Fleet News

Lexus SC430

Lexus

Review

LEXUS can now offer company executives open-top motoring for a touch over £50,000 but the biggest topic of conversation surrounding the new range-topper is the 25 seconds it takes to convert from a hard-top coupe to a sensational cabriolet.

Before eulogising about the Lexus it is worth remembering that such technology is not new - electronic wizardry has been used previously by both Honda and Mercedes-Benz - and it can now be found in the coupe carbiolet version of Peugeot's best-selling 206 at a fraction of the cost - well done Peugeot.

Nevertheless, the way the all-metal hard top retracts at the press of a button - incidentally drivers have to keep their fingers on the button for the entire 25 seconds of roof lowering/raising and window shutting - and manages to fold itself into a special storage compartment of the boot is a feat of engineering excellence.

Externally the car has a muscular appearance with its convex bonnet and feature headlights. Combined with its whisper quiet engine, the car prowls along devouring the road. Powered by the same 282bhp 4.3-litre V8 engine in the GS430 and LS430, the SC430 accelerates from 0 - 62 mph in 6.4 seconds, and its maximum speed is limited to 155 mph.

The SC430 is only available as an automatic and with a carbon dioxide emission figure of 287g/km falls into the highest company car tax bracket when the new system is introduced next April. However, executives entitled to drive such a car will not even give a second glance to a monthly benefit-in-kind tax bill of £591.33.

Name the feature and it is standard on the £50,850 Lexus, from front and side airbags to ABS brakes and brake assist, speed sensitive power steering, rain-sensitive wipers, navigation system, cruise control, climate control air conditioning, leather upholstery and top-notch Mark Levinson audio system incorporating radio/six-CD autochanger as well as numerous electrical gadgets to adjust the seats and steering column for maximum comfort.

Lexus claims that to equip rivals to the same standard specification as the SC430 will cost as much as £8,650 in the case of the Jaguar XK8 convertible in addition to its £55,350 on-the-road price tag. Figures produced by Lexus reveal that when spec-adjustment is taken into account only the £44,190 on- the-road Mercedes-Benz CLK430 cabriolet is cheaper among its main rivals.

Wood and leather abound in the SC430 with craftsmanship honed at the Yamaha piano and guitar factory. The car's quality is emphasised by the way wood panels glide shut to hide the satellite navigation unit and audio system from prying eyes.

With the roof 'on' the boot is of more than useful size for a coupe but with the roof down it would be a tight squeeze to carry a set of golf clubs. And while the coupe does have two rear seats they are next to useless for anyone but a small child who enjoys squeezing into tight spaces.

Lexus would like buyers to think this car is the world's finest, but when it comes down to such crowns it is all about personal choice. When the only gripe concerns the size and difficult-to-use location of the door storage pockets, the SC430 is clearly a candidate.

Lexus wants to be known not only as a world class manufacturer but as one of the world's top brands with every type of creature comfort available. The SC430 is claimed to be a car which takes Lexus to an 'even higher level of prestige' with probably as much computer wizardry on board as there is in Bill Gates' workshop to ensure driver and passenger comfort and performance is assured.

With so many computers on board it seems impossible that anyone could fail to adjust steering wheel and seats to their preferred driving position.

Whatever the road surface - and we drove over some pretty bumpy ones - it was impossible to upset the car's balance. And during a 'race against time to the airport' the vehicle's road holding ability was severely tested and came through with flying colours.

A combination of narrow and twisty roads meant overtaking opportunities were at a premium and it is a great feeling to know that on spotting a chance power was instantly available.

While the car may be more at home on the French Riviera or Sunset Boulevard than in the Scottish Highlands, special air ducts in the centre console directed warm air into the lower section of the passenger compartment when the roof was lowered to ensure one's essential bits did not suffer frost bite. A combination of wind and rain meant I was unable to make use of the solar correction sensor which measures the sun's heat and adjusts the cabin temperature accordingly.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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