Why the Lexus LFA is the best car ever
'The best car I've ever driven', says Jeremy Clarkson. Really?
The Lexus LS400, a car that's capable of going 145mph with a wall of champagne glasses on the bonnet, and without breaking any of them. This is a car that defines Lexus. High quality, efficient, elegant, well-built and capable of beating Mercedes Benz, BMW and Audi. They even won an award for the best paint finish for quite some time, just shows you the level of perfection they're after, that's just amazingly boring.
So when people spied the LFA going round the Nurburgring again and again, they thought 'No way they're going to make it'. And guess what, they have. With an incredible price tag of £343,000. What's all the fuss about?
Because on paper, it doesn't look any better than it's rivals. 552hp, that's on par with the Lamborghini Gallardo; 0-60mph in 3.6s, that's slower than a Nissan GT-R at the time; Top Speed: 202mph, that's the same as the Ferrari 458 Italia. There we have it, the Lexus LFA is a Toyota that costs triple the costs of its competitors without any reason. The end.
The Lexus LFA, however, is far more than what was quoted on paper. This is a car that can provoke your emotions more than anything else can. To start off, we've got an engine to die for - a 4.8L V10, capable to scream through its rev range until it hits the magic redline of 9,500rpm. This is one hell of a masterpiece, Lexus co-developed this engine with Yamaha, the motorcycle manufacturer and instruments maker, to produce an engine that's as compact as a V8, but as light as a V6. The result is an engine that's so exquisite, that it can rev from idle to redline in half a second. So fast in fact, that they had to put a digital rev counter to accurately read the rpm. Yamaha also putting the surge tank located on top of the V10 backwards, to amplify the sound of the engine, which is then sent into the cabin and into the driver's ears. The bass tone of the V10 is also fed into the lower part of the cabin, which gives you that orchestral soundtrack.
The aluminium engine block itself takes a week to be made from 750 degrees C of molten aluminium to an actual engine block. Then the engine block is moved to one of the most sophisticated milling facilities there is. Remember the Toyota F1 team? They've staggering lost 139 races out of the 139 they've participated in. So when the F1 team dropped out in 2009, the engine milling factory was left unused, until the production of the LFA, where the aluminium block of the LFA was drilled, polished and milled, before it was polished off by hand by 'Takumi' - craftsman in Japanese.
Then the engine is moved to a room where it's kept in a constant humidity and temperature, to make sure every engine part is at the same temperature during assembly. Only 4 of the Takumi were allowed to assemble the 2,200 engine parts into a complete engine in two-and-a-half days before sending it off to be fine-tuned and put into the LFA.
The result of the level of detail they put in, is an engine to die for. It might only have 552bhp, but it has the engine note of an old F1 car, the sound of a dying bear screaming for food, the baleful note that is unmistakably LFA. Just listen to it!
Mated to the soulful sounding V10 engine is a single clutch six-speed automated sequential gearbox. Lexus' engineers deliberately didn't put in a double clutch unit like most of it's rivals, because they wanted the driver to feel the jolt when changing cogs. In fact, the engineers are so obsessed with the sensation the car delivers to the driver, they've even looked at the pedals behind the steering wheel, and thought 'I think we can do something about them'. So they made one pedal heavier than the other, to make sure you're pulling the right pedal.
The chassis and body of the LFA is also a masterpiece on its own. They originally designed the LFA to have an aluminium chassis, of which after 5 years, when it was nearly ready to be built, they decided to scrap the entire thing and design the whole thing from scratch again, using carbon fibre. If it were to be made of aluminium, it'd be 100kg heavier, so they had to start all over again. But because the builders at Lexus never worked on carbon fibre before, they didn't know how to make it. Toyota, again, stepped into the scene, and built a circular loom which weaves the carbon rail of the LFA in 3D. And then the carbon fibre piece itself is assembled by the Takumi to build the chassis tub.
To tune the LFA, the engineers sent the LFA to the Nurburgring, where it was put through its paces for over 5 years. To further proof that the LFA was reliable, they even put the LFA racing, in the 24-hour race round the Nordschleife before it was even released, to see how the car would cope under racing conditions.
The plant that Lexus build it's LFA in is unique. They've had to open up a whole new factory just to build the LFA. 175 workers out of the existing 50,000 Toyota workers were hand-picked to assemble the LFA. An ex-Toyota baseball head was summoned to be the leader of the assembly line, as he was capable of organising a group of people efficiently. The workers there can take as long as they like, as long as perfection is met. They can work overtime for as long as they like, as long as one car is built at the end of every day. Therefore, to build the 500 cars, Lexus took 2 years to finish the production of the LFA. And after the two years, all the factories used to build the factory, the F1 laboratory, the assembly line, the carbon weaving machine, all would be closed down.
The Lexus LFA may not sound impressive on paper, but who would drive on paper anyways. It might not be three times the price of a Gallardo, but they've developed the car through racing the car on the Nurburgring 24-hour non-stop; they've asked an instrument company to tune the tone of the engine; they've used an F1 engine milling facility to polish the engine block; they've even summoned an ex-Toyota baseball team head to lead the assembly line, of which they are told they can spend however long they fancy to build an LFA, and they will still get paid overtime for it.
The LFA then, is not a car, more like a piece of art, moving art. Even at the price of £343,000, Toyota still lost money on every single LFA built. And what a car this is. This is not a rebadged Toyota, but an engineers' dream come true. What a car this is. And sadly, we are most likely not going to see another one of these supercars to ever come out of Japan ever again.
'The LFA is so good that not even the people who made it, know how to make it again.' Maybe that really is the case. Sad times...