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only Lexus model not to have sold like spiced rum at a fraternity party has been
the company's high-end coupes, the SC400 and SC300. Though considered
shapely and suave, the now nine-year-old SC coupe never enjoyed the success imagined for it by its designers.
Rather than cut and run, as Lincoln did when flat sales turned the Mark VIII luxury sport coupe into another unfunded liability, Lexus rolled up its sleeves and committed itself to a total, 180-degree turnaround. The result is the all-new SC430 retractable hardtop coupe, a ground-up effort that shares no components (or stylistic themes) with the old car other than the 2+2 seating arrangement and rear wheel drive. It will go on sale in a few weeks as a 2002 model and goes head to head against the Mercedes CLK-series, the Jaguar XK8 convertible, as well as Ford's forthcoming Thunderbird.
Unlike the old SC, which was offered in both a top-of-the-line V-8 (the $56,305 SC400) and lower cost six-cylinder version (the $43,805 SC300), and which came as a hardtop coupe only, the 2002 SC430 will be offered in just one "loaded" form and priced at $58,455, with the V-8 engine and electrically controlled retractable hardtop feature included as standard equipment. Only three options will be available: a DVD-based satellite navigation system ($2000), a rear decklid spoiler ($440) and 18-inch run-flat tires ($400). That's $61,295 for everything: not a Blue Light Special, but compared to the $74,155 Jaguar XK8 convertible, it almost seems reasonable.
A retracting statement
The retractable hardtop feature is similar to that used by Mercedes on its SLK230 and SLK320 two-seat roadsters. It offers the best of both worlds: with the roof up, the car has the look, interior quiet, security and all-weather tightness of a conventional hardtop coupe; lower the roof, and once it tucks itself away — a job that takes less than 25 seconds — you've got a convertible, with all the fun that implies.