Full 2012 Lexus LFA Review
What's New for 2012
Customers can now buy a Lexus LFA for 2012; last year, the LFA was lease-only.
There's a good chance Bob Barker and Drew Carey won't be interested in the 2012 Lexus LFA. Considering this Lexus' $375,000 MSRP, the price is almost certainly not right. It's vastly more expensive than almost every exotic sports car, and its competitors are from manufacturers with decades of heritage and experience behind them. As such, the LFA had better be pretty incredible for it to warrant the enormous chunk of change its buyers will throw down for it.
Of course, the LFA is pretty incredible. We do give credit to Lexus in its mission to create the ultimate flagship sports car; the LFA abandons nearly all pretenses of being a Lexus luxury liner and instead checks off all the boxes needed to become an exotic. It all begins with carbon fiber. The chassis and body structure are constructed of this rigid, ultra-light stuff, as are most body panels, the steering wheel, the seats and various other bits and pieces. This not only explains in part why the LFA is so astronomically expensive, but also why Lexus was able to keep weight down to a paltry 3,263 pounds.
The reduction in weight makes the acceleration potential of its 4.8-liter V10 that much greater. Derived from Toyota's old Formula One race engine, this 552-horsepower power plant screams to a redline of 9,000 rpm -- and we do mean "screams." Despite this sky-high rev limit, though, the LFA's 354 pound-feet of torque is available relatively early, avoiding the sort of (somewhat) languid nature indicative of such peaky engines. The result is a car that boasts truly brutal acceleration.
The LFA has the handling capabilities to match the world's best, as well. The V10 is front-mounted but sits behind the front axle, essentially achieving a midengine layout and near-equal weight distribution. Lexus tuned the LFA at Germany's famed Nurburgring Nordschleife, and the result is a car that changes direction more quickly and with more poise than all but a scant few. The standard carbon-ceramic brakes are epic in their ability to bring the fun to a stop.
So the 2012 Lexus LFA has the ability to stun you with its incredible talents that can make Ferraris seem tame. However, there's just no getting around that price. We just can't see how the LFA is worth that much when the world also offers spectacular cars named 2012 Aston Martin DBS, 2012 Audi R8, 2012 Ferrari 599, 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia, 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo, 2012 McLaren MP4-12C, 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, 2012 Nissan GT-R and 2012 Porsche 911 Turbo. For the most part, you could buy a couple of those for the price of one LFA.
There's certainly a price to be paid for exclusivity and heaps of carbon fiber. And for well-heeled buyers, maybe cost won't matter much. But in our opinion, we think Lexus overbid.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Lexus LFA is a two-seat exotic sports car available in a single trim. Standard equipment includes 20-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, carbon-ceramic brakes, xenon headlamps with washers, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power seats, leather or Alcantara faux-suede upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth, and a 12-speaker sound system with a six-CD/DVD changer, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. A navigation system, rearview camera and premium Mark Levinson sound system are bundled together in the Configuration 2 package. "Configuration 3" has those items plus Lexus Enform emergency telematics, voice commands and real-time traffic and weather. There are also numerous special-order exterior paints and interior color schemes available.
Fifty LFAs will be made with the Nurburgring package, which includes a fixed rear wing, a large front spoiler, track-ready suspension, track tires, special wheels, quicker shift times and a 10-hp bump.
Powertrains and Performance
The Lexus LFA is powered by a front-mounted 4.8-liter V10 that screams to 9,000 rpm. It sends 552 hp and 354 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a six-speed single-clutch automated manual with four driving modes (Auto, Sport, Normal and Wet). In Edmunds performance testing, the LFA went from zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds -- a few ticks slower than the exponentially cheaper Nissan GT-R, and likely the more comparably priced Ferrari and McLaren as well. Nevertheless, it's blisteringly fast, and there's more to a car than 0-60 times.
The 2012 Lexus LFA comes with antilock carbon-ceramic brakes and traction and stability control. Also included are driver knee airbags and seatbelt airbags for both seats. In Edmunds brake testing, the LFA came to a stop from 60 mph in 106 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
In true Japanese form, the LFA's cabin has a high-tech, futuristic vibe to it. The ornate, digital gauges are the epitome of 21st-century cool, while the use of Lexus' smart electronics interface means the LFA isn't besmirched by the sort of compromised (and borderline awful) controls of other exotic sports cars. In true Lexus tradition, the cabin is also exquisitely built, though to an even greater degree that speaks to its hand-built construction. Thankfully, very few bits and pieces have been pilfered from the regular Lexus parts bin.
The LFA also manages to provide a driving position that caters to even those who are long of limb. The carbon-fiber, flat-bottomed wheel is special to the LFA, and is wrapped with soft leather only at the points where your hands are most likely to grip (3 and 9 or 2 and 10). The wheel is also home to the engine start button, and its column supports the metal paddle shifters.
Brutality. Intensity. Startling. Piercing. These are just some of the adjectives applied to the 2012 Lexus LFA's 4.8-liter V10 engine. If you were to ignore the tachometer and instead shift based on engine note, you'd likely upshift a good 3,000 rpm early.
Instead, you have to turn off any semblance of mechanical sympathy and make the V10 scream to its 9,000-rpm redline with the sort of ferocious cry indicative of an F1 car. The LFA's 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds may be a tad slower than the Ferrari Italia and McLaren MP4-12C, but they don't sing the same tune of irate Valkyrie as the LFA does. Of course, 3.9 seconds is still blazingly fast, and if anyone calls it slow, their last ride was probably either a Bugatti Veyron or the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Even more superlatives can be reserved for the LFA's handling. Grip is endless, body control is sublime, roll is nonexistent and the steering is incredibly accurate. Even the traction control will let you have some fun, while still being ready to save your bacon (and your $375,000 Lexus). With this handling, however, comes a rather punishing ride that prevents the LFA from serving the sort of grand touring duties as many other exotic sports cars.
Another downside is the transmission. While most exotics with automated manual gearboxes have multiple clutches, the LFA makes do with one. Shifts are consequentially slower, rougher and occasionally herky-jerky at low speeds.