Vital Stats

Engine:
4.8L V10
Power:
552 HP / 354 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Sequential
0-60 Time:
3.6 Seconds
Top Speed:
202 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,263 LBS
Seating:
2
MPG:
11 City / 16 HWY
Can You Overdose On One Day With An LFA?



Medical dictionaries define a drug as "any article intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans."

The 2012 Lexus LFA is not a supercar, it is a narcotic.

Twist the carbon-fiber key of the Lexus flagship and listen to its race-bred V10 wail. Within seconds of the sound reaching the eardrum, the adrenal glands initialize epinephrine production and endorphins are released from the pituitary. The result of the natural injection is a more rapid heartbeat, an increase in blood pressure, involuntary muscle relaxation/contraction and an overall feeling of well-being - the human body becomes more alert, physically stronger and has greater energy. In layman's terms... the LFA makes its driver feel positively euphoric.

Regrettably, as is the case with most "feel good" medicines, the LFA is also extremely habit-forming and highly addictive. But Lexus has addressed this issue by ensuring safeguards are in place to prevent abuse. First, a person has to be of legal driving age to get behind the wheel. Second, the automaker has limited production to just 500 units worldwide (there are only 46 in North America today). Lastly, and this will certainly keep the toxins from falling into the wrong hands, is that the base sticker price of the carbon-fiber, aluminum and titanium hallucinogenic is a nicely-rounded $375,000.

Yes, it is unlikely that your friends, neighbors or co-workers will overdose on LFA anytime soon.
2012 Lexus LFA side view2012 Lexus LFA front view2012 Lexus LFA rear view

Lexus recently allowed me to sample its intoxicating supercar for a few days. No complaints, as it was a lot longer than Senior Editor Damon Lavrinc's taste at Homestead-Miami Speedway two years ago while attending the vehicle's launch. It didn't seem right to review the LFA without a plan, so a scheme was concocted that would allow the car to be driven on coastal highways, curvy mountain roads and wide open desert straightaways during an extended one-day banzai road-trip. Thankfully, Southern California delivered the proper geography and weather to pull it off.

The plan, plotted rather meticulously a few nights prior to the LFA's arrival, was to take the vehicle on what amounted to a giant geographical loop. To maximize the driving experience, the route deliberately encompassed the aforementioned coastal, mountain and desert driving with elevations ranging from sea level to nearly 9,000 feet. Temperatures would mirror those extremes, with a low of about 60 F. at the ocean and a sweltering 100 F. in the desert. In total, the drive would start around noon and cover about 350 miles during day and night - including a desert photo shoot during sunset.

Clear skies greeted me on the morning of the drive, as did a rather dusty LFA in the driveway (black really isn't the vehicle's best color as it shows lots of dust while simultaneously hiding nearly all of its unique styling cues). In person, the supercar looks bigger and more muscular than it appears in pictures, despite the fact it is nearly identical in length to a Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette, but lower and wider than both.

2012 Lexus LFA headlight2012 Lexus LFA wheel2012 Lexus LFA rear vent2012 Lexus LFA exhaust tips

Toyota was obsessed with weight savings, so the engineers specified aluminum alloy construction over traditional steel from the outset. However, when calculations proved they still wouldn't meet their objectives, featherweight - yet immensely strong - carbon fiber became the build material of choice. Expensive and difficult to work with, the automaker relied on its 150-year-old textile manufacturing experience to develop new looms to weave the fiber, and advanced molding techniques to cast the durable carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) components. What isn't composite is titanium, aluminum or some other alloy. The rumors are true; there is no steel in the Lexus LFA.

With a photo shoot scheduled at the culmination of the day, cleaning the LFA was the first priority. The hand-wash gave me a good opportunity to run my hands over the expansive carbon-fiber bodywork and explore the countless scoops, ports and air intakes (they are numerous enough to make a cheese grater feel inferior). The various air intakes are all functional; slots in the nose feed fresh air to the engine's lungs and cool the front brakes, while the vents on the hood bleed excess engine heat and feed cool air to the titanium exhaust manifolds. Additional side inlets deliver air to the rear brakes, large rear radiators and enclosed titanium mufflers.

2012 Lexus LFA hood vents2012 Lexus LFA side intake

Under the carbon fiber hood, with its own trick carbon fiber prop rod, is a naturally-aspirated 4.8-liter V10. Thanks to lightweight internals, including titanium valves and connecting rods, the engine redlines at 9,000 rpm with an ultimate fuel cut-off at a dizzying 9,500 rpm. The powerplant, which Toyota says is smaller than a traditional V8 and lighter than a conventional V6, features individual throttle bodies for each cylinder. With dry sump lubrication for sustained high-speed cornering, it is rated at 552 horsepower at 8,700 rpm and 354 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm. The awe factor doesn't stop there, as Toyota also fitted its LFA with equal-length titanium exhaust manifolds and a beautifully-tuned titanium silencer. The sound coming out of the center-mounted triple-cluster exhaust is pure Formula One, a high-pitched wail that is unheard of outside a race circuit.

Gear changes are electronically managed, with instruction sent to a rear transaxle gearbox containing a single-clutch automated sequential transmission. A dual-clutch design wasn't possible with the LFA, says Toyota, as its freewheeling V10 engine can spin from idle to redline in just six tenths of a second. This necessitated a low-mass single-clutch system that was able to handle the speeds and a digital tachometer in the cockpit because an analog system could not keep up with the engine's insane transitions.

2012 Lexus LFA engine2012 Lexus LFA engine detail2012 Lexus LFA engine detail2012 Lexus LFA engine detail

A race-bred suspension keeps the LFA's wheels in contact with the pavement. It isn't exceedingly sophisticated - lacking electronic damping or any other wizardry - but it offers aluminum remote-reservoir monotube dampers, hollow anti-roll bars, forged aluminum knuckles and forged suspension arms. The brakes are massive cross-drilled carbon-ceramic units with six-piston alloy calipers up front and four-piston calipers in the rear. Sticky Bridgestone tires (265/35ZR20 front and 305/30ZR20 rear) complete the package.

The near-disturbing obsession with weight savings, combined with a mid-front engine mounting, delivers a near-ideal 48:52 weight distribution and a curb weight of just 3,263 pounds (that's 566 pounds lighter than the slightly nose-heavy Nissan GT-R). Lexus claims its LFA will rocket to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds towards a top speed of 202 mph.

I dropped my six-foot two-inch frame into the LFA's cockpit to find it as visionary as the exterior, but not exactly ergonomic. While there is an impressively overwhelming mix of carbon fiber, aluminum, leather and soft Alcantara covering nearly every square inch, there are a few oddities. These include a lack of cup holders, a lack of storage nooks and a lack of cruise control. It seemed as if the LFA was already hinting at its single-minded objective even before I started its engine.

2012 Lexus LFA steering wheel2012 Lexus LFA seats2012 Lexus LFA dash2012 Lexus LFA pedals

Unenlightened folk will have a difficult time driving the LFA, as a bit of pre-flight instruction is required. The starting procedure requires the key to be turned (to initialize power) while a foot is on the brake pedal and the gearbox is in Neutral - pull back both shift paddles simultaneously to bring it out of gear. At that point a small light will illuminate on the face of the steering wheel directly below the carbon fiber "Engine Start" button. Press and hold the button down until the engine fires a few seconds later. First gear is engaged by pulling back on the right shift paddle. To engage Reverse, put the LFA back into Neutral with the shift paddles and then slide a little button on the side of the instrument hood. The parking brake is electrically operated via a switch just below the driver's right knee. The primary controls sound confusing, but acclimation comes quickly.

The first order of business was to program my route in the rather unspectacular navigation system (it is just a stock Lexus unit). With that complete, the second order of business was to fill the empty passenger seat.

I thought about it briefly. Then I did what any responsible father would do - I drove the LFA directly to my son's middle school, marched into the front office and pulled him out of class for the rest of the day. While only in seventh grade, and just 12 years old, he's a Forza Motorsport expert who knows more about the LFA than most salesmen in a Lexus showroom. (Plus, my heart told me this type of father/son bonding was more developmental than anything he would have learned in history, social studies or pre-algebra that day.)

Father, son and LFA left the school parking lot and headed north towards Ojai on U.S. Route 101.

2012 Lexus LFA start button2012 Lexus LFA gauges2012 Lexus LFA drive mode control knob2012 Lexus LFA navigation system

Getting the LFA up to highway speed took about as much effort as dropping a rock on your foot, but that is where the exciting part ended. I don't mean to shatter dreams, but driving any supercar in moderate traffic on a 65-mph highway is as frustrating as having your date's mother chaperone your post-prom party.

Making matters worse, the LFA's suspension bickered with every pothole, wide expansion joint and stretch of grooved concrete it encountered - the Lexus shook the two of us like a bull attempting to throw its riders. As we passed the coastal city of Ventura and turned inland, we laughed when a sharp impact sent us high enough to leave a pocket of air between our jeans and the Alcantara seat cushions. It was funny at first, but it got old rather quickly.

Holding a fixed interstate velocity, the constant wail of the engine also hit a nerve as it spins over 3,000 rpm at highway speeds. Its soundtrack drowns out everything within three lanes, including the patience of the occupants. The two of us needed to find an open road quickly.

2012 Lexus LFA front detail2012 Lexus LFA rear spoiler2012 Lexus LFA logo2012 Lexus LFA badge

The transmission has four modes (Automatic, Normal, Sport and Snow). I'd been using mind-numbing and slow-shifting Automatic on the highway, but as we approached Ojai on California State Route 33 (CA-33) I dropped the gearbox into its Sport mode and began to shift manually with the column-mounted paddles. Entering the artsy town, where most residents drive something along the lines of an eco-friendly Prius, I kept the engine spinning at about 4,000 rpm just to gauge effect. The trio of exhaust outlets bellowed loudly, with the unique soundtrack not only encapsulating the Lexus, but broadcasting one hundred yards in each direction. The pipes announced the arrival of the exotic like a horn blower in a medieval king's procession. It was fun to watch the peasants on the sidewalks as they turned and stared.

Done terrorizing Ojai, we filled the tank with high octane unleaded and again pointed the nose north to follow CA-33 into the Santa Ynez Mountains. Within 15 minutes we were the only car on the twisty two-lane mountain road.

Have you ever seen how a dog reacts at the park the moment its owner releases the leash? Think about the precise second when man's best friend notes its freedom and sprints madly away, as if it has never seen an open patch of earth. The Lexus must contain a molecule of canine DNA because it seemed to sense the open road in front of it.

I didn't realize it then, but I had just swallowed the LFA pill.

2012 Lexus LFA driving

Overcome by the passion of driving a spectacular machine on an equally breathtaking road, I seized the opportunity to put the LFA through its paces. With the gearbox in Sport (where it would remain for the duration of the day), I gently tapped alternate paddles to keep the V10 in its sweet spot as the vehicle danced like a well-disciplined ballerina.

Implausibly well balanced, the LFA was incredibly fast and extraordinary in its ability to hold the line. It rewarded smooth driving and precision inputs through the thick flat-bottom steering wheel with loyal obedience. While it was easy to rotate mid-corner, by lifting or applying throttle, it came back just as effortlessly with a twitch of opposite lock. There was no sloppiness to its mannerisms and it stayed completely within its lane as if guided by Teflon wheels on a seamless steel rail.

The feedback through the aluminum pedals, the driver's lone interaction with the throttle and brakes, was equally as remarkable. I would swear the engine's response could not have been quicker had I been opening the ten little throttle bodies by hand. The massive fade-free brakes needed only a gentle, linear push to instantly engage tons of stopping force. Confidence is an understatement.

Driving the LFA was hypnotic.


After nearly 40 minutes of pure driving bliss, I pulled over. It was time to catch my breath, unfasten the thick airbag-equipped three-point seatbelt and take a freshening walk around the composite flagship. I've driven a lot of sports cars in my time, but few had my heart racing like the Lexus LFA. I was grinning ear-to-ear, very likely drooling, and craving so much more.

Further up the road, the pavement straightened out and dry mountains gave way to irrigated farmland. The mile-long straight-aways allowed me to spin the engine flat out and it wailed like a F1 car all the way to its 9,000 rpm redline. I held the engine right there and laughed out loud when I noticed black crows foraging in the plowed fields take flight as the sinister black coupe angrily sliced through the air on its approach.

After a short jaunt northeast across CA-166, we turned right onto Cerro Noroeste Rd, or Forest Highway 95, which eventually bumps into heavily traveled Interstate 5. The road is one of the best driver's roads in the region, with banked curves and excellent visibility ahead. In the winter, storms dump snow and often close the pass - but under warm sunny skies it was nearly flawless. The V10 shrilled as it sucked up the thin mountain air above 6,000 feet elevation. Despite its aggressive workout, the digital water and temperature gauge didn't move a single pixel (credit the LFA's track-oriented dry sump system that allows the coupe to withstand sustained cornering forces in excess of two Gs and massive rear-mounted radiators with electric fans to cool vital fluids).

2012 Lexus LFA front 3/4 view

A quick detour to the driving summit of 8,847-foot Mt. Pinos gave my son and me one last look at the pine trees before the first snowfall. It also presented an opportunity to test the LFA's reflexes. The coupe's ground clearance is just 4.5 inches, which is lower than a Corvette ZR1. That means large pine cones, rocks and even semi-flattened squirrels are potential obstacles. No worries, as a quick electric steering ratio and just 2.3 turns lock-to-lock allow the lightweight LFA to make easy work of the nuisance impediments.

At the bottom of the mountain, we pulled into a Flying J Travel Plaza to grab a snack before heading across the street to the Shell station for yet another load of fuel.

California State Route 138 took us from Gorman to just north of Lancaster, located in the high Mojave Desert, during a 90-minute sprint. With an impressive 22-mile straightaway that disappears over the horizon, and unbelievably light traffic, the road is fast. The LFA seemed to enjoy the quickened pace. Despite outside temperatures climbing to nearly triple digits, the climate control blew ice cold.

2012 Lexus LFA driving

Still in Sport mode and enjoying manually shifting (it became natural quite quickly), passing occasional agricultural traffic was accomplished brutally fast thanks to the rev-happy V10. As expected from its naturally aspirated architecture, the engine prefers a bit of spooling before it delivers. Head-slamming passing acceleration is best accomplished after two quick pulls on the left paddle, thereby dropping the engine into fourth gear. When accomplished correctly, the slower vehicle disappears in a wake of blowing dust within seconds. High speed stability, in a vehicle that boasts a top speed just north of 200 mph, was expectedly laudable.

We arrived at In-N-Out Burger in Lancaster to meet Drew Phillips, Autoblog's esteemed photographer, a bit early. The appearance of the boisterous black LFA cleared a few customers out of the hamburger joint, and they gathered around to ask questions. The front fascia, coated with dead bugs smashed onto nearly every surface at high speed, is an entomologist's nightmare. It needed some serious cleaning before the photo shoot - I applaud Drew for bringing his detailing kit.

After shooting the car for a couple hours on a desolate desert road, the brilliant orange sky was soon replaced by darkness. We drove back to Palmdale for yet another tank of premium unleaded (we were burning fuel at the prodigious rate of about 10 miles per gallon during the drive). It was then time to strap ourselves back into the cockpit for the grinding 100-plus-mile freeway drive that would take us across six major Los Angeles arteries. We arrived home late and my son went to bed exhausted. I went back into the garage to sit in the warm LFA and mediate upon its existence.

2012 Lexus LFA rear 3/4 view

There are many ways to rationalize the Lexus LFA. It is undeniably a wondrous halo car, but far too rare and pricey to occupy any significant number of dealer showrooms for live traffic. It is also a compelling proof of concept, demonstrating Toyota Motor Corporation's engineering competency with composite manufacturing, lightweight platforms and engine technology. Lastly, it is an impressive supercar under the right conditions, but one whose performance slightly pales when pitted head-to-head against many of today's rivals.

After putting nearly 500 miles on this exotic, I'm endorsing all three of the aforementioned, but adding a fourth.

Unlike most other halo models, proof of concept vehicles and supercars, the Lexus LFA does not make any compromises. It is a pure single-mission driving machine seemingly very content in its very own niche. With the exception of the ho-hum navigation unit, every ounce of carbon-fiber, every square inch of Alcantara and every drop of titanium alloy is contributing to that narrowly focused objective. It is a single-purpose stimulant, formulated specifically to induce euphoria in the driver. Masterfully executed, it is not a supercar - it is a narcotic.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 423 Comments
      JohhnyDough
      • 3 Years Ago
      Having driven the LF-A on the track at a Lexus event, I will tell you that anyone that wants to cry foul about the price is narrow minded. This is an engineering exercise for Toyota, the price is irrelevant for you and I because face it, we can't afford it. Guess what? Those who can afford the car are millionaires, and they can do as they please cause they have the financial situation to back it up. The LF-A is just as the journalist from AutoBlog explained, a euphoric experience. Anyone with an ounce of adrenaline in their vains when it comes to cars will appreciate the awesome performance and otherworldly noise from the exhaust. Given the opportunity to drive this car, it's ruined me forever knowing I won't be able to experience it again, its that good.
        DiorGirl
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JohhnyDough
        You explain like its a drug and you need another hit...that sounds AWESOME, why won't they hold more events like that where I am :-\
        Saracen
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JohhnyDough
        Thank you, finally the right perspective.
        TexRob
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JohhnyDough
        See, the problem with that "if you can afford it, it doesn't matter" argument is that someone who could afford this, could also get a cheaper Ferrari + a GTR for better performance than the LFA, and the Ferrari for the exotic factor. Price does matter, even to people with a lot of money, it's stupid to think that it doesn't. They didn't get to be rich just throwing away their money. I am not implying that this car is a waste of money, I am saying it's awfully high if you compare it to cars that outperform it.
        miketim1
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JohhnyDough
        awesome comment Johhny. There are people on AB with common sense.
      kindion
      • 3 Years Ago
      I've been reading Autoblog for the last 3 or 4 years, and gradually phasing out magazines like Car and Evo. I like most of the stuff you guys write, but it sometimes lacks the literary and emotional finesse found in the articles of those mags. This review, however, finally puts the nail in the coffin for those publications. Thank you Michael Harley, for scripting a great piece of automotive journalism! You have elevated Autoblog.
        Michael Harley
        • 3 Years Ago
        @kindion
        I sincerely appreciate the very kind compliment. Thank you for reading Autoblog. - Mike
      Wes Mantooth
      • 3 Years Ago
      If only my dad pulled me out of middleschool/HS to get a ride in a 6 figure exotic car because as a 16 yr old i too could talk circles around a sales rep when it comes to an LFA, SLS, R8, M badged bimmer or any ferrari for that matter. regardless of whether the LFA is a tenth of a second quicker or slower in any performance category, just reading about the thrill of driving it can bring chills. that is the sign of a truly impressive automobile which belongs on the wishlist of any gear head. solid article , makes me want to buy a lottery ticket and dream
        Michael Harley
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Wes Mantooth
        Thanks Westley. Comments like yours are very rewarding -- the precise reason I write these stories. As you point out, the LFA is so little about the numbers and so much about the emotion. - Mike
        mrmoncure
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Wes Mantooth
        Well said. The joy in this man's writing can't help make you smile......and dream.
      tvelt92
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't think that the price is that big of a deal. For the one's who can afford it, you are buying a very unique piece of automotive engineering. It's also a very limited production car that is rare and bound to become very collectible some day. Honestly, who cares if the comparable ferrari or lambo is .5 seconds faster to 60 mph. If I had the money, I would undoubtedly buy one so that I could listen to that amazing exhaust note.
      adam512
      • 3 Years Ago
      The thing is this isnt meant for competition with other cars, Hence the price and limited production. Its a technological engineering excersise to see what the TOYOTA engineers can come up with, and Although it may not be the best looking best value or fastest supercar out their, One thing it does have which is very surprising for a japanese car. Is character and one of the most beautifully crafted engines and notes of any car on production. Enthusiasts should be happy this car is in excistence and people need to stop comparing it to FERRARIs and LAMBOs or the GT-R because thats not what it was built for!
      sc0rch3d
      • 3 Years Ago
      hands down, one of the most well written auto articles i've ever read. great job.
      Wyrmdog
      • 3 Years Ago
      Best. Dad. EVAR.
      MJC
      • 3 Years Ago
      Excellent photography! Good review too.
      mitytitywhitey
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm curious about it's on-road and on-track reliability compared to the Italians. If I had the money, would I choose the exotic that never left me stranded, caught fire, left me calling AAA from the side of the road (embarrassed). If I were a billionaire, I would definitely consider a supercar with Lexus-like reliability. I would gladly sacrifice a few tenths around the Nurburgring for that privilege. Besides, this car can fly around a track on crappy RE070s. Throw some PS Cups on it like the other exotics wear and watch Italians fall like dominos.
        Michael Harley
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mitytitywhitey
        Take a look at the pictures and note the odometer reading of 13,000+ miles! It felt, and drove, like it was brand new. I'm just going to throw this out... but we don't ever get to review a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Maserati with 13,000 miles on it. - Mike
          mitytitywhitey
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Thanks for the reply Mike Glad to see my suspicions are somewhat confirmed.
      wafflesnfalafel
      • 3 Years Ago
      It really is a technology demonstrator/engineer motivator project. They don't need to make money on it, nor make any appreciable volume. It's probably better for Lexus/Toyota to have the exclusivity that the $375,000 price tag causes. Is it me or does it look much better in black than all the shots of the white and yellow ones I have seen?
      Susan
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's not about the money - it's about the dream. Oh, and sex. This is a sexy machine sure to give you pure pleasure every time you get behind the wheel - that is, unless all your driving is on a freeway. Why bother?
      mrmoncure
      • 3 Years Ago
      Love the enthusiasm in the writer! I would love to have been his son and had this experience. For those of you who think this car should be pragmatic & sensible, you have missed the point. Supercars are like art. And I love hearing that Toyota's first go at it was a thing of beauty.
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