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Regardless of what press releases and commercials tell you, the modern car industry is an emotionless, profit-driven, and cruel world of corporate politics, lobbying, and constant power-play between the most prominent players. Before releasing every new vehicle, the CFOs, and their financial teams have the last word. The shiny new shapes and cutting-edge technologies are only approved if they’ll make money for the shareholders, and there is no space for expensive experiments and passion projects. However, what if we tell you that one of the world’s biggest companies introduced a car that completely disregards those rules, broke speed records, has bespoke technology, fantastic design, costs more to produce than its selling price, and still is a sales failure? You might think that every modern car brand could never make such a deliberate mistake. But Toyota did, and it wasn’t a mistake. In fact, it was the most remarkable “Halo Car” ever made and a unique model that became an instant collectible and one of the most desirable Japanese cars ever made. It did exactly what it was designed to: elevate the Lexus to the ranks of European exotics and supercar brands. Yes, this is a story about the amazing and unrepeatable Lexus LFA.
Even though the Lexus brand was officially introduced in 1989, the project was started in 1969, and it took decades of research, analyzing, and dissecting the world’s best luxury cars to find out how Toyota could improve them. So, when Lexus LS 400 debuted as a 1990 model, it took the North American market by storm, offering incredible quality, equipment, and design but undercutting the European competitors by thousands of dollars. By the end of the decade, Lexus was an established luxury car brand and slowly starting to move to other global markets. However, the company knew that in order to gain recognition and be mentioned in the same sentence as Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, or Cadillac, Lexus needed to do something extraordinary, memorable, and unique. Selling rebranded and upscale Toyotas might get them that far, but to be an authentic premium brand and attract upper-echelon clients, Lexus needed a “Halo Car.” Something so advanced, so fast, so exclusive, and so beautiful that Ferrari owners would pay extra just to get it.
The idea was nothing new, and many companies did just that when they wanted to elevate the brand’s recognition amongst the car fans. Even Toyota did the same thing in the late ’60s when introducing the amazing 2000 GT sports car. It was a bespoke sports coupe with elegant styling, fantastic craftsmanship, and a high-revving six-cylinder. It sold in only 351 examples, a tremendous financial loss, but introduced it as one of the world’s most advanced car companies, which was invaluable to Toyota and its plans for global expansion. So, some forty years later, the Japanese were set to repeat the same trick, just this time for Lexus, however, at a much bigger scale. The Toyota 2000 GT was a sports car comparable to the early Porsche 911. The future Lexus was to be a supercar comparable to the likes of Ferrari or Lamborghini.
The project started in the early 2000s under the name TXS, and by 2005, Lexus introduced a concept car named LF-A to spark the interest of the car public. Even though the concept wasn’t an instant hit with the show-goers, it showed that Lexus is considering an advanced two-seat coupe model with sporty pretensions and elegant styling. Rumors circulated that the 2006 Lexus was given the green light to prepare the LF-A for serial production and develop unique chassis, engine, and suspension components for future sports cars. In 2008, the LF-A Roadster concept was shown as an open-top stunner with characteristic lines. At the same time, curious Lexus prototypes were spotted testing around Nürburgring. It was clear that Toyota was thoroughly preparing to release a very competent model. This is why nobody was really surprised when the company’s CEO Akio Toyoda confirmed in 2009.
When LFA debuted in 2010, the car world was stunned by how advanced and superbly engineered it is. It wasn’t just a Lexus sports car. It was a proper supercar with bespoke chassis, engine, and transmission, filled with race-proven components and innovative solutions, and covered by an elegant yet aggressive body. The monocoque chassis was made of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer with aluminum subframes front and rear, which was the basis for suspension components. The whole construction was lightweight but very rigid, allowing the car to have a low center of gravity.
The chassis was very advanced, and the engine stole the show. Called 1LR-GUE, it was a bespoke, 4.8-liter V10 unit developed by Yamaha and Toyota. Even though Toyota likes to use its engines in various models, this was unique to LFA and a masterpiece of engineering. First of all, it had an unusual 72-degree angle between the cylinder banks, and V10 was chosen because it has less mass than V12 and could deliver more revs than V8. Interestingly, a lot of race-proven tech was used, and the 1LR-GUE got dry-sump lubrication, titanium components, and individual throttle bodies for each cylinder. All of that resulted in a true technological marvel with a power output of 552 hp and 480 Nm of torque (354 lb-ft). However, that power figure was overshadowed by its insane rev capacity and 9000 rpm red line.
Interestingly, ECU will allow the engine to rev even 500 rpm more before it hits the limiter. Despite being a racing motor disguised for the street, the 4.8-liter V10 fulfilled all emissions regulations and was docile in low revs. It was positioned as far back as possible, making the LFA a front-mid engine car.
The transmission was the next piece in LFA’s built sheet, and Toyota abandoned the classic 6-speed manual in favor of the cutting-edge Aisin 6-speed automated manual with paddle shifters. In a relentless quest for performance, this advanced racing unit was chosen due to its lightning-fast shiting times, relative compactness, and competitiveness. Toyota wanted for LFA to offer a unique driving experience and be faster than similar models.
The LFA was completed with an exterior emphasizing technological advancement and performance and an interior that still amazes with technology and ergonomy. The overall design was reminisced of Lexus prototypes but looked even better with an aggressive stance, retractable spoiler in the back, wedge shape, and wide track. However, the interior was even more fascinating. The digital instrument cluster was in front of the driver, while a massive central console divided the cabin. The finest materials were used, with a multifunctional steering wheel covered in leather. But the most amazing thing happened when you turned the key and pressed the start button.
Toyota knew that its V10 sounded astonishing and wanted the LFA owners to fully experience the magic of starting such a beast. That is why, through special acoustic channels, the firewall was connected to the induction system of the engines, so when the V10 was fired up, the inside cabin was filled with one of the most intoxicating noises car fans ever heard. Also, it was an invisible signature of Yamaha’s engineers, which is a company that not only produces bikes and engines but also some of the finest musical instruments in the world. Today’s cars might have artificial engine sounds pumped through the speakers, but in the case of LFA, it is a genuine and pure symphony of high-revving V10.
Lexus LFA Sound
The Lexus LFA has one of the most epic sounds on any production car. I can write a lot about it, but here is a great video with that awesome, raw V10 sound:
Introduction and Reception
The production version of the Lexus LFA was first shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2009, the same way the Toyota 2000 GT was introduced 45 years prior. Toyota’s chairman proudly announced that the first cars will be delivered in 2010 and that the Lexus will carefully choose the customers for its $375,000 supercar. Even though the price surprised most of the car audience, the technology, materials, and craftsmanship justify it ultimately. Lexus was happy to announce that their first six months of production were sold out and that some customers even paid over the MSRP to get the car. The LFA was first offered in the North American market and then to the rest of the world.
As one of the hottest cars of 2010, the LFA was extensively tested by various magazines, which almost unanimously pronounced it as one of the best sports cars in the world (Jeremy Clarkson named it THE best car ever). Interestingly, the LFA didn’t have a direct competitor and offered a unique style with a fantastic engine and technology. It was a supercar by its performance but a GT car by its luxurious interior and exclusivity. It was even faster than some supercars in the same price segment, with a 0 to 100 km/h sprint of 3.6 seconds. The top speed was 326 km/h (203 mph), with lateral acceleration exceeding 1.0 G on the skid pad. The countless hours of Nurburgring testing have paid off since the LFA was handled like a dream, especially at high speeds due to its well-engineered suspension, almost ideal weight distribution, and excellent aerodynamics.
However, there were some criticisms, and it was primarily directed to the cramped interior, lack of comfort, and harsh suspension, which was punishing in everyday driving and on bad pavement. But all journalists agreed that the LFA was definitely a unique experience with a fantastic soundtrack, linear power from a naturally aspirated V10, race-car feel, and advanced technology. Some complained that the price was too high, but most thought that it was justified.
Interestingly, along with its market life, the factory-backed Gazoo team put the LFA into competition. The technology underneath its carbon-fiber body was already so advanced and inspired by racing that Toyota knew LFA would be more than competitive. In 2009, a pre-production racing prototype was entered at the German VNL Nürburgring 4-Hours Endurance Race, which it won to the amazement of all competitors. The LFA proved dominant, which wasn’t surprising to the insiders who knew that the car was developed on that exact circuit. The team had big plans for the 2010 season. Still, they were unfortunately canceled when Toyota’s chief test driver and engineer died in a traffic accident driving the LFA Nürburgring edition prototype.
The LFA Nürburgring Edition
Although that unfortunate accident killed the LFA’s racing ambitions, Lexus announced a version of its flagship model called the LFA Nürburgring edition. The first cars were completed in 2011 and featured four specific colors, a special aerodynamic package, a more prominent spoiler, and several mechanical tweaks and changes. Most noticeable, the 10 hp increase in engine power (to 563 hp overall), recalibrated Aisin 6-speed gearbox which now shifted faster, new wheels and suspension changes. However, this package came at a significant price increase, and in 2011, the LFA Nürburgring Edition had an MSRP of $445,000, which is over $600,000 in 2023, adjusted for inflation. However, the investment was justified since the LFA Nürburgring Edition broke the production-car record on this famous track at 7:14.64 minutes. It was blisteringly fast for the day’s standards and the result of countless hours of testing on this gruesome German circuit.
The Lexus LFA Production
When the car was launched, Lexus announced that it would be building strictly 500 vehicles in total (50 of them were Nürburgring Editions). The reason for such a limited number was the fact that all cars were almost hand-built in the special factory, at 20 cars per month rate. Also, Lexus was afraid that after the initial interest, the sales would dry out, and the company would have a problem selling the cars. Unfortunately, precisely that happened, and when production stopped in 2012, the rumor was that there were over 100 unsold LFAs all over the world. Over the years, most of the cars were eventually sold with significant discounts, some even as late as 2020. Apparently, one or two brand-new LFAs are still waiting for their owners.
Wrapping it up
To fully understand the LFA, we must consider it a beautiful technological and styling exercise. A car with the sole purpose of being the most advanced and fastest Japanese model of the 21st century. A case study for Lexus and rolling advertisement for its abilities, ideas, and standards. Also, it is a highly sophisticated threat to all European brands and a reminder that even though the Lexus is a relative newcomer in terms of tradition and heritage, it is certainly not a novice.
What makes the Lexus LFA Unique?
The Lexus LFA is unique because of its advanced carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer construction, its high-revving 4.8-liter V10 engine, and its limited production run of just 500 units. Lexus took a decade to develop the LFA, aiming to achieve a perfect balance between form and function.
How much did the Lexus LFA originally cost?
The original base price of the Lexus LFA was around $375,000. However, certain special editions or models with added features were priced higher.
What is the price of a Lexus LFA today?
While the original MSRP was around $375,000, by the mid-2010s and 2020s, the LFA often changed hands in the secondary market for prices ranging from $700,000 to way over $1 million, depending on the car’s condition, mileage, and rarity (e.g., the Nürburgring Package edition).
What is the Top Speed of the Lexus LFA?
The Lexus LFA boasts a top speed of 202 mph (325 km/h).
What is so Special about the V10 Engine of the LFA?
Co-developed with Yamaha, the 4.8-liter V10 in the LFA was designed to have a lightweight and compact size, producing 552 horsepower. It can rev from 0 to 9,000 rpm in just 0.6 seconds, and it emits a distinct, high-pitched note reminiscent of a Formula 1 car.
What is the production number of the Lexus LFA?
The production of the LFA was limited to 500 cars. The LFA was envisioned as a halo car for Lexus—a showcase of the brand’s capabilities rather than a mass-market model. Limiting its production ensured exclusivity and helped maintain its special status among supercars