In development for more than four years, put to the real test at the Nürburgring, and now driven for the first time at Goodwood, the brand-new Lexus LF-A promises to be Japan's ultimate and definitive supercar.
The Lexus LF-A is the boss's own pet project. It was president Akio Toyoda himself who got this car underway, describing it as a lighthouse concept designed to forge a long-overdue link between the company's (thus far unimpressive) Formula 1 efforts and future Lexus and Toyota sports cars. He also co-drove it at this year's ADAC Zurich 24-hour race at the Nürburgring.
At this point, the Lexus team is still tight-lipped when it comes to official data and claims. Did they ever consider a turbocharged V-8, four-wheel drive, or a dual-clutch transmission? No, says Mikio Hazumi of Lexus, and that's the juiciest inside information we're going to get. Wind tunnel performance? No comment. Adaptive aerodynamics? Not on the race car. Adjustable dampers? Not required. Variable-rate steering? Said to be counterproductive. Front or rear axle lift? Positive downforce at all velocities, guaranteed. Carbon-ceramic brakes? Not needed.
What we know for a fact are the dimensions (length 178 inches, width 74 inches, height 47 inches, wheelbase 103 inches) and the type of vehicle construction (carbon-fiber-reinforced molded polymer). We also know that Toyota opted for a control-arm front suspension and a multilink rear axle made of aluminum, that the cast-iron brake discs are straddled by six-piston front calipers and four-pot rears, and that there is a Torsen-type limited-slip differential at the rear. With a front-mounted V-10 engine and two radiators at the back of the car, weight distribution is exactly 50/50. As our test session at the legendary Goodwood Motor Circuit in southern England drew to a close and the first drinks started making the rounds, two more impressive numbers were revealed: a 0-to-62-mph acceleration time of less than four seconds and a top speed of 200 mph.
Racing cars are typically harsh-riding, cramped, and noisy. The Lexus LF-A is no exception. I turn the ignition key, hit the red button on the transmission tunnel, and pretend not to be shocked by the roar and thunder from under the hood. The V-10 can theoretically spin to 9000 rpm, but the ceiling was lowered to 8500 rpm for the race at the 'Ring. Today at Goodwood, it's capped at an even more cautious 8000 rpm. With no more than six laps per journalist, no one came close to the car's true potential. The first lap was spent warming up the Brembo brakes and the 305/30YR-20 Bridgestone tires. The second lap was for adjusting the braking and turn-in points. On lap three, a pit stop was required to check tire pressures. Lap four was to get on it at last. Only to find out, on lap five, that the LF-A will actually carry a lot more speed through fast corners. Lap six, the cool-down lap, came too soon.