“What we needed was a car that moved its driver in more ways than one, a car that stirred each of the five senses.”
-Haruhiko Tanahashi, Lexus Chief Engineer
Lexus launched in 1989 with the intention of offering potential Toyota buyers a premium level of luxury and build quality. They had no need for a sports car, as the Celica, Supra and MR2 dominated the Japanese performance market. In the following decade, while all three saw discontinuation, Toyota became more involved in motorsports.
Engineering made great advances in engine technology, carbon fiber composites, suspension systems and aerodynamics, but they had no production car to showcase them. A new car utilizing all these technological leaps would have such a high retail price that only the Lexus brand would be deserving of it.
(See also: Baby Blue Lexus LFA Selling for $1.14 Million)
By the fall of 2000, the basic shape was outlined. Months of wind tunnel testing and modeling were used to sculpt a very slippery silhouette. The body was originally carbon fiber with an aluminum chassis, but in May of 2005 they were able to build the entire chassis from carbon fiber as well. Massive power was called for, so they built a powerhouse V10 from scratch. Small by any standards at only 4.8 liters, it can rev to 9000 rpm by making use of titanium in the rotating assembly.
With 552 hp on tap and a curb weight of 3,263 lbs, acceleration is brutal. The powertrain is mounted very low in the body, placing the center of gravity only 17” above the pavement. This means instant weight transfer when cornering, and a faster reacting suspension. Trial and error on tracks around the world brought forth a number of issues that hadn’t been accounted for. Changes were made and after years of testing and validation, the production version was revealed in October 2009.
Lexus spared no expense when it came to production. Each car was hand built and has a 3500 page work journal, which is kept at the factory for future service. Each car was sealed in its own shipping container for the trip across the pacific. Inside the container, the car was strapped to a custom built aluminum cradle. When the cars arrived, technicians in white gloves inspected every surface before the engine was fired.
With almost ten years of development, the car’s performance speaks for itself: 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 202 mph. In August 2011, an LFA set the Nürburgring record for a production car on street tires at 7:14.64 – nine seconds faster than the GT2 RS. Beating Porsche in their backyard is no easy task.
Only 500 LFAs were built, and they were instantly snagged by collectors worldwide. By pushing automotive technologies into uncharted territory, Lexus lost money on each car sold. We may never know the true cost of a decade of supercar development, but here is your fleeting chance to own a piece of history.