Lexus finally has its halo vehicle with the introduction of the limited edition 2012 LFA “supercar” that started rolling out of the factory in Japan last December.
Only 500 of these limited edition, hand-assembled two-seat sports coupes will be sold worldwide over the two years, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
A total of 20 cars a month will leave the factory until the 500 are completed.
In fact, even if you have (US)$375,000 kicking around to spend on your next set of wheels, you’re out of luck in Canada.
Our allotment is 10 cars and they are all spoken for. Meanwhile, 150 are slated for sale south of the border and I’m told there may still be a very few available if you act quickly.
According to Lexus Canada director Larry Hutchinson, the LFA creates “a new level of emotion to the (Lexus) performance lineup.”
He said the LFA program was started from scratch 10 years ago and the designers and engineers were essentially given a blank canvas to work with. You may never see one of these cars on the road since their numbers are so limited, but visitors to auto shows across Canada this year will be able to get a glimpse of one of the LFA prototypes.
I was recently among a handful of Canadian auto journalists who had a chance to get up close and personal with the car that will be on display at the shows. Unfortunately, that glimpse didn’t include a driving component but it did give us a chance to see what those 10 lucky (and rich) Canadians went through in ordering their ‘personalized’ vehicles.
In fact, I had a chance to design my own car (of course it had to be red, the only colour I’d consider for a sports car).
My interior had black leather with red inserts and a red steering wheel. Alas, I will never get to see my creation in the flesh (or the carbon fibre plastic that makes up most of the body panels for the LFA). However, I did get to print off a copy of what it might look like thanks to a computer rendering of the only LFA I will likely ever own.
So why would Lexus create the LFA?
Well, according to Lexus officials, the brand is now two decades old and the LFA gives the Lexus guest (they are called guests, not customers) the ultimate of “personalized luxury” in the F line of performance Lexus cars.
One of the goals of the LFA was to “push the performance envelope,” said Glenn Alkema, a product specialist with the Lexus Academy.
Much of the technology and engineering that went into the LFA will eventually work its way into other vehicles in the Lexus lineup.
Originally, the body of the LFA was going to be almost all aluminum, but in mid-stream a decision was made to use carbon fibre plastic instead, cutting the weight by 136 kg (300 lb). In fact, many decisions about the LFA were made with the goal of reducing weight and the end result is a sports coupe that weighs in at 1,480 kg (3,256 lb).
Even the steering column tilt/telescoping feature is manual to cut down on weight and the 12-channel, 12-speaker Mark Levinson sound system is 37 per cent lighter and 35 per cent smaller than normal.
Power comes from a lightweight 4.8-litre V10 engine developed in conjunction with Yamaha that makes 552 hp and 354 lb/ft of torque. About 90 per cent of its peak torque comes between 3,700 rpm and the 9,000 rpm redline. Each engine bears a signature of the engineer who built it.
The engine propels the LFA from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds. Top speed is 325 km/h.
If 552 hp is not enough for you, another $75,000 gets the Nurburgring edition, which features 10 more hp, a different suspension and a few other tweaks. One of the 10 LFAs coming to Canada is a Nurburgring edition, among the 50 available worldwide.
Mated with the V10 engine is a six-speed ASG transmission (with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters). There are four driving modes ranging from normal to sport.
The LFA is designed to be a driver’s car and lots of track time at Nurburgring was devoted to making it just right. Front-to-rear weight distribution is an almost perfect 48:52 thanks to the short, wide and low body style. Dry sump lubrication rather than an oil pan helps with the low centre of gravity, while the oil and water pumps are located behind the engine.
The driver’s seat is positioned near the LFA’s centre of gravity, allowing for maximum car-to-driver feedback, particularly in high performance driving conditions.
Getting the engine right was important, but so was the sound it emitted. Working again with Yamaha, the exhaust was tuned to produce just the right note.
So what makes the LFA so special?
For many buyers, it will be the fact that they own a supercar that has been personalized to their own individual taste. It may be a one-of-a-kind vehicle, unlike competing supercars that are not nearly as personalized.
Lexus Canada head office personnel selected the 10 ‘guests’ chosen to purchase an LFA (there is a waiting list, they say) after a pre-qualification process. The future owners were then shown a suitcase full of samples, including upholstery swatches, exterior colours, wheel and brake choices along with different thread colours used in upholstery stitching.
From there, the buyers access a computer program, which allows them to configure the vehicle to their own personal tastes.
As I said, mine would be red outside with black and red leather interior with a red steering wheel.
My time with the LFA ended almost as quickly as it began. At least I got to sit behind the wheel (does that count as seat time?) and I have my computer-generated picture as a memory.
Oh, to be one of the 10 chosen ones!
LEXUS LFA 2012
Body Style: two-seat luxury performance coupe.
Drive Method: front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: 4.8-litre V10 engine (552 hp, 354 lb/ft of torque).
Fuel Economy: N/A
Price: U.S. $375,000