Lexus LFA first drive video
It's the LFA and it's a fully-qualified supercar — from its carbon fibre chassis and 325km/h top speed to a production run of just 500 cars and a price somewhere on the high side of $500,000.
The LFA is the polar opposite to the car that began the Lexus brand, the luxury limo LS400, a full 20 years ago. It only has two seats, the emphasis is on speed over luxury, and there is no sign of the sort of hybrid power pack which has become essential in every new luxury Lexus over the past five years.
Instead, the LFA taps Toyota's experience in Formula One with a 4.8- litre V10 engine that spins from nothing to its redline at 9000 revs in just 0.6 seconds. It also has a transaxle gearbox in the tail end of the car complete with a high-tech differential system and driveline electronics including launch control for its twin-clutch, six-speed manu-matic gearbox.
"While conventional cars focus on the destination, the LFA is all about the journey," says the car's creator, Haruhiko Tanahashi.
"It successfully brings together motive performance, measured by times and graphs, and emotive power - that inexpressible performance that can only be felt in one's heart and soul."
He makes big claims for the car but is able to back them with the LFA preview cars, which are fast and surprisingly rewarding to drive. A Ferrari looks tastier, and a Lamborghini is more evil, but the supercar Lexus is impressive in almost every area.
The arrival of the production version of the LFA comes after a series of motor show teases and two racetrack outings in the 24-hour production car classic at the Nurburgring in Germany. From the start the car was called the LF-A, but now the hypen is gone and the the LFA is ready to go, with production set from the early months of 2010 and a handful of cars earmarked for Australia.
The racetrack connection is one reason why the LFA is revealed to the world's press at the Nurburgring in Germany, where Tanahashi admits reluctantly that it has lapped in "better than 7 minutes 20 seconds".
In Porsche GT3 and Nissan GT-R territory, in other words, but with no claim for a benchmark performance.
But there is plenty of benchmark stuff in the LFA, from the carbon- fibre reinforced its 20-inch alloy wheels and active exhaust and the world's first airbag-equipped seat belt.
The Lexus responds feels like a racing car, in every way. The chassis is rock-solid, the steering is instantly responsive, the engine revs and revs, and it stops and turns far more impressively than a V8 Supercar.
It's also easy to dribble on the road, although there is always a temptation to thumb the paddle shift down three gears and head for the horizon.
The styling of the LFA is distinctive but very Japanese - which means un-Italian - from the droopy nose to the motorcycle-style three-pipe exhaust outlet. The giant rear wing rises on hydraulic struts to create genuine downforce and the radiators are tucked behind the cockpit, instead of living in the nose, to also clean up the aero.
I drove the LFA in a variety of conditions in Germany, from the autobahn to the Nurburgring, and can report on its impressive top- speed, rock-solid cornering grip, and driving enjoyment. It's still very Lexus in the cabin, but as taught as a custom-made racer.
I can also report that it easily cracks 285km/h on the autobahn, feeling like it is held down by magnets, and laps the world's toughest racetrack with more speed and precision than a Porsche.
It also has the most gorgeous howling exhaust note, a great dash layout, and sets with cornering grip and the comfort you need for an interstate run.
What's not to like?
Well, the body is not as expressive as a Ferrari or Lamborghini and some people think the nose looks like a doof-doof makeover of a nineties Celica. The dashboard screen is the same as the one in the family-focussed RX350.
And the electronics for the transmission still need work, as the car sometimes slips the clutch excessively from an uphill start and one of the LFA test cars refused to make upshifts after three flat-out laps on the F1 course.
Apart from that, the real complaint is the pricetag — even though Lexus refuses a detailed breakdown —
Price: Estimated $550,000
On sale: 2010
Engine: 4.8-litre V10
Power: 412kW/8700 revs
Torque: 480Nm/6800 revs
Transmission: Six-speed automated manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 0-100km/h, 3.7s; top speed, 317km/h