WOW. This Ultimate Supercar by Lexus was just revealed at the Tokyo Motor show. Many said that this could be one of the best supercar (even better that the already superb Skyline GTR). Here's an article on a test drive of the prototype version from Popular Mechanics
Nürburgring, Germany—Much in the way the aspiring Hollywood star needs to "do Shakespeare," Toyota felt it needed to "do supercar." Full model competence these days doesn't just include the world's best-selling hybrid, successful luxury and youth brands and a full lineup of trucks and crossovers—it also requires something mad, bad and jet-fighter fast in the showroom.
Ten years ago, Toyota instructed its Lexus luxury division to start bottling up enough super to build an eponymous car. But in a decade of development, the forthcoming LFA has seen a few specification changes, including at least one complete redesign swapping an aluminium cabin section, chassis and coachwork for carbon fiber and at least one complete restyle after less-than-positive reactions to the zany and whimsical LF-A conceptseen at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. Recently we had a chance to test drive an LFA prototype in Germany on the famed Nürburgring race track to see how the most eagerly anticipated Lexus of all time drives.
One glance at the specification sheet is enough to confirm that much blood and treasure has been expended on the LFA. Aluminium subframes hang off the central carbon tub and hold the wishbone front and multilink rear suspension along with the massive carbon-ceramic brake rotors. The engine is a race-derived 72-degree V10, displacing 4.8 liters with twin overhead camshafts per bank and four titanium valves per cylinder. This exotic approach to engineering typifies the whole car. Just a handful of the LFA's parts (the air-conditioning unit, for example) are shared with other Lexus or Toyota models. The V10 produces its peak 552 hp at a heady 8800 rpm, and maximum engine speed is an ear-splitting 9000 rpm. With a 354-lb-ft torque peak produced at 6800 rpm, this is perhaps not the right car to be towing an Airstream trailer with. The engine will go from idle to peak revs in just 0.6 seconds—think Formula One racing levels of throttle response here, or a Japanese race replica motorcycle.
The engine sits up front, but low and as rearward as possible for proper weight distribution. Even the oil and water pumps are on the lower rear portion of the engine block to improve the balance. Attached to the engine is a torque tube, which takes the drive to a rear-mounted six-speed manual transaxle transmission shifted via steering-wheel paddles.
Any one familiar with American cars in the 1960s will find a familiarity in the cabin, except this is '60s Americana done by Lexus. So on the reverse-sloping fascia the instrument bezels and egg-crate air vents are finished in elegantly machined aluminium instead of chrome-effect muscle car plastics. There's even a big, round, central rev counter with a digital speedometer inside that can be moved from side to side within the instrument binnacle to uncover more ancillary instruments underneath. There's even an east-west facing rotary headlamp dial on the side of the instrument binnacle, again in immaculately machined aluminium. "We sought a functional but restrained style," says Harukiko Tanahashi, the chief engineer on the project.
They found it, too. The LFA has a well-made style of its own, from the accommodating leather bucket seats, to the high dashboard which restricts vision but also gives an impression of safety and security. There's room enough for six-footers, some limited storage space around the twin seats and a trunk the size of one aircraft-hand-baggage suitcase underneath the tilting rear windscreen. The only bum note here is the carbon-fiber and leather steering wheel, which is no fun to touch, not well made and is horribly squared off.
Vital statistics are impressive enough; 0 to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 202 mph. With deliveries not scheduled until 2011, Lexus has not done any official fuel consumption testing, and the unofficial tests must have been so embarrassing that the engineers refused to even speculate what level of mpg it will return in the real world.
If that potentially crippling thirst doesn't convince you that the LFA is a supercar, then pressing the starter should assuage all doubts. That V10 bursts into life and whines into an absurdly high idle speed like an industrial fan heater. Pull the right-hand shift paddle into first and the car pulls away reluctantly, as if the single-plate clutch were sparing you the full force of the engine. Our previous experience of these types of automated manual gearboxes is that they can be pretty hard on the friction plate, although Lexus claims it's Aisin-made transmission has passed all the longevity tests. In fact, the LFA is fairly hard to maneuver round a parking lot. The transmission's recalcitrant shifting combines with the total impossibility of judging the car's extremities, so it's important that rear parking sensors are standard.
Speed up a little and the LFA still seems as ungainly as Clark Kent before he's put on the spandex tights. At medium speeds, the throttle is overly sensitive, and with the firm ride and engine so willing to answer any call, it's very easy to accidentally spin the rear wheels. You need to concentrate hard to keep your foot steady on the throttle. In fact, the LFA feels something of a handful, in the vein of a 1980s Ferrari 512 Testarossa; difficult to drive smoothly and with a character that wants to gnaw at your shinbone at the smallest error. The steering feels a bit light and the gears thwack into mesh with little mechanical sympathy. The gearbox has four programs; Normal, Wet, Sport and a very slow Automatic mode. You can adjust the shifting times down to a shuddering 0.2 seconds if someone else is paying for the clutch wear.
Speed up a whole lot more, however, and you start to realize just how super the LFA actually is. That V10 dominates the experience, with a hammering, band-saw engine note that feeds back directly into the cabin and your synapses. Power delivery is as flat as a sports bike; you add revs and it goes faster. How much faster? Plenty. Out on the new Nürburgring grand prix track, we saw 170 mph on the speedo and the LFA was still pulling incredibly hard, that V10 howling away. In Sport mode the gearbox feels incredibly good and the driveline, crisp and tight.
With most of its 1.5 tons mounted near the center and low down, the LFA turns in fast without much nose-on understeer. Get on the gas too early and the tail will come out to play, but this isn't a car with a bad temper, and the resulting slides are benign and slow enough to be nipped in the bud. At speed, the handling turns neutral with nice balance and feedback through the steering wheel. It rides well, too. Not soft, but not shake-your-teeth-loose harsh, either. For a carbon-ceramic setup, the disc brakes are fairly progressive, at least at first. In the end, however, you have to stand on them to get the ultimate stopping power. Needless to say, these are fade-free anchors.
The Bottom Line
Exclusive, with stunning performance, an exotic soundtrack and price (deep into six figures), plus an admission from Lexus that each one of the 250 limited-production run will lose money, the LFA ticks all the boxes in the lexicon of supercar. It's also genuinely charismatic, with a feel and spirit all its own. Such a pity it's at least five years too late. In 2011 when the first LFAs are delivered, MacLaren will launch its own carbon-fiber supercar at a fraction of the cost, and right now, there's formidable and a-bucket-less-expensive opposition from Nissan's GT-R . Still, as Sancho Panza would testify, to be a superhero you need to do your share of tilting at windmills and in the LFA, Lexus has shown it isn't above the pride and hubris that marks out the truly Quixotically super, supercar maker. Mission accomplished, then.
SOURCE : POPULAR MECHANICS