2011 Lexus LFA: 10 Things You Don't Know About the Supercar
Talking Shop With the LFA Engineers
By now you know plenty about the 2011 Lexus LFA.
You know that its body structure is made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. You know that its brakes have carbon-ceramic rotors. You know that its 4.8-liter V10 generates 552 horsepower. You probably even know that the 2011 Lexus LFA is capable of 202 mph.
But here are 10 things we bet you don't know.
Two separate ducts route intake noise into the firewall from the intake manifold, allowing two different octaves of engine music to penetrate the passenger compartment. As a result, the LFA's engine note dominates the driving experience.
Developed in conjunction with Yamaha's musical instrument division, engineers tuned the LFA's engine note the same way sound is tuned in an Ovation guitar. Uniquely shaped ribs in the intake manifold cover are designed precisely to produce a pleasing engine note.
It works, too. Even with a helmet on, the LFA's engine note penetrates your soul.
Even Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series champion Scott Pruett admits the LFA's carbon-ceramic brakes are completely bad-ass. Pruett — on hand for the car's U.S. introduction in Miami, Florida, and nearby Homestead-Miami Speedway to offer driving impressions (and give hell rides to people like us) — says the LFA's brakes are its most striking dynamic feature. In fact, he thought he was going to visit the gravel trap on his first ride in the car with one of its Japanese test drivers. "He drove it in hard and left the braking so late and I couldn't see any option but going off the track," said Pruett.
They stayed on the track and Pruett went on to more deeply appreciate the LFA's genuinely world-class braking ability when doling out his own torture to journalists later in the week.
Engine in the Front
Sunao Ichihara, LFA project manager, says the LFA's engine is in front of its driver compartment specifically so the car's limits are more approachable. A midengine design with the engine behind the passenger compartment offers higher dynamic limits. However, putting the car's handling character on the same level with the skill of most drivers has been a priority with the LFA, so the front-engine layout is crucial to the car's concept.
Ichihara also points out that the LFA's carbon structure and suspension go a long way in making up for the small compromise at the limit forced by the car's layout.
Thanks to its overall shape, underbody design and deployable rear wing (which raises at about 50 mph), the LFA generates at least 522 pounds of downforce at its top speed of 202 mph.
The LFA has it. Engineers have programmed the LFA's electronically controlled systems (throttle, clutch, etc.) to put down power aggressively when activated, yet the claimed 0-60-mph time of 3.6 seconds was recorded in perfect conditions without using the system.
Ichihara-san, however, couldn't say if the U.S. would get the system. Availability is being assessed in each market independently. Stability control, however, can be fully disabled.
Insanely Low Center of Mass
Look carefully at the underhood shots of the LFA and you'll notice that its engine's cam covers are below the tops of its wheels. This is due to the fact that its power plant features a dry-sump lubrication system. Since there's no need for a large, space-consuming oil pan, the mill is literally sitting inches off the ground. This contributes to a low center of gravity, just 17.8 inches off the pavement. Not bad in a package which is only 48 inches tall to begin with.
Other packaging firsts? Rather than being directly driven off the crankshaft, the driveshaft is driven by a counter gear before it transmits the power to the rear-mounted transaxle. This allows the driveshaft to be packaged higher in the center tunnel within the carbon-fiber unibody. In turn, the engine's exhaust manifolds collect just forward of this tunnel, so each exhaust pipe can be stacked, one above the other, below the driveshaft but above the floor of the car. As a result, you get a smoother, more aerodynamic floorpan. This arrangement also yields gear reduction at the counter gear, which allows in turn for a stronger pinion gear in the rear differential. The differential, by the way, is a Torsen limited-slip unit.
The LFA's 4.8-liter 1LR-GUE V10 is smaller in every dimension than Toyota's 3.5-liter V6, but it makes twice as much power (some 552 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque). To do so, the engine uses titanium rods and valves, which helps permit a maximum speed higher than 9,000 rpm (fuel cut is 9,500 rpm). Surprisingly, though, the engine lacks direct injection. This, according to Paul Williamsen, national manager of Lexus College, is because the engine has been developed in part by Toyota Motorsports — the same outfit which develops Toyota's Formula 1 engines, which use traditional port-type fuel injection.
"The engine only had to accommodate this single application," said Williamsen. "So optimizing the placement of the [port] fuel injectors to meet all the goals was possible." Certainly the company could have produced a direct-injected engine, but it simply wasn't necessary.
Tachometer Done Right
With a single gauge — the tachometer — dominating its instrument cluster and a completely solid-state design, Lexus has done this highly functional detail right. Utilizing a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display, the same as found in some laptop computers, Lexus has given the tachometer the ability to change its look depending on which driving mode is selected.
In Automatic mode, the tachometer is at its most benign and utilizes small digits when the car is doing the shifting itself. Switch to Normal mode and the numbers increase in size and boldness. Change to Sport mode and the entire look of the tach changes — its face swaps from black to white, the redline is moved closer to the top of the gauge and its numbers are even more stark. A pre-redline warning can be set to illuminate the whole tachometer in green just before redline.
Ridiculous Customization Possibilities
Because every LFA will be built to order (you can place your order right now via phone), Lexus allows the color of every piece which is painted, coated or covered in leather to be selected by its owner.
That means the body, seats, door panels, steering wheel leather, wheels and brake calipers can all be customized. In total, there are more than 30 billion custom possibilities. For only 500 cars.
Stupid Fast, Even in Sissy Mode
The only way anyone (including Pruett) at the LFA's media introduction was allowed to drive the LFA was with the stability control (VDIM in Toyota-speak) in Sport mode. This significantly restricts the information available about the car's true limits and denies any opportunity to observe its balance unencumbered by the electronic overlords.
However, even with this restraint in place, it's clear that the LFA is one smoking-fast track machine. Its steering is true, its brakes are outrageous and its engine is wildly flexible.
And, as discussed, its sound is straight from heaven.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.