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by Steve Siler

Lexus SC430
2003 Lexus SC430
Now with us for more than two years, the SC430 coupe/convertible represents top-down motoring, Lexus style. In other words, it bears the hallmarks of quality, subtlety and quiet competence along the lines of, well, every other Lexus we've driven in the last 10 years.

Now, although the SC430's exterior shape was once considered radical, it now blends into its environment without calling undue attention to itself. Not that it's invisible, mind you, it's just not pretentious. The SC430's soft, fluid lines convey slippery, exotic unattainability, kind of like seeing a lynx in the wild. Only the SC430 indeed is attainable (for just over $60K, anyway), and is in no way endangered, thank you.

The tasteful and opulent interior of the SC430 is one of the best places we can think of to soak up the rays. Think of the SC430 as a big Lexus LS430 sedan with no back seat. Sure, technically, the SC430 has a back seat, but don't expect people to sit there - perhaps a teacup poodle or a Cabbage Patch doll, but not people. As with the Jaguar XK8 with its eensy rear quarters, the SC430's rear seats are most useful as a padded place for your purse or some impulse purchases from Tiffany's.

As much as we bitch about it, however, if that rear seat was any bigger, it likely would have kept Lexus designers from incorporating the cool retractable hard top that is one of the SC430's hallmarks. That folding hardtop offers coupe-like quietness and security when raised, but motors down quickly and quietly so you can truly enjoy that first sunny day in Spring that convertibles were invented for. Also, in addition to leather, wood and metal everywhere you look, other amenities include a 9-speaker Mark Levinson sound system that can tell if the top is up or down and equalizes the music accordingly. Automatic climate control, of course, is standard, while a terrific navigation system and/or Lexus Link (basically GM's OnStar by another name) is optional.

All that goodness hustles down the road nicely, thanks to a standard 300-hp V-8 that makes an aggressive, if muted growl as it catapults you down the road. Ride quality is smooth, for the most part, unless you get the optional run-flat tires that stiffen things up a bit in exchange for a good bit more trunk space due to the deletion of the spare.

Price: $63K-$65K