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New LFA Owner - Driving Impressions

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Old 05-15-15, 11:28 AM   #1
lfahalo
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Default New LFA Owner - Driving Impressions

Hey gang- a sincere thanks for your patience. Apart from being busy with work the past couple of weeks, I wanted to get the 24 month service done on 461 before pushing the car a bit. Also, since it only had about 750km, I figured it prudent to treat the first few drives as an extension of the break in period.

That done, what can I tell you - the car is utterly phenomenal. As Rolla mentioned, I traded my McLaren 12C coupe against this LFA, so needless to say it has some big shoes to fill. The 12C is another supercar that is very misunderstood by the public and even many serious car enthusiasts. I absolutely adored mine. Alas, an opportunity to own a Canadian LFA is rare, indeed, so I willingly parted with the MP4.

Some other cars I have driven, but not owned, include Ferrari 458, 599 HGTE, 430 Challenge race car, various Gallardos, various 911s, various GT-Rs, Merc SLS, Audi R8s, you get the idea. Not every car available, but I love to try different cars whenever I get an opportunity, especially if it is at a racetrack. I spend a little bit of time at the track and own a Caterham SP/300.R prototype, too. I just mention these things so that you understand my frame of reference. I even once drove the Gumpert Apollo!

I can already say the LFA ranks with the very best I have personally driven. After 2 weeks, I am scratching my head trying to understand exactly how Toyota built this car. Of course, I have seen the LFA Works documentary, but for a car company to produce a supercar at this level, on their very first try, really defies belief. That goes for the driving dynamics, the build quality, the sound and response of the engine, everything really. It feels more like a car design that has been honed for decades, improved at every iteration, so that the current product is refined in every way. It's amazing.

Okay, the driving. The car is quick, quicker than I thought it would be, in fact. Definitely not the surging turbo acceleration of the 12C, but from 5000 RPM onwards, every bit as intense. One thing I learned about myself while owning the MP4 is that I really donít need, or necessarily even want, 600+ horsepower in my road cars. These cars are just getting way too fast for the public roads and as a result, it is actually difficult to enjoy them in a safe an legal manner. You literally cannot hold the McLaren at full throttle for more than 2.5 seconds or else you are going obscenely fast. The nice thing about the LFA is that you can enjoy the performance a little more, and a little longer. Donít get me wrong, itís not far behind the MP4 in outright acceleration, but there are definitely more opportunities to explore the performance, which is good thing. In fact, Iíd willingly trade 100 of the LFAís hp for another 1000 RPM before redline. Not that 9500 isnít enough!

The response of the V10 is a defining feature of the car, along with the sound of course, but more on that later. In any gear, at pretty much any RPM, even just a whiff of throttle instantly provokes the engine and sends you surging forward (or sideways!). Iíve never experienced a motor like this - it honestly revs more like the sport bikes I used to ride when I was younger. The result is you get the sensation of your right foot feeling directly connected to the rear contact patches; there is no delay in any of the parts that actually exist between those two endpoints. Truly amazing, and addictive.

The quality of the power delivery must be mentioned. Itís absolutely linear in its rate of increase and just gets more and more intense towards redline. Even if the sound wasnít that good, the engine would still be a peach.

But, okay, the sound - really you could write a whole separate novel about how this car sounds. Obviously, I knew it would sound good as I have watched pretty much every LFA video I could find on the net in the past 12 months. But I can honestly say that not a single youtube video out there captures how amazing this car actually sounds from the driverís seat. I almost cannot describe it in words. I know they obsessed over it and tuned the air mixing box and exhaust ad nauseum, but never would I have imagined the result could be so exceptional, so unlike any other car Iíve ever experienced, Ferraris and racecars included. Iíve tinkered with music and audio production in the past, so have spent hours myself obsessing over frequencies, mixing levels and EQ settings. All I can say is what they have done with this car, sound-wise, is pure art. Even at low RPM, there are little whoops and yelps, with growling undertones that keep reminding you of the V10ís presence and its eagerness to get on with it. Through the mid-range, it gets angry and mechanical ahead of you, while the exhaust sound rises in pitch and intensity, however still more of a light wail that is warning you that things are about to go bonkers. From 7000 RPM on, Iíll be honest, itís really quite difficult to say exactly what is going on - there are more sounds, everything is louder and more intense, the wail has become a blood-curdling shriek. When you add in the fact that the car is now making serious forward progress and therefore you need to concentrate visually and also stay in touch with the seat of the pants feel from the chassis, you can imagine that your senses are maxed out, even over-loaded at some times. Amongst it all, you get flashes of V10-era Formula One sounds, especially if you pass through a tunnel. It really does remind you of those howling racers, even at half the RPM. I donít know how Yamaha managed that.

The gearbox is perhaps the most enigmatic part of the car and the experience. It really is more of an automated manual, than anything resembling a DCT. In fact it feels quite a bit like the Hewland racing box in my prototype. It took me a couple of drives to feel it out and understand its nuances, much the same as you would when getting to know a 3 pedal manual transmission. That learning curve now climbed, I love it and I am glad they didnít go with a DCT. The Graziano DCT in the McLaren, for example, is amazing; smooth, instant shifts, very little torque interruption. The 458ís Getrag box is better still, although both boxes have had their reliability issues. But, at the end of the day, they do feel like automatic transmissions and are therefore slightly less involving. My 12C was an early car and had retained the Pre-Cog function, which helped keep things interesting. And I will also admit that, using my 12C at times as a daily driver, the DCT was hugely beneficial. But the LFAís character and intent is much more suited to the box it has. It contributes quite a bit to how racecar-like the LFA feels to drive.

With regards to handling dynamics, youíll have to take the following with a grain of salt, as I have not yet taken the LFA to a racetrack. Generally, I donít believe you can truly discover a carís handling tendencies until you approach, and even exceed, the limits of grip while on a circuit. Sure, you can toy around with little moments of oversteer here and there, on public roads. But you wonít really know what you have underneath you until you enter a 4th gear corner on a racetrack too fast or outbrake yourself from 150MPH, for example. That said, the LFA feels front-end biased to me, as if set up with a touch of oversteer out of the box. Which is unlike most cars, which have some safe understeer by design. I prefer it, but you do have to stay awake, especially when the tires are cold, as the response of the V10 does not suffer an eager ankle in combination with lazy wrists. On a cold morning earlier this week, I vowed not to drive this car without having my first coffee of the day. Under, letís say brisk, driving on the road, the car has wonderful stability and the front is very planted on turn-in. I have yet to get the fronts to scrub into even a hint of understeer; the car just wants to keep turning. Getting back to the gas, youíll feel an immediate weight transfer to the outside rear, and if you are greedy, youíll provoke some yaw for sure. In the faster bends, on the highway for example, the car is sublime. Maybe the downforce is just starting to come into play, but really I think it has to do with the suspension geometry and roll bar setup. It is just really stable and responds very well to feeding in more throttle, even if the road surface is bumpy.

Braking-wise, from moderate to high-ish speeds, the car feels good. A nice degree of forward pitch, the fronts load up nicely and the back end doesnít get too light. The car tracks straight and crucially, coming off the brakes is very progressive and doesnít adversely affect turn-in. Again, this is at road speeds, so I wonít claim to know the braking tendencies intimately.

My overall impression, so far, is that the LFA is a hugely rewarding car to drive. It feels like a real event, every time you get in and press the button to fire up the V10. This is partly because the memories of your last drive in it are still swirling around in your cranium. It is possible to relax a bit in the car, drop into 6th gear and just cover miles, but so far I havenít done that for more than about 10 minutes!
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Old 05-15-15, 02:39 PM   #2
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Thanks for the detailed review. Very in-depth and comprehensive especially comparisons with your McLaren M4 etc. It was a joy to read through and through.

Regarding the LFA weight bias, you are right it is slightly leaned towards the back. That is why radiators, batteries, trans axle etc. were located in the back to get a slightly rear-heavy weight distribution. The engine is also smaller and lighter than a V6 for the same purpose.

In my opinion, once you go to the track, you will see how easily the LFA with the stock tires wants to hang its tails out especially with the very short wheel base.

An interesting anecdote, your wish for even 1000 rpm higher redline almost came true since Horuhiko Tanahashi stated in an interview that it was over-engineered for a much higher redline as Tanahashi wanted to put a 10,000 rpm redline (with a 10,500 rpm possible rev limit?), but Lexus did not approve of a 10,000 rpm redline for production due to durability, longevity and liability concerns so he had to settle for 9000 rpm.



Last edited by 05RollaXRS; 05-15-15 at 02:49 PM.
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Old 05-16-15, 06:13 AM   #3
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Thanks for the beautiful write up.
How many canadian LFA are there?
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Old 05-16-15, 01:38 PM   #4
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Thanks for the beautiful write up.
How many canadian LFA are there?
There were originally 10 that were imported including one white Nurburgring Edition. Although, 1 spends most of its time in Florida and only comes to Calgary for 3 months a year.

Then, there were 3 known US-Spec LFAs that were imported including 1 by "Chappy" South-African director.

In short, it is an incredibly rare sight. You can spot a unicorn more easily.
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Old 05-16-15, 04:31 PM   #5
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That Canadian white Nurburgring Edition was sold to UK a long time ago ......
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Old 05-17-15, 01:44 PM   #6
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That Canadian white Nurburgring Edition was sold to UK a long time ago ......
I see. One less then, I guess. Thanks.
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Old 05-19-15, 12:23 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by lfahalo View Post
That said, the LFA feels front-end biased to me, as if set up with a touch of oversteer out of the box.
This was intentional, according to LFA engineers. After driving the prototype for the first time at Sonoma Raceway, I was actually surprised by that setup - especially with all the talk back then about designing the LFA to be easier to drive or at least more forgiving (e.g., Tanahashi on the FR decision). I wound up talking about the oversteer with a former F3 participant who was also at the event, and he told me he loved that about the LFA and that many Formula-level drivers prefer that type of setup due to the resulting increased dynamics on turn-in.

What I really like about the oversteer setup on the LFA is how progressive it is. While it's present on a couple supercars (especially older ones) I've driven, the oversteer seemed a lot more snappy and less predictable on the others. And of course, contrast to how many so-called performance cars today are designed to feel safe by inducing huge amounts of understeer, like the Nissan engineers admitted they did for the GT-R.

Anyway, thanks for the extensive writeup - it shares many of my opinions on the LFA and reflects why I decided to purchase one in the first place.
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Old 05-19-15, 03:47 PM   #8
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Thanks for sharing your fantastic owner experiences and comparisons with other cars. Congrats again on your new ride.
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Old 05-21-15, 08:21 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by gengar View Post
This was intentional, according to LFA engineers. After driving the prototype for the first time at Sonoma Raceway, I was actually surprised by that setup - especially with all the talk back then about designing the LFA to be easier to drive or at least more forgiving (e.g., Tanahashi on the FR decision). I wound up talking about the oversteer with a former F3 participant who was also at the event, and he told me he loved that about the LFA and that many Formula-level drivers prefer that type of setup due to the resulting increased dynamics on turn-in.

What I really like about the oversteer setup on the LFA is how progressive it is. While it's present on a couple supercars (especially older ones) I've driven, the oversteer seemed a lot more snappy and less predictable on the others. And of course, contrast to how many so-called performance cars today are designed to feel safe by inducing huge amounts of understeer, like the Nissan engineers admitted they did for the GT-R.
Thanks for the notes. For sure, I would agree that most racers would prefer a touch of oversteer vs having to deal with any degree of understeer whatsoever. Understeer is the killer of lap times, especially in the slower corners where you spend the most time waiting on the car to rotate.

It definitely makes the LFA lively and engaging to drive when you also factor in the razor sharp throttle response. I'm loving it.

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Thanks for sharing your fantastic owner experiences and comparisons with other cars. Congrats again on your new ride.
Thank you very much. Cheers.
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Old 05-21-15, 11:31 PM   #10
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You hit the nail right on the head regarding the transmission. I really like how you love the transmission ( as all other owners have) given you are coming from dual clutch transmission. Some journalists did not understand the Lexus philosophy behind it and the only criticism they could come up with was that it should have had a dual clutch transmission.

Many don't know Lexus tested a borg warner dual clutch in the intial test runs before deciding to switch to a single clutch because of its small packaging and light weight as well dual purpose use in both the Gazoo LFA racing car and production LFA (since almost all top tier cars have to switch to sequential single clutch for their racing car versions).
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Old 05-22-15, 02:36 PM   #11
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Many don't know Lexus tested a borg warner dual clutch in the intial test runs before deciding to switch to a single clutch because of its small packaging and light weight as well dual purpose use in both the Gazoo LFA racing car and production LFA (since almost all top tier cars have to switch to sequential single clutch for their racing car versions).
Who reported that a dual clutch was ever used in the LFA? Haruhiko Tanahashi told me that a dual clutch was never seriously considered for the LFA - much less actually tested.

Also, to be fair (and accurate), many race car variants in endurance racing (such as the 911 Cup car) use a clutchless transmission - not a sequential single clutch transmission. Of course, such a transmission is not practical for a road-going car.
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Old 05-22-15, 09:58 PM   #12
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lfahalo,

Your review of the LFA is, without a doubt, the best owner review of the LFA I have ever read. Actually, I believe it to be the best owner review of any car of interest to me bar none. Your writing is excellent, top notch, and world's better than the cookie cutter reviews from mainstream media publications we have all read over the years.

I am a long-time member of supraforums and took the liberty of posting your review in the official LFA thread which is, at present, 96-pages long, comprising 2,375 replies and 57,673 views. The first official LFA thread was locked because of the incredibly wrong-headed trolling by those disappointed in the car's price, its looks and performance and any other perceived foible they thought the car possessed. The second official thread was much better in this regard, but your post above is the best and most educational post I've read regarding one of the VERY few cars I truly lust after.

Many thanks for this. I look forward to your continued impressions of what some believe, admittedly, I am one of them, to be one of the very, very best cars ever built

Ken.
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Old 05-22-15, 11:29 PM   #13
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Who reported that a dual clutch was ever used in the LFA? Haruhiko Tanahashi told me that a dual clutch was never seriously considered for the LFA - much less actually tested.
He said it in an interview done back in 2009 with Edmunds Insideline. I remembered him mentioning tests. The interview has since been taken down. However, here are the excerpts from it:

Quote:

Tanahashi admits that his engineering team flirted with a dual-clutch automated manual transmission and even tested VW's Borg-Warner-built DSG early in the development process. "We considered it," he says, "but I don't like the mechanism because you can't feel the gearchange. A dual-clutch feels too much like a torque converter automatic." His solution was to build a dedicated single-clutch system
Old link:

http://www.insideline.com/lexus/lf-a...and-video.html
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Old 05-24-15, 05:42 PM   #14
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lfahalo,

Your review of the LFA is, without a doubt, the best owner review of the LFA I have ever read. Actually, I believe it to be the best owner review of any car of interest to me bar none. Your writing is excellent, top notch, and world's better than the cookie cutter reviews from mainstream media publications we have all read over the years.

I am a long-time member of supraforums and took the liberty of posting your review in the official LFA thread which is, at present, 96-pages long, comprising 2,375 replies and 57,673 views. The first official LFA thread was locked because of the incredibly wrong-headed trolling by those disappointed in the car's price, its looks and performance and any other perceived foible they thought the car possessed. The second official thread was much better in this regard, but your post above is the best and most educational post I've read regarding one of the VERY few cars I truly lust after.

Many thanks for this. I look forward to your continued impressions of what some believe, admittedly, I am one of them, to be one of the very, very best cars ever built

Ken.
Thanks for the compliments, Ken. Yes, it has been difficult recently to find a source of solid and consistent reviews (for any car) in the motoring press. Although, I will admit, the number of journos that now claim the LFA is one of the best cars (if not the best) they have ever driven did play some factor in my decision to pursue one. Now having the car, I can understand why some journalists don't get it. Like the MP4-12C, you cannot appreciate everything the car has to offer in a single, 15-30 minute drive. (as a side note, I see that Jeremy Clarkson again chose the LFA as his favourite car just last week, in an interview).

For the general public, who unfortunately will never get to drive an LFA, I can also understand if the power rating or acceleration figures fall short of their expectations. There will always be a next car, with more HP and better 0-60. But I still stand behind my statement that 560 is more than enough for public roads and I seriously would gladly give away many of those horses for even more RPM!!
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Old 05-27-15, 09:39 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by 05RollaXRS View Post
He said it in an interview done back in 2009 with Edmunds Insideline. I remembered him mentioning tests. The interview has since been taken down. However, here are the excerpts from it:
I wonder if some of the details were lost in translation, either in this interview or during my conversation with him. I do recall the interviews where he said that they preferred a single-clutch to a dual-clutch unit in practice, but never anything about having an actual dual-clutch LFA testbed. And, at least as translated, he definitely told me a dual clutch was never seriously considered.
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