One of the highlights of our recent trip down to Australia came out of total surprise. We heard that a certain Lexus supercar was kept at the same premises where Charles picked up the ISF press car we would sample during our time in Sydney, but it wasn’t quite sure if it would be possible to get some time with it. With only one of these in the whole country, driving it would obviously be out of the question, it’s value alone making Lexus careful about handing the keys over to overenthusiastic journalists outisde of official closed media events. But with the guys at Lexus being a great bunch of people it only took a quick phone call from Charles to secure a few hours with the car. It meant we had to wake up very early, but seeing I’ve wanted to shoot this masterpiece of automotive engineering ever since sitting in it at the Tokyo Motorshow in 2009, I would have gladly given up a night’s sleep for the pleasure.
Our first encounter with the LFA literally took our breath away. Its unmistakable low-slung silhouette making its way towards us as we were waiting at the visitor parking area of the impressive Lexus Australia HQ.
I had never seen one finished in the Pearl Blue before, a color that really suits it very well.
As the V10 purred away at a slightly raised cold-start idle we followed the LFA to a quiet location within the premises where Casey, Matt and I would have about two hours to immortalize it with our cameras.
To appreciate a car of this caliber you have to focus on the details in order to take everything in. And there are so many small details; refinements that only Lexus could come up with. Every piece you see, down to the smallest nut and bolt has been finely designed and constructed to not only do its job, but look good doing it. It only takes a few moments with the LFA before its controversial price tag really begins to make sense. This car is not only about the performance, it’s more a celebration of how far engineering has come over the last century.
Lifting the lightweight carbon fiber hood you are presented with the 560HP 1LR-GUE, the 4.8L naturally aspirated, dry sump, 72º V10 that propels the LFA to 60 mph in under 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 202 mph.
This is one Lexus where you can actually see some of the engine, unlike the usual plastic covers fitted on the rest of the range – along with most other modern cars for that matter. The head covers of the V10 are finished in glossy black, very elegant and nothing over the top, it is a Lexus after all.
Taking center stage in the engine bay is the intake plenum, directing fresh and filtered air to the ten velocity stacks that lay within it. While the 1LR was designed and developed together with Yamaha Motor, it was the musical instrument side of the company which took special interest in the plenum, more specifically a complex acoustic design which helps diffuse the right kind of frequencies into the cabin enveloping the occupants in a spine-tingling tidal wave of exhaust and induction noises. Yet another perfect example of just how much detail went into the close to 10-year development program.
Toyota devised a world first circular carbon fiber weaving machine to create the monocoque chassis that the whole car is built on. Carbon fiber, in a variety of types and forms is used on even some of the smallest details like the stand that holds…
…the hood open. Notice how wide the carbon weave is on the hood structure itself, quite different to some other areas of the car.
The V10 sits far back in the engine bay in a true front midship layout, giving the LFA a 48/52 front to rear weight distribution. This is also achieved thanks to the transaxle single-clutch 6-speed gearbox which sits low over the rear wheels. Twin radiators are mounted out back too of course, one of the most recognizable features of the car ever since the first concept back in 2003. On top of its F1 inspired performance, the 1LR is an incredibly lightweight engine, weighing less than the 3.5L V6 2GR-FSE that powers cars like the Lexus IS350 and GS350.
At speed the air passing over these two hood openings creates a low-pressure area that helps draw out hot air from the engine bay as well as the two “chimneys” that can be seen on the top left and right corners of the plenum. These help suck air away from the exhaust manifolds.
Aerodynamic details around the side mirror.
Lexus have truly created a unique supercar, both mechanically and aesthetically. We decided to shoot most of our shots with the rear spoiler raised for added impact. With the spoiler down the LFA has a drag coefficient of Cd 0.31.
The massive forged 20-inch wheels are wrapped in specially developed Bridgestone Potenza S001, 265/35 up front and massive 305/30 on the 11-inch wide rear wheels.
Behind the spokes hides the Brembo braking system; carbon-ceramic 2-piece drilled discs, 390 mm front and 360 mm rear. These are mated to 6-pot front calipers and 4-pots at the rear.
This is one of my favorite angles of the LFA.
The Lexus guys let us shoot against a very photogenic background. That sun sure came up quick that morning!
The badge says it all!
This is where that musical instrument up front releases all those beautiful frequencies from. That shriek really has to be heard up close to be believed, it’s nothing short of sublime.
I loved how sturdy and over-engineered the wing stays are! At high speed the rear spoiler generates lots of downforce so those stays have to support a lot of weight
Another detail of the LFA’s composite construction. You can get a glimpse at the carbon chassis and the carbon fiber rear hatch which, compared to the hood, is made up a thinner weave.
The attention to detail continues inside with lots of flawlessly stitched leather, aluminum trim…
…and of course highly glossed carbon fiber detailing.
When you swing the doors open all the way you can again see some of the exposed carbon of the chassis. Not something you see on your every day car!
Inside, the LFA manages to blend a luxurious Lexus feel together with bespoke supercar elements.
The steering wheel is a tactile experience in itself; combining soft leather, aluminum and of course carbon fiber.
Oh look, more carbon fiber!
Even the indicator stalk oozes quality and great design.
This is a little allen screw that holds a section of the leather-clad dashboard in place. Not only is it made out of lightweight titanium but it’s even got three Lexus logos impressed into it!
One of the most impressive bits of equipment has to be the instrument panel, a series of TFT LCD displays that slide from side to side…
…when you select between normal, sport or wet driving modes.
There are too many configurations to show with lots of menus to play around with on the left side. The tachometer is of course the most fun, switching from its usual black background to this white “ready for business” white and red sport mode. This LCD RPM gauge was actually a necessity as the V10 shoots from idle to redline in a split second and there are no mechanical gauges out there that can react that fast. With the engine still idling as I shot inside the car this is something I had to test out for myself, edged on by the Lexus PR staff to step on the throttle with more enthusiasm. I managed close to 8,000 rpm and the sound was unbelievable!
Number 60 out a production that will see a total of 500 cars being built.
The LFA is equipped with the latest Lexus entertainment system and satellite navigation as well as a 12-speaker 12-channel Mark Levinson 1000W audio system. I personally loved the dashboard layout with the LCD screen deeply recessed into it and the high transmission tunnel with all commands within easy reach
Airbag equipped seatbelts anyone?
What an experience it was to get a chance to shoot such an unique machine. It’s a pleasure to see what a modern day supercar looks like when absolutely no cost has been spared during its development and production. Lexus LFA Works builds about 20 or so LFAs each month, with production ending as soon as that magical 500th car has been completed.
We want to give special thanks to the Lexus Australia PR staff for allowing this shoot to happen!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
Pictures: Dino Dalle Carbonare, Casey Dhnaram, Matt Malcom