Lexus LFA Widebody Supercar Tested at the Nurburgring in 2019
The Lexus LFA bowed 10 years ago, but for some reason, one of the supercars showed up at the Nurburgring Nordschleife in an industry pool test day. With a photo shoot scheduled at the culmination of the day, cleaning the LFA was the first priority. The hand-wash gave me a good opportunity to run my hands over the expansive carbon-fiber bodywork and explore the countless scoops, ports and air intakes (they are numerous enough to make a cheese grater feel inferior). The various air intakes are all functional; slots in the nose feed fresh air to the engine’s lungs and cool the front brakes, while the vents on the hood bleed excess engine heat and feed cool air to the titanium exhaust manifolds. Additional side inlets deliver air to the rear brakes, large rear radiators and enclosed titanium mufflers.
Among the numerous head-turning offerings in the Lexus exhibit is the inspirational and aspirational 552-horsepower V10 LFA supercar. Lexus began delivering the highly-anticipated 2012 LFA to U.S. customers last month. The new CT 200h will have a prominent place in the exhibit, encompassed in a “Darker Side of Green” interactive studio. The new CT 200h, the fifth hybrid in the Lexus lineup, achieves the luxury segment’s best EPA-estimated combined fuel economy of 42 mpg. It goes on sale this March.
Under the carbon fiber hood, with its own trick carbon fiber prop rod, is a naturally-aspirated 4.8-liter V10. Thanks to lightweight internals, including titanium valves and connecting rods, the engine redlines at 9,000 rpm with an ultimate fuel cut-off at a dizzying 9,500 rpm. The powerplant, which Toyota says is smaller than a traditional V8 and lighter than a conventional V6, features individual throttle bodies for each cylinder. With dry sump lubrication for sustained high-speed cornering, it is rated at 552 horsepower at 8,700 rpm and 354 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 pm. The awe factor doesn’t stop there, as Toyota also fitted its LFA with equal-length titanium exhaust manifolds and a beautifully-tuned titanium silencer.
The transmission has four modes (Automatic, Normal, Sport and Snow). I’d been using mind-numbing and slow-shifting Automatic on the highway, but as we approached Ojai on California State Route 33 (CA-33) I dropped the gearbox into its Sport mode and began to shift manually with the column-mounted paddles. Entering the artsy town, where most residents drive something along the lines of an eco-friendly Prius, I kept the engine spinning at about 4,000 rpm just to gauge the effect. The trio of exhaust outlets bellowed loudly, with the unique soundtrack not only encapsulating the Lexus but broadcasting one hundred yards in each direction. The pipes announced the arrival of the exotic like a hornblower in a medieval king’s procession. It was fun to watch the peasants on the sidewalks as they turned and stared.
There are many ways to rationalize the Lexus LFA. It is undeniably a wondrous halo car, but far too rare and pricey to occupy any significant number of dealer showrooms for live traffic. It is also a compelling proof of concept, demonstrating Toyota Motor Corporation’s engineering competency with composite manufacturing, lightweight platforms and engine technology. Lastly, it is an impressive supercar under the right conditions, but one whose performance slightly pales when pitted head-to-head against many of today’s rivals.
The Lexus LFA was a real engineering tour force. Sure, it was stuck in development hell for years, and the 4.8-liter V10’s 552-horsepower output wasn’t super impressive when it came out, but it integrated a ton of expertise Toyota gained from its F1 team in the early to mid-2000s. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell well. Last year, we found there were a few new models sitting on dealer lots, five years after the 500-model run ended. Still, it looks like Toyota may not have given up on the idea of a race-derived flagship for Lexus, at least based on this prototype running around the Nürburgring this week.