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October 17, 2011
The last time I was in something worth $750,000 it had a bathroom and a pool. There are only 10 (the last being delivered in late 2012) of the 500-build-run LFA supercars hitting our shores - all are gone. Several owners (both dealers and private owners) have apparently sworn never to sell their Lexus V10 supercars. That is far from difficult to understand, even after only a handful of laps behind the wheel.
Carsguide was given an all-too brief opportunity to slot in behind the blue and black leather-wrapped carbon-fibre wheel (complete with a bit of ballast in the flat bottom) of the Lexus "demonstrator" at Sandown raceway in Melbourne.
Having listened to its V10 soundtrack echo across the racetrack, the anticipation was palpable - there's something about the odd-numbered Vee configuration that has a real edge to it, the BMW M5 being the other example.
The aesthetics of the car - which boasts a make-up of 65 per cent carbon-fibre, 35 per cent aluminium - are a little more demure than the manic soundtrack - it's a supercar, to be sure, but devoid of the styling lunacy that marks some of its supercar brethren, in fact more than a couple of people saw hints of circa-1990 Celica.
A decade in the making, Lexus are aiming for an emotional response from this car and the models to follow - instilling LFA DNA into the rest of its range.
If they can get one-tenth of the drive experience into other F and F-Sport models, it will make life interesting for BMW's, Audi's RS and Mercedes-Benz AMG.
Low, sleek and brooding, the LFA still has presence, more subdued than maniacal, at least until the V10 is fired up and angry.
So sharp is the rev response to the right foot as it prods the floor-hinged throttle (made from a single piece of aluminium) that the LFA needed a digital tacho needle for the flick to the 9000rpm redline, so Lexus says.
As the revs rise the soundtrack is straight from the F1 V10 era - who says the Toyota's squillion-dollar spend on F1 was a waste of money?
It's a V10 that takes up the same space as a V8 and claims fuel economy of a V6 - the 4.8-litre V10 engine pumps out 412kW and 480Nm of torque - serious supercar numbers, no doubt - for a sprint to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds on the way to a 325km/h top speed.
The two straights at Sandown were enough (even with a makeshift chicane on the back straight) to top 200km/h, even with an ISF in front to prevents acts of tomfoolery sending the 1540kg LFA (and maybe its occupants) to an early grave.
Other numbers to absorb in the pits when not behind the wheel included ninety per cent of peak torque available from 3700 through to the 9000rpm red-line, a spoiler that has a mind of its own and near-perfect weight distribution.
All this is sinking in as we leave the pits, flicking the right-hand paddle for upshifts and slotting back through the sequential manual gearbox with a metallic "tink" with every shift - the 0.2 sec cog-swaps are quick but can be brutal at full-throttle.
The gearbox is smart enough to offer seven gear-shift speeds and four driving modes - Auto, Sport, Normal and Wet - which tailor stability control and other parts of the drivetrain to suit.
I'm sitting next to a racing driver - US pedal-man Scott Pruett is telling me where to go, so to speak - and I'm under no delusions as to my chances of a full-time drive in a race team - none. Pruett later demonstrates the considerable yet un-fussed talents of this remarkable vehicle at upwards of 230km/h, but for now he's sitting somewhat(?!?) comfortably in the passenger's seat.
I have enough room for a helmetted-head (something the ISF with sunroof wasn't as obliging with) and a comfortable driving position. But pinging through the corners and scorching up the straights, the LFA feels vice-less - it's well-planted, the ride isn't abysmal, the LSD-equipped rear-end feels less mischievous than the ISF sedan and yet the body sits ridiculously flat.
Under brakes - enormous carbon ceramic discs with six and four-pot calipers - the LFA feels like its dragging its rump on the track, pulling up with considerable force and little diving from the snout. All that safety equipment - including the first airbag-seatbelt airbag - is a pleasantly re-assuring back-up to have when droplets are sometimes hitting the windscreen, but it feels far from required.
LFA chief engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi says the development of the LFA was a challenge.
"The goal of obtaining an unprecedented level of sensual and emotional appeal required not only a high-revving engine, or impressive aerodynamics - it required passion. What we needed was a vehicle that moved its driver in more ways than one, a vehicle that stirred each of the senses," he says.
They have succeeded - it's a pricetag beyond the ridiculous for most, but as an R&D exercise, a performance leader and a marketing halo for the Lexus brand, it is worth plenty.