I don’t want to like the new Lexus LFA supercar. For a start, the chosen corporate colour is white. Fridges are white, washing machines are white. The only car that looks cool in white is the Fiat 500. Then there is the whole car as a computer concept. Analogue versus digital. I want a car to be analogue. I want to feel the road through the seat and the steering wheel, I want to hear the engine. I want to see the shape and lines created through function, as in a Land Rover Defender or an original Mini, or I want them designed by an expert like Pininfarina or Ian Callum (but not Chris Bangle).
It’s the same with computer games. Although I have to admit I haven’t played a decent driving game in some time, Gran Turismo was the daddy. It had all the cars and all the tracks. You could customise and upgrade, fiddle with the settings and change the colour; but every colour was shiny and clean and it was just all too perfect. If you ‘accidentally’ drove the wrong way in Gran Turismo and end up having a head-on collision at a combined speed of 440mph down the long straight at the Nurburgring, instead of the cars smashing to smithereens in a spectacular computer generated fireball, they merely bounced off each other a bit and you lost fifteen seconds. Whereas if you tried having a similar crash in TOCA Touring Cars or Colin McRae Rally then you would be greeted with a mangled car with bits hanging off it that at the very least pulls to the left when you try and drive off. Gran Turismo was all about simulation whilst Colin McRae Rally was more interested in the user experience.
So when I first heard about the LFA I thought – great, another car lifted straight from the Gran Turismo school of thought. So let’s have a look at the facts and figures.
The Lexus LFA has a 4.8 litre V10 with 560bhp and 354lb ft of torque. It redlines at 9000rpm and the whole caboodle is delivered through a 6 speed DSG gearbox with manual or automatic modes. Top speed is 202mph and 0-60 takes 3.8 seconds. So far so good, although nothing spectacular compared to the competition. The monocoque is made from carbon-fibre reinforced polymer with aluminium front and rear sub-frames. The curb weight is 1480kg and the weight-distribution is almost 50/50 front to rear. Inside, the car looks fabulous; black and red leather, carbon fibre and alcantara. A well poised combination of sporty and luxury. Not too many randomly scattered buttons, switches and knobs either, most parts of the car are controlled by a central computer and operated by a large, metallic joystick which sits by the drivers hand.
For acronym spotters the Lexus has enough to fill many pages of your notepad. VDIM, VSC, TRAC, TRC, ABS, SRS, ELR, ALR, CFRP and EPS was what I could find after a cursory glance in the marketing material.
So what’s it like to drive? I have to be honest, I don’t know, so I looked it up on You Tube. I have to say, wow! Have a look at the videos on the Lexus LFA YouTube Channel to see what I mean. It sounds incredible. Toyota (sorry, Lexus) set out to make the LFA sound like a Formula 1 car. Not one of their own of course, that would be silly. If it did then the LFA would sound hugely expensive but slightly underwhelming, and then it would disappear. It sounds like a proper F1 car.
And, I have to say, after watching several other similar videos the LFA has grown on me. Lexus do appear to have made a good car, whether it be analogue or digital. It’s fast, sounds amazing, has class-leading road-holding and is available in colours other than white. You can even choose the colour of the brake calipers. The interior looks brilliant, it has carbon-ceramic brakes with class leading performance and it can lap the Nurburgring in less than 7 minutes 20 seconds.
The LFA costs $375,000, which is £261,500 at today’s rates. Lexus will make 20 a month and the maximum production run will be 500. Customers will be individually selected by Lexus; so no footballers then.
The one aspect of the LFA I haven’t mentioned is its looks. Where do I start? Unfortunately Lexus seem to have gone down the route of copying from other marques. The back looks like an Audi R8, the side profile is copied straight from an Aston Martin V8 Vantage and from the front it looks like, well a Toyota Supra, which is at least from Lexus’ parent company.
To return to my original premise that I didn’t want to like the Lexus LFA, have I changed my mind? I have, to a certain extent. Yes, it’s the same colour as a fridge. Yes, it was styled by a robot with an I-spy book of supercars and yes, it’s massively overpriced. But the LFA is ultimately a hugely capable supercar that does everything as well as any other supercar. Trouble is, it appears to be a supercar that doesn’t have a soul. If I was in the market for a £300,000 car I’d buy a Ferrari 458 Italia or an Aston Martin DB9, and get a Range Rover with the spare change.
The Official Lexus LFA YouTube Channel