Sporty Lexus looks to take market lead

LEXUS didn’t have much of a record of producing sporting cars but the LFA changes that at a stroke. Propelling the marquee straight into the upper echelons of the world supercar market, it’s a formidable piece of engineering and a powerful demonstration of the brand’s ambition.

The LFA is built around a 4.8-litre V10 engine that was designed and built specially for the purpose. Mounted in the front and sending drive to the rear wheels, it revs to a phenomenal 9,000rpm at which point it sounds like an F1 racer and has shot its bolt to the tune of 552bhp. The top speed of the LFA is claimed to be 202mph and judicious use of the six-speed automated sequential gearbox, which was also specially developed for the car, will see it through the 62mph barrier 3.7s after setting off.

The gearbox is operated via the paddle shifters mounted on the steering column and can be set in to four different driving modes. The Auto, Sport, Normal and Wet settings each initiate a separate gearshift programme while also making adjustments to the engine and brake control systems to suit the conditions.

The brake discs are carbon ceramic items with six piston callipers working on the 390mm discs at the front and four piston callipers for the 360mm rear discs. The suspension is a double wishbone set-up at the front and multi-link at the rear with many components fashioned from aluminium to save weight.

Weight saving and aerodynamics are the major themes where the LFA’s design is concerned.

The chassis and bodywork are built from CFRP Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic and are hugely light as a result. Four times a strong as aluminium, the advanced material also saves 100kg in weight, resulting in a total kerb weight for the LFA of 1480kg.

It might not be the most visually elegant supercar you’ve ever clapped eyes on but the LFA seethes with aggression and its collection of gaping scoops serve an important purpose. The drag efficient of 0.31 is extremely high for a car generating the levels of downforce that the LFA does at speed. The under body is virtually flat to aid in this and there’s an active rear wing that adjusts its positioning according to the car’s speed.

Anyone assuming the usual levels of Lexus refinement and comfort from the cabin will need to manage their expectations. The LFA highlights its extreme sporting focus with a driver-orientated environment swathed in exposed carbon fibre. There is some beautiful detailing to appreciate including the floor-hinged pedals in forged aluminium and the dramatic seats in leather and Alcantara.

Lexus obviously thought it had better make its first supercar a good one and the LFA doesn’t pull many punches in its attempt to be recognised as one of the most capable sportscars in the world. Designed from scratch with this one goal in mind, it’s extremely technologically advanced, fiendishly quick and predictably expensive.

The 552bhp V10 engine, carbon fibre construction and automated sequential gearbox contribute to the LFA’s racecar feel and while it should be refined enough for everyday use, its spiritual home is on the track.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: Lexus LFA

PRICE: £336,000 - on the road

INSURANCE GROUP: 20

CO2 EMISSIONS: 350g/km [est]

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 3.7s / top speed 202mph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 15mpg [est]

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front airbags, ESP [est]

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: length/width/heightmm 4505/1895/1220

Steve Walker