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Road Test: 2011 Lexus LF-A in Monaco
Produced by Lexus as a concept car showcasing their performance credentials, now theres a fully working production model limited to only 500 units. We’re talking about the epic Lexus LFA, the second model from the F series following the introduction of the IS-F. A combination of extreme engineering and exquisite craftsmanship, total control and uncompromising driver involvement, or indefinite speed and emotional focus. The LFA is next in our series of road tests from the Principauté de Monaco, a place where its halo effect outshines any other sports car daily visible but contradicts its true spirtual home on the race track.
The story starts in 2000 when Toyota instructed Lexus to develop an epic sports car. In 2005 the first LFA concept was shown, followed in 2007 by a second LFA with a brand new interior and exterior. The third version of the LFA, a roadster model, premiered in 2008. The final version hit the stage at the Tokyo Motor Show in October 2009. In a decade of time the car went from an aluminium cabin, chassis and coachwork to a carbon fiber setup saving a large amount of weight. It also changed color numerous times, but up to now everybody knows the LFA as the first ever supercar produced by Lexus – dressed in a white livery.
Lexus used motorsport as a basis for the final production vehicle. Prototypes were entered into the Nürburgring four hour VLN endurance race and the 24 Hours at the Nürburgring in 2008. In 2009 the LFA entered the 24 Hours Nürburgring race for a second time. The main purpose was obtaining feedback for fine-tuning the production version along with training of support technicians. The ‘Green hell’ has been a major part of the development of the vehicle. One of the reasons why a special track-biased version – called Nürburgring Edition – is available for interested customers.
For those who had only a glance at the specification sheet will be amazed about its potential. The engine is a race-derived 72-degree V10, displacing 4.8 liters and producing a peak power of 552hp at 8,800rpm. The maximum is a thrilling 9,000rpm. Peak torque is 354lb-ft at 6,800rpm with 90 percent available between 3700 and 9000 revs. Pushing the throttle and revving from idle to peak is done in just 0.6 seconds.
To ensure proper weight distribution the engine is placed at the front, but as low and rearward as possible. Same goes for the oil and water pumps. On the other end of the car you will find a rear-mounted six-speed manual transaxle gearbox controlled via steering-wheel paddles and linked to a Torsen limited-slip differential. The shift paddles are symmetrical and calibrated such that downshifts require more effort than upshifts. All of this results in a 48/52 front-to-rear weight distribution and a center of gravity that sits just behind the steering wheel. You are practically sitting on top of it! And if needed, a launch control system is available.
The Brembo carbon-ceramic brake setup consists of discs 15.4 inches in diameter. The six-piston monoblock calipers up front, with 14.2-inch discs and four-piston calipers at the back complement the setup. Bespoke 265/35 front and 305/30 rear Bridgestone Potenza tires are fitted onto forged aluminum 20 inch BBS wheels.
Of course, that is still only a small part of the story. We could continue for hours and hours running you through the spec sheet indicating many unique developments and the painstaking attention to numerous details. But it is time to drive.
Entering the LFA means nestling yourself into the stylish and comfortable seats overwhelmed by the new-age design of the dashboard. After fixing the seatbelt with build-in airbags, you press the wheel-mounted engine start button and the TFT screen with central-mounted aluminum bezel surrounding the tach and a digital speedometer springs into life. The ten cylinders inside the engine come into action and a decidedly un-V10 soundtrack enters the cabin while excitement runs down your spine.
Lexus asked Yamaha’s musical department to tune the intake and exhaust tracts. They tuned the sound inside the cabin by placing three different sound channels inside; one below the dashboard, one in the upper cowl opening and one behind the seats. The result is the closest F1 blare we have ever heard coming from a street-legal car. The sound asks for a right foot which constantly pushes the throttle at any given moment. A tune can be so addictive!
The Monaco area gave the opportunity to experience the twisting roads in the hills surrounding the small country, but also the Formula 1 race track, the harbor and the high quality shopping streets where your car is a crowd-stopping vehicle to be seen and heard by anyone who is window shopping.
The LFA is incredibly easy to drive. It communicates well, has a superb overall balance and the transparency of the options is an eye-opener. The choice between the racing setup and an all-day trip through a dense city is easily changed. Four drive modes can be selected via a knob on the dashboard. Wet is the obvious choice for bad weather, Auto is for the people of Wall-street who are only showing off (even though shifting is a bit clunky), Normal is fine for every day road and Sport is the setting the LFA calls home. However, Normal suited fine in the Monaco area. Same goes for the seven different shift velocities to choose from (they range from 0.2 second to a leisurely 1.0 second). If needed the stability control can be switched off as well.
Overall the LFA showed what is capable of on the streets and the hills surrounding Monaco. The agile and nimble handling provides a more than decent ride. The suspension is two sided: a little understeer telling you watch out, but also a little oversteer rewarding when you are brave enough. This two sided feeling surrounds you when experiencing the vehicle. It is easy when you need it to be, but it constantly asks for more. It was more than capable of showing that to us, but our venue left us with the usual boundaries.
The Japanese aesthetics used within the LFA include sharp edges, air events, special air intakes and an automatic rear wing with gurney flaps popping up at speeds above 80km/h (50mph). All meant for one thing, functionality. Do not discuss the design without stating the nature of it. The LFA is not a head tuner because it has no prancing horse or Italian bull name plate. On the contrary, it is build for its raw functions; improving the aerodynamics, creating a low drag coefficient of 0.31 and the production of more downforce. For example, the door hinges are placed on top of the door not influencing the air flow and the inside edges of the door mirrors shaped to provide air into the same air scoops over the rear fenders.
The overall driving position is superb and the cabin is spacious providing enough room for a longer trip. The ergonomics of the dashboard are Japanese, so watch and learn no easy steps included. The mouse-style operation of the multimedia system is a great example of that. The screen in front of you includes the instrument display which changes appearance with respect to the selected mode. With Sport mode selected, the background color goes from black to white and the increments between the tach’s numbers get bigger. When the needle approaches the redline, the gauge glows reds accordingly. The controls on the steering wheel will move the tach sideways and opens a submenu consisting of numerous English and Japanese settings.
A total of 500 lucky customers – 450 standard versions and 50 Nürburgring editions – will find themselves buying into one of the most comprehensive supercar packages ever made showcasing Lexus’s technological ability and performance intent. After a day in the LFA crossing the roads in Monaco and experiencing the head-turning tourists we were left with only one question “What are the track capabilities of this halo supercar?”. In the end the “I want one” feeling grew considerably ever single minute.
You want to see more from the Lexus LFA, check out our unloading video!
Special thanks to Lexus Monaco for this opportunity!