The V10 engine in a Lexus LFA revs from idle to the red line in just 0.6 of a second.That’s so fast, the engineers had to fit a digital rev-counter because a conventional needle couldn’t keep up.
Toyota says that, for perfect handling, 52 per cent of the weight should be over the rear axle. As a result, the LFA’s radiators and battery are at the back. So, too, is the washer bottle.
Pictures: Justin Leighton/Lee Brimble
This feature first appeared in Top Gear magazine
It has a single-plate flappy-paddle gearbox. The changes are slow and savage. But each time it shifts cogs, it feels like Mr Muscle Man has walloped you in the back. With a sledgehammer. This gives drivers a sense that they really are in a racing car.
The body may look conventional, but there’s genuine aero here. As I discovered at Willow Springs in California recently, the faster you go, the more grip you have.
There are sound tubes that feed the roar of the engine’s induction directly into the cockpit. And there’s a woman in the boot who can find you the nearest Japanese/Euro fusion restaurant. I love the LFA a lot. So much, that I recently described it as the best car I’ve ever driven.
Naturally, this caused both Hammond and May to scoff very loudly. Mainly because – as they kept pointing out – it costs £359,590. That’s nearly five times more than a Nissan GT-R which, if anything, is even more technical. It’s way more, too, than a Ferrari 458 or a Merc SLS. It is, they argued, a stupid price.
But they’re wrong. Arguing that the LFA is too expensive is like arguing that, at £100 billion, the Mona Lisa is too expensive. Or saying that there’s no point buying a £20 million Henry Moore sculpture when, for just a fiver, you could buy a nice stone otter from an Oxfam shop.
With a car like the LFA, price is not relevant. Because it’s just a tech fest. A howling, thrusting, tyre-squealing arrowhead of industrial-grade showing off. It belongs in a collector’s climate-controlled garage, as an example of the moment. It is emphatically not a car you are actually going to buy and use. If you do, you may find that, from time to time, it’s a bit annoying.
Because, in among all the glorious detail and the sense it was designed by engineering psychopaths, there are some small issues. All of which reared their heads on a short trip to the pub last month.
The increasingly earnest BBC news teams were advising motorists to stay at home and not go out unless the journey was “absolutely necessary”. But it was necessary. I wanted some lunch. And anyway, it was a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky, and, on the ground, a light sprinkling of Jack Frost hardened snow.
So, I climbed into the LFA and, 10 minutes later, with a cricked neck, a punctured lung and a twisted gut, I had managed to fasten the desperately fiddly seatbelt. Ten minutes after that, I had overcome the enormous turning circle by executing a 77-point turn, and was finally pointing in the right direction. But I wasn’t going anywhere, because the race-inspired tyres were struggling quite badly with the icy gravel.
I therefore undid the seatbelt, broke out the shovels, and the blow torch and the bits of sacking. And 10 minutes later, I was back in the cockpit, hungry from all the exertions and looking forward to my lunch. Ten minutes after that, I had done up the seatbelt again. And I was off.
To quench my thirst, I reached into the door pocket for a refreshing can of fizzy pop and took a slug. And then noted there was no cupholder. But that wasn’t the end of the world, because the Lexus has a fuel tank exactly seven per cent smaller than the fuel tank on a Zippo lighter.
I therefore grazed the nose going into the petrol station, undid my seatbelt, deposited the mostly full can of zesty drink in a bin, filled up with 0.3 litres of V-Power, got back in, and, after a brief 10-minute gap during which I did up my seatbelt, I dragged the low nose onto theroad again. And set off.
Zigzagging furiously. Most odd. I’d driven this exact car before, in the summer, in Yorkshire, and it tracked straight and true. But since then, somebody in overalls has made a small change to the undersides – Tyres? Camber? – and as a result, it simply followed every small groove in the road, irrespective of what I did with the wheel.
To take my mind off the problem, I turned on the excellent Mark Levinson stereo and selected DAB. Which wasn’t working. And then it was time for some more petrol.
After this and another punctured lung from doing up the seatbelt, the road opened out and I put the hammer down. Soon, I was doing 70mph, and my ears started to bleed. Because at this speed, the engine is howling at 3,000rpm. You crave a seventh gear in an LFA, but there isn’t one.
You also crave a bit more space in the boot. Because any suitcase has to be fitted in the space behind the seats. Which means you can’t see anything out of the rear-view mirror. Which is why I didn’t spot the approaching police car.
After a bit of finger-wagging, I set off once more with the radio crackling and the engine howling and the tyres following the grooves left by snowploughs. Until eventually, I ended up at the snowplough depot. This is where all LFA drivers will end up, if a man in an overall has been underneath with a spanner.
Eventually, though, I made it to the pub where I had what had become supper, and I gave the LFA a bit of thought…
With the possible exceptions of a V8 Ariel Atom or a Caterham R500, I cannot think of any car which makes going to the pub on a crisp winter’s day such a chore. For Willow Springs? Yes. For that road which twists up into the hills outside Palm Springs? Yes again. But for going from Chipping Norton to The Kingham Plough for some snails and mushrooms on toast? No. You’d be better off jogging. However, I will not change my mind about this car. I still believe it’s the best I’ve ever driven.
Because, for just a few quid, you could buy a picture to hang over your mantelpiece. It might even be quite nice. But that doesn’t stop you dreaming about owning Turner’s priceless Rain, Steam and Speed.
It’s old. It’s cracked. It’s fuzzy and the insurance would be huge. But what would you rather have? That? Or The Crying Boy? Hammond and May would go for The Crying Boy. But I have a soul, which is why I wouldn’t.