t involve a racetrack.


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