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Lexus, Supercars

2011 Lexus LFA: A Supercar? Really?

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For many people, the Lexus brand doesn’t conjure up images of supercars with ridiculous power, but that’s not stopping them.  Indeed, Lexus models seem to many to simply be luxury reskins of Toyota models, so how will a supercar that costs $375,000 fit into that market identity?  Well, you’re about to find out.

The fact that a Lexus supercar was in the works first became public knowledge way back in 2005 when the initial concept of the LFA debuted at the Detroit Auto Show.  Prior to this, Lexus limited its performance offerings to F Sport models, which are sports editions of standard IS and GS models.  The LFA seeks to skip the whole crawling and walking phase of supercar development and go right to running.  And considering that V10 engine under the LFA’s hood, this thing can definitely run.

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The 4.8-liter V10 puts out 552 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque.  The 9,000 RPM redline will make for some wonderful engine noise as you rocket from 0-to-62 mph (100 km/h) in a quick 3.7 seconds.  And with a top speed of 202 mph, you can lay on the throttle for a good long time.  That power is channeled through a six-speed sequential gearbox.  The best part, though, is the power band.  At least 90% of the torque will be available from 3,700 RPMs all the way to the 9,000 redline, so plenty of pep is at your fingertips (well, toe-tips technically).

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Helping the LFA achieve such speeds is its lightweight design.  The car weighs in at 3,263 pounds thanks to a lot of light materials.  The cabin structure is built out of a new material specifically designed for the LFA called carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP).  The material lends a high amount of rigidity to the chassis while still managing to weigh in at 220 pounds lighter than a comparable structure made of aluminum.  The overall weight distribution of the car is 48% front, 52% rear, will help maximize the rear-wheel drive thrill, and is accomplished by moving a lot of components around.  For example, the fuel tank is positioned in front of the rear axle for more central mass distribution, while the radiator is behind the rear axle.

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All of that technical wizardry has one purpose in mind:  the driving experience.  This is most aptly displayed by, of all things, the position of the driver’s seat.  The engine is mounted at the front, behind the front axle, and the transaxle assembly is pushed to the back, in front of the rear axle.  This frees up space in the cabin floor, allowing the seat to be mounted precisely at the vehicle’s center of gravity and nearer to the centerline of the vehicle than most any other car.  This position gives drivers the most complete possible road feedback (just make sure the passenger seat is filled by somebody you like, as you’ll be pretty close).

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With these design specifications, it looks like Lexus really does have an exciting supercar on their hands.  And they’re taking a cue from other more established supercar manufacturers in another respect:  production run.  There will only be 500 LFAs made, with the car hitting the road towards the end of 2011.  And that fact illuminates the true purpose of the LFA.  Most likely, Lexus wants to get more experience in creating road legal supercars so that they may translate that knowledge to their other models to create a sporty brand perception.  That seems a solid strategy, but the field of premium sport cars is already pretty packed.  Why isn’t Lexus happy with creating dependable luxury vehicles (which pull in massive sales numbers)?  Whatever the reason, the LFA is definitely a supercar worthy of notice, even if you’ll probably never see one in the flesh.

Pictures of the Lexus LFA Supercar

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