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Published 04 October 2012 04:19, Updated 21 November 2012 08:24
Like Marty McFly in the Back to the Future films, I have driven a car into the future.
Not my future, Lexus’s. I have piloted the LFA supercar through the twists and turns of the present, across the potholes and broken pavement of now into the brighter tomorrow imagined by its creators.
And let me tell you, I had so much fun I want to go back.
But that won’t be easy. There are only ever going to be 500 of these cars in the world and there are only 10 in Australia.
That means I probably have a better chance of regaining my youth than slipping behind the wheel of another one. And with a list price of $700,000, they have been offered only to people willing to slap down a lazy $1 million to get them on the road.
So if you fancy yourself in one of these, it may have to be in your imagination.
The LFA was never meant to be a production car. So far it has been a 10-year project to prove to the doubters that the actuaries of the car world can make a jaw-dropping, slap-in-the-face supercar.
Be that as it may, it still bears the Lexus name. If it was called the Night Vixen LFA, or even the Big Red Car LFA, it would have less stigma attached and would be seen for what it is, a stunning piece of automotive engineering.
The truth is that behind the badge lurks a highly strung, screaming wildcat.
The naturally aspirated 4.8 litre V10 is the size of a V8 and weighs about as much as a V6, yet it pumps out 412kW (560hp) of power and 480Nm of torque at 7800rpm. But 90 per cent of that torque becomes available from just 3700rpm, which is low given how high this thing revs.
The engine was developed in concert with Yamaha, which has plenty of experience with small, high-revving engines. It can go from idle to red line at 9000rpm in an astonishing 0.6 seconds, which is why the rev counter had to be digital – an analogue needle just can’t keep up with that sort of madness.
I tootled around the winding roads of the Royal National Park outside Sydney, so while I didn’t get to experience the beast unleashed on tyre-smoking race track laps, I did get to feel how it handles tight corners and potentially unsettling ragged bitumen. I won’t admit to anything else.
When you first climb into the cabin and nestle into the solid leather seat, you feel as if you need a racing harness and helmet. Instead, it’s a lap-sash seatbelt with an incorporated airbag because the roof’s so close, a side curtain airbag would break your neck.
Hit the carbon fibre start button on the carbon fibre and leather steering wheel and when the engine fires, so do your nerve ends.
To get the fine balance necessary to achieve great handling, the battery, transmission, radiator and windscreen fluids are behind the seats in the rear for weight distribution. Add in a body made of 65 per cent carbon fibre, 35 per cent aluminium alloy, with an emphasis on controlling air flow, the package becomes seriously stunning to drive.
The noise and abruptness of the gear change in the six-speed automated sequential gearbox adds to the scream of the exhaust and creates an aural theatre that pumps up the heart rate in seconds.
Gear-shift speeds can be adjusted in seven stages from about 0.2 of a second for the track to 1.0 second for cruising. Add in the stiff suspension, ultra-sharp throttle response, rear-wheel drive and really solid steering and the whole of the road talks to you through to your body.
Stopping the package are carbon ceramic discs with lightweight calipers that are nothing short of phenomenal.
While its 3.7 second sprint to 100km/h is a little pedestrian in manic supercar terms, the 325kmh/h top speed isn’t. But that’s not really the point of the LFA.
The aim is the true enjoyment of driving. You don’t have to pilot it at race speeds to get the thrill – the noise and excitement is all there in the cabin.
And more importantly, it’s a kind of test bed for things that will filter down to other models. For example, during the development of the LFA, the engineers took time out to help with the creation of the updated GS series.
The next step in the Lexus supercar story, a 370kW-plus, all-wheel-drive hybrid concept coupe, will be on show for the first time anywhere in the world at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney this month.
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