2011 Lexus LFA
2011 Lexus LFA. Click image to enlarge

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By Brian Early

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2011 Lexus LFA

Porsche; Ferrari; Lamborghini; Lexus.

Lexus? Perhaps not a natural association – at least not until now: purveyor of well-built, well-equipped, and typically ultra-conservative luxury and near-luxury vehicles, “Lexus” isn’t a brand name that tends to conjure up images of performance cars, and it’s certainly not the stuff of adolescent schoolbook doodling or bedroom wall posters.

Yet here it is, a division of the Toyota Motor Corporation, introducing a 560 horsepower (DIN), aluminum and carbon-fibre reinforced plastic-structured V10 supercar; the 2011 Lexus LFA. Angular and angry-looking, the LFA easily represents as big a leap for Lexus as Acura’s 1990 NSX did for that automaker.

2011 Lexus LFA
2007 Lexus LF-A concept; photo by Brian Early. Click image to enlarge

Hints of this Lexus madness might have been suggested by the 416 horsepower, V8-powered IS F sedan, a decidedly less conservative IS-based BMW M3 fighter that few saw coming prior to its January 2007 unveiling.

Though teased by several LF-A concepts and seen in various states of disguise strafing Germany’s famed Nürburgring road course during its long on-again, off-again development, the LFA was still widely expected to remain nothing more than a series of tantalizing prototypes and a couple of race-cars; too radical for Toyota or Lexus, too far from Toyota’s green philosophy to ever see production.

The pundits were wrong. Officially introduced as a production model this past October at the Tokyo International Motor Show in Japan, the two-seat LFA is intended to represent the pinnacle of the brand’s “F” series of performance models, first seen in that IS-F; “F” being the Lexus equivalent of BMW’s “M” and Mercedes’ AMG divisions.

2011 Lexus LFA
2011 Lexus LFA
2011 Lexus LFA. Click image to enlarge

The LFA would certainly seem to have the credentials to be a world-class supercar.

Completely new and purpose-built via a collaboration with Yamaha, the LFA’s front-mounted 4.8-litre “1LR-GUE” 72-degree V10 engine is claimed to produce 90 per cent of its peak 354 lb-ft of torque between 3700 r.p.m. and its 9000 r.p.m. redline. Its 560 horsepower maximum output is attained at 8700 r.p.m. Fuel cut-off occurs at a seemingly parts-scattering 9500 r.p.m.

Such radical internal engine speeds are made possible by the use of lightweight alloys of aluminum, magnesium, and titanium throughout, all of it assembled into a package smaller than most V8s. A dry-sump lubrication system reduces overall engine height, while preventing windage and ensuring reliable oil delivery under high g-loads.

Carbon-coated rocker arms actuate 40 variably timed titanium valves. Ten individual throttle bodies reduce accelerator response times, allowing idle to redline revving to occur in as little as six tenths of a second. Special resonance chambers in the intake manifold, and an equal-length exhaust system with a titanium muffler are designed to both improve flow and direct desirable engine sounds into the cockpit.

Shifting is handled by an automated single clutch six-speed manual transaxle located at the rear to improve weight distribution (48/52 per cent, front to rear). Upshifts can be completed in just two tenths of a second.

2011 Lexus LFA
2011 Lexus LFA
2011 Lexus LFA
2011 Lexus LFA. Click image to enlarge

Overall weight is a relatively feathery 1480 kg, in large part due to the LFA’s aforementioned use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic for the majority of the body and cabin, while aluminum subframes are used at each end for structural support and ease of damage repair. The process to connect these two dissimilar materials was developed for this car by Lexus, and the method created to weave the carbon fibres in certain components tapped into parent company Toyota’s decades of loom-making knowledge.

A Torsen limited-slip differential helps the rear-drive LFA put the power down, while massive carbon-ceramic brakes and LFA-specific 20-inch Bridgestone tires (265/35 front, 305/30 rear) are on hand to provide the control and handling abilities necessary in a car with a listed top speed of 325 km/h (202 mph). Lexus claims a 0 -100 km/h sprint of just 3.7 seconds.

As expected in a Lexus, the interior offers electric seat adjustments and a full range of creature comforts. Buyers will have a choice of seat and headliner colours, with the two buckets upholstered in either leather or suede-like Alcantara.

The LFA’s instrument cluster is completely electronic, comprised of a full-colour LCD screen that allows the central tachometer/speedometer and information display to change colour, increments, or even positions as required (it also allows the simulated analog tachometer to keep up with the fast-revving V10). An RX 350-like “haptic feedback” mouse-style control device operates the LFA’s secondary infotainment/navigation systems.

2011 Lexus LFA
2011 Lexus LFA. Click image to enlarge

Only 500 LFAs are slated for production, making ownership of this approximately US$375,000, hand-built vehicle a very exclusive club. Canadian pricing and availability have yet to be announced.

Production will occur at the Motomachi plant in Toyota City, Japan at a rate of 20 per month, scheduled to take place between December 2010 and December 2012. The “customer selection” process will begin in spring 2010, with deliveries anticipated to start in January 2011.

If the LFA is the first indicator of self-professed “car nut” and recently instated Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda’s stated desire “to see Toyota build cars that are fun and exciting to drive” – by default this would include Lexus – then I for one can’t wait to see what’s next.

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