The Lexus LFA represents one of those exceedingly rare opportunities for enthusiasts to watch a car company reinvent itself. And it’s no coincidence that the project that drives the reinvention is a supercar. A supercar incorporating nearly everything the car company knows, but more importantly driving the development of new technologies and showcasing what the engineers are truly capable of, not what they are limited to.
There are a few other examples in the industry where supercars led the way. Some might consider the Viper one of these, and while the car has certainly earned legendary status, the engineering and build quality of the original car was just one step above that of a good kit car. Another might be the Corvette, but this has been a regular production model for over 50 years and only rarely shows what the company is truly capable of. The ZR1 and Z06 packages certainly highly the engineering capability, but the Cavalier-quality interior and terrible ergonomics show the reality of the budget. Perhaps the upcoming C7 will highlight the true capabilities of the engineers (and the management team driving them)? And then there is the Ford GT, with noble intents and a storied history, that ended up shaming the company from engineering failures and contributed to the downfall of SVT as an independent unit and most likely contributed to the premature demise of its leader OJ Coletti.
But back to Lexus, and the limited production LFA. Better than just being a hero of the Nurburgring (both in lap times and during the years of its participation in 24 hour endurance races there as part of the development process), perhaps even more intriguing is which technologies will appear in regular production Lexus products. Certainly the carbon fiber manufacturing process will. Perhaps the V-10 engine will appear in a limited production sports sedan – although Lexus suggests it is highly unlikely. Only time will tell… time after the rest of the company under the able leadership of Akio Toyoda, President and CIO of Toyota, comes up to full speed. Hopeful signs abound, such as the upcoming Toyota 86 (aka the production FT-86, weighing in at perhaps2600 pounds and with as much as 200 HP and 150 torque on a very lightweight and low-CG chassis) and discussion of a new Supra and MR-2. And hopefully they will not forget the money-making volume cars: the new Camry is particularly boring and doesn’t stand out in its segment.
So while Toyota shows great potential, there is much more work to be done.