Car reviews - Lexus - LFA - coupe
11 Oct 2011
LEXUS has sold all 10 of its LFA supercar allocation for Australia and today displayed the first customer car to be delivered here – a white example of the $700,000, 325km/h, V10-powered supermodel that now belongs to an anonymous buyer.
The white car is the second LFA in Australia, the other being the blue Melbourne motor show car that Lexus Australia uses as a promotional car and in which GoAuto and other Australian media this week took a first local drive.
At least four more are understood to have been snapped up by Lexus dealers for personal and promotional purposes, but the rest are believed to be destined for private customers – including a couple of well-known wealthy car collectors and a few self-made millionaires keen to drive the cars regularly.
One is understood to be a 40-year-old Queensland roofing contractor keen to enjoy the fruits of his labours who said he “simply must have one”, and another is a beneficiary of Australia’s resources boom.
“Reaction to the LFA in Australia has been overwhelming,” said Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb. “Our initial allocation of five doubled due solely to customer demand.
“We now expect the last of our 10 LFA to be delivered in late 2012.”
Although the LFA was only formally launched this week to the Australian motoring media at the Sandown race circuit in Melbourne, it seems to have been around for a long time – which is not altogether surprising given its lengthy and largely public gestation period.
Started as a research and development program in 2000, the LFA – which stands for Lexus Future Apex – soon became a distinct model and the first prototype was completed in mid-2003.
A prototype lapped the Nurburgring race circuit in Germany for the first time in October 2004 and three months later a design study was unveiled at the Detroit auto show.
Lexus has since raced the car at the Nurburgring each year from 2008 to 2011 – and in the 2009 24-hour race one of the drivers was the company chief himself, Toyota Motor Corporation president and race fan Akio Toyoda.
The covers were taken off a production-ready LFA at the Tokyo motor show in October 2009 and the supercar is now being hand-built at the company’s Motomachi plant in Japan at the rate of just 20 cars a month for 25 months – a total of 500 cars.
Australia has always been one of the strongest Lexus markets in the world and our allocation of 10 of those cars is twice as many as first allocated – although none will be the slightly more powerful track-based ‘Nurburgring Edition’, only 50 of which will be built next year.
LFA project leader Haruhiko Tanahashi realises that very few customers will get to appreciate the driving brilliance of the LFA, but believes all Lexus owners will benefit from the development program.
Speaking in Melbourne this week, Mr Tanahashi said the 11-year program to create “a world-class supercar” was even more demanding than creating the RX series or the Lexus range of hybrid models.
“The development of the LFA was a challenge of a higher order, with the goal of obtaining an unprecedented level of sensual and emotional appeal,” he said. “Meeting that goal required not only a high-revving engine, or impressive aerodynamics – it required passion.
“The LFA is designed to make the most of every moment each customer spends in its company, promising moments of pure driving pleasure. While conventional passenger cars focus on getting to a destination, the LFA is all about the journey.
“Although these inspirational, dreamlike moments will only be experienced by a lucky few, I firmly believe that the spirit of LFA will have a greater influence on all Lexus vehicles in the future.”
From the outset, the LFA was designed around a bespoke V10 engine that in the final production model is 4.8 litres in capacity, revs to 9000rpm and bristles with titanium valves and connecting rods, plus diamond-like carbon silicon-coated rocker arms.
Mounted ahead of the driver but behind the front axle-line for improved weight distribution, the V10 produces 412kW of power at 8700rpm and 480Nm of torque at 7000rpm, with 90 per cent of peak torque available from 3700rpm all the way to the redline.
It was developed in conjunction with Yamaha, which in the mid-1990s produced its own 3.5-litre V10 Formula One engine based on a unit designed by British-based Judd Engineering.
Lexus claims the 72-degree dry-sump V10 is as compact as a traditional V8 and features slightly oversquare bore and stroke dimensions of 88mm x 79mm, has a 12:1 compression ratio, uses normal 95-octane unleaded petrol at the rate of 16.7 litres per 100km on the combined cycle and emits 387 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
It is matched not with a dual-clutch transmission but a six-speed automated sequential gearbox operated via steering wheel shift paddles, and with Lexus’ first launch control system, resulting in claimed 0-100km/h acceleration in 3.7 seconds.
When cruising, gearshifts take up to a second, but with the most aggressive program and driving they are five times faster for track driving, taking just 200 milliseconds.
“My drivetrain engineers felt the ASG transmission’s positive and direct shift quality – as opposed to the almost artificial smoothness of current double-clutch transmissions – significantly enhanced the driving experience,” said Mr Tanahashi.
Lexus claims to have pushed the boundaries of carbon-fibre production to develop new systems, employing ancient textile-weaving techniques to create a 360-degree weaving process that delivers seamless components rapidly and repeatedly.
The LFA sports considerable amounts of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in its chassis construction and bodywork – 65 per cent of the body-in-white – to reduce weight.
Lexus says the bodywork alone is 100kg lighter than aluminium yet is three and a half times stronger.
Australian-spec LFAs weigh in at 1540kg, with the rear-mounted transaxle (gearbox and differential) putting 52 per cent of the weight over the rear wheels.
The chief engineer argues that the 48:52 weight distribution ratio of the rear-wheel-drive LFA is the best way to combine the control and straightline stability of a front-engine/rear-drive layout with the handling dynamism and cornering agility of a mid-engine/rear-drive platform.
“While many believe that a 50:50 weight distribution is the most desirable for a high-performance sportscar, the perfect weight ratio for any vehicle is one that will allow it to live up to its full dynamic potential,” said Mr Tanahashi.
The LFA employs race-style double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension systems with hollow aluminium alloy arms, rides on forged 20-inch alloy wheels – 9.5 inches wide at the front and 11.5 inches at the rear – riding on asymmetrical Bridgestone 265/35 and 305/30 ZR20 tyres respectively.
A forged aluminium brake pedal operates lightweight carbon-ceramic cross-drilled discs – 390mm wide and 34mm thick at the front operated by six-piston callipers, and 360mm x 28mm at the rear with four-piston units. The Brembo monobloc callipers come in a choice of six colours.
Steering is a constant-rate rack-and-pinion system with an electric motor providing power assistance direct to the steering column.
“From the very beginning of automobile history, supercars have represented dreams, hopes and aspirations,” said Mr Tanahashi.
“For Lexus, a brand that aims to provide customers with enlightened moments and memorable experiences, the development of a world-class supercar was an indispensable next step.
“The LFA is a thoroughbred supercar, a machine engineered to achieve one single goal – to deliver a supreme driving experience.
“Over the past decade we have pushed every boundary in the pursuit of this goal. I believe that we have created the most driver-oriented car we possibly could.”
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