Sorry if this is a repost... this is a long thread to go all the way through.
Test date Monday, October 12, 2009 Price as tested TBA
What it is it?
The LFA is Lexus’s long awaited first supercar. Six years in the making, and subject to a major rethink mid development, the LFA faces a fair amount of expectation.
Still, the final on-paper stats certainly justify the supercar billing. A bespoke 4.8-litre V10 producing 552bhp and revving to 9000rpm. A transaxle six-speed automated sequential gearbox. Extensive use of carbonfibre reinforced plastic for the chassis construction and body panels. Conventional rear-wheel drive, and no hybrid drive. The LFA also comes with a supercar price tag of 375,000 euros (£343,000).
What’s it like?
At first very Lexus like. The styling is pretty out there, but the attention to detail, and production is absolutely first rate. Open the doors, bonnet or boot and you’ll find exposed carbonfibre, but carbon that it is so beautifully finished you find yourself starring at it.
Similarly the interior is incredibly well finished, with a mixture of leather, carbon, aluminium and a super high tech TFT screen rev-counter. The best detail though are the pedals which simply exquisite – each one a single piece of forged aluminium. So the typical Lexus virtues of quality and refinement are very much intact in even this, its most extreme model.
That impression doesn’t change when you first twist the conventional key and press the steering wheel mounted starter button. The engine flares a little as it catches, but then settles to an idle as smooth and restful as any other Lexus.
Prod the throttle, though, and the LFA hints a character about as far removed from any existing Lexus as you could possibly imagine. The engine revs rise and fall so quickly and with such a sharp timbre that it feels like a pure race engine. While a torque figure of 354 lb ft may look a little weedy next to rivals with larger capacity engines, or forced induction, there is no shortage of straight-line performance.
Lexus’s claim of 0-62mph in 3.7sec and a top speed of 202mph feel completely believable. You just need to keep the revs up to get the most from the engine. That's not something you’ll mind doing, because from 6000rpm onwards the engine produces one of the best engine notes of any car on sale. It’s similar to a V10 BMW M5, but higher pitched and a lot louder; more like a Carrera GT.
It is at this point you look at the cars the people at Lexus (or Toyota) have produced before and start wondering where on earth the LFA has come from. It is so raw, intense and manic.
What's more, the gearbox is no different. Because Lexus wanted the engine to rev with as little inertia as possible, it opted for a single clutch gearbox, which it also believes gives a greater sense of involvement than a double clutch gearbox. In its most extreme mode (there a four maps, and seven shift speeds) it works very well on full throttle upshifts at or near the limiter, and is certainly quick, but at anything less it feels a little too involving. In the less extreme modes, the change is slower and less physical, but still not smooth, and in its slowest mode, can feel like it is slipping the clutch. Overall the gearbox is one of only two things I’m not so sure about the LFA.
The other is the steering, which unusually for a supercar is electrically assisted. While it is super precise, and very quick it takes some getting used to, mostly because it is very light. There is a reasonable flow of information from the wheel, and the movement away from the straight-ahead is progressive, but the LFA does not steer as intuitively as the best sportscars.
Small question mark over the steering aside, the LFA handles brilliantly. With extensive use of carbonfibre the LFA is a) pretty light for a front-engineed supercar at 1480kg, and b) incredibly rigid. And on the road you can feel this lightness and strength in the LFA’s willingness to change direction, with minimal roll and zero flex. Like the engine there is very little inertia, combined (on a dry road at least) with masses of lateral grip.
The brakes, which are carbon ceramic are monumentally strong, but also precise.
Should I buy one?
That is the tricky question. Firstly because Lexus is asking a whooping amount of money for it, and secondly because it will only produce 500 examples.
What is clear though, is that the LFA is packed with technology that has been developed to an incredibly high standard, presumably at astronomical cost to Toyota. And we’d guess that for some individuals, gaining access to such exclusive technology will justify the LFA’s price.
What’s more impressive though, is that the LFA has a character of its own, rather follow a preset supercar template. That it is more solidly constructed than anything Italian, and less flamboyant, is perhaps to be expected from a Lexus. What’s surprising though is how honed and sharp it feels to drive. While it has GT qualities it’s no soft-edged GT. Instead it is a serious and credible supercar.