The Lexus LFA and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG are about as different in approach and ability as a muscular sprinter is from a sinewy long-distance runner. It's a clash of characters along the lines of a Suzuki Hayabusa sportbike taking on a BMW K1300S, a Moog synthesizer compared with a Steinway piano, or techno music as opposed to Beethoven. This is a little surprising when one compares the almost identical DNA of the two supercoupes. Both cars are front-engined; are powered by high-revving, normally aspirated engines; feature a well-balanced transaxle layout; rely on lightweight body structures; and make do with nonadjustable suspension and steering setups.
Despite these conceptual similarities, the way the two cars look, sound, and drive could hardly be more different. From a performance point of view, they are so close that the virtual stopwatch inside your head struggles to declare a winner, but at the end of a long day and an even longer night in and around Frankfurt, Germany, one supercar turned out to be fractionally more desirable than the other.
Even when these testosterone-laden machines tiptoe through the narrow village streets of the picturesque Odenwald forest region in fourth gear, they come close to doing serious decibel damage. While the high-pitched voice of the Lexus is a constant threat to tired windowpanes, the densely packed roar of the Mercedes puts loose plaster to a real test. Downshift to second gear, and you'll make cats arch their backs and dogs bark and bristle.
The insane intonations of raw power coming from the LFA are particularly distinct. Redlined at 9000 rpm, where the electronic tachometer changes color from snow white to devil red, the V-10 sounds as shrill as a MotoGP bike or a Formula 1 racer. When the wide white wedge appears on the horizon, bystanders pull out their mobile phones, both to freeze-frame one of Europe's rarest sports cars and to capture its spine-tingling sound track. In tunnels, other drivers inadvertently step on their brakes when the Lexus pilot floors the loud pedal, because the xenon-eyed noiseball in their rearview mirror sounds and looks like a UFO heralding the end of the world.
The SLS strikes a chord more minor than major, all bass not tenor, roaring tiger rather than howling wolf. While the LFA misses no opportunity to launch its shrieking, high-pitched backup choir, the car from Stuttgart loves to indulge in a simulated part-throttle misfire that blat-blats like a highly tuned American muscle car from the 1960s.