Used 2012 Lexus LFA
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2012 Lexus LFA is a technological tour de force that's capable of thrilling performance. But it will be interesting to see if it can successfully command such an equally exotic asking price.
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.
2012 Lexus LFA configurations
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
If you want a measure of just how far the supercar art has come in the last generation, consider this: When safety concerns closed the gates of the old Nurburgring to top-level racing back in 1983, the lap record stood at 6 minutes, 25 seconds. It was set by Stefan Bellof, one of the brightest talents of his or any other era, driving a purpose-built Porsche 956 Group C racecar weighing less than 1,750 pounds, powered by a 650-horsepower engine and wearing huge slick tires and utilizing full ground effects.
Now, however, if you have a reasonable idea of which way its 140-odd turns go and are not a complete idiot at the wheel, you could get in this new Lexus, go around the same circuit and be back before Bellof had time to do much more than take his helmet off.
No, the 2013 Lexus LFA with the new Nurburgring package is not quite the fastest road car ever to lap the 12.9-mile circuit in the Eifel mountains, but when you consider it comes with normal treaded tires rather than the lightly cut slicks some rivals wear, its seven-minute, 14-second lap gives you some idea of its potential.
More of Everything, Please
To turn an LFA which, let's not forget, is still a rare and special thing, into one fit for the 'Ring, Lexus has taken an approach not dissimilar to that Porsche adopts when turning a 911 GT3 into a GT3 RS. There's no single huge change to grab the headlines, just a thorough reworking of the car from end to end.
Most obvious is the new aerodynamic package. It consists of a far deeper carbon front spoiler, balanced at the back by a large fixed rear wing in place of the standard car's extendable item. At the sides you'll notice small winglets have sprouted ahead of the front wheel arches, to give the 2013 Lexus LFA some extra front-end bite through the Nurburgring's many fast corners. Harder to see are revised side skirts, designed to better control the flow of air from front to rear.
At each corner you'll find new forged aluminum wheels covered by Bridgestone tires of the same size as the standard car, but made of a different compound, construction and tread pattern more suited to the hostile environment of the racetrack but still perfectly sensible in all but monsoon conditions on the road.
What is more difficult to see is that the whole car has been dropped by 10mm to lower its center of gravity and reduce airflow under the car. It isn't obvious by looking, however, that the engine is tuned to produce another 11 hp and the gearbox has been coaxed into shaving 0.05 second off the shift times.
Lexus freely admits the purpose of the extra power is simply to offset the additional drag that was an almost inevitable consequence of adding 30 percent more downforce to the car — so it still needs 3.7 seconds to hit 62 mph and top speed remains 202 mph.
No prizes for guessing where Lexus decided to introduce us to its newest, maddest motor. We're grateful for one sighting lap in a stock LFA. Not only does it give us a reference point against which to judge the new car, but having not raced at the 'Ring for eight years it was useful to be reminded which way the track went.
As we drop down into the driver's cell of the new car, several things occur at once. There's very little to the simple, stylish interior and it's all the better for it. There's none of the confusing clutter you find in Ferraris these days. The replacement of all the leather with either Alcantara or carbon fiber works well, but its new super-thin race seats are just a touch too figure-hugging for us.
The man on the gate waves us through without a second glance. He's been doing this all day. We have not. Here we are, 571-hp supercar at our command, and the entire length of the world's longest, greatest racetrack to ourselves. When we die, this is what we hope heaven looks like.
We flick the controller into Sport, dial up the quickest transmission map and turn off the electronic safety nets. Then common sense sets in and we turn them back on again.
Like Jerry Maguire
It's got you before the first corner. Show me someone who can listen to this engine shriek to 9,000 rpm without a deep emotional response and we will show you someone in urgent need of a hearing aid. In the last couple months we've driven the Ferrari FF, Lamborghini Aventador and Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0. And, aurally at least, the 2013 Lexus LFA's Yamaha-designed V10 has the lot licked.
Now we're into the tricky turns at the start of the lap. There's clearly more grip, but something else, too: Even given its higher limits, this LFA is easier to drive than the standard car.
The track opens out into a section so fast it might even be quicker than the main straightaway if we could remember where it went. The extra power isn't apparent, but as the car steams through curves and over crests at more than 150 mph, it feels more settled and stable as the wings, suspension and tires work together to help maintain its attitude.
All the fabled corners come and go: the Foxhole, Adenau Forest, Bergwerk and then the rocket up the hill to the horrible Karussel. It is a tribute to this car that we're able to drive it this hard on a track so dangerous and faded from memory. It doesn't make it easy for you, but it's a damn sight more accommodating than you have any right to expect from such a powerful and ferocious thing.
And then we're into the section that confused us even when we used to spend several weekends a year here. This is the part of the track the cameras never reach because it's so far from the pits, where the road never runs straight for more than a second or two, combining 30 or 40 turns into one bewildering ride. If we're going to throw it off, it will be here.
But it takes care to treat us right — the constant twinkle of its traction control light evidence that it's working as hard as we are. And then there's a right-hand curve from which you are spat at around 100 mph onto a straight stretching seemingly to the horizon. The LFA gets to 180 mph easily enough but you can now feel the big wing holding it back.
The kink under the bridge should be flat but we've not been away so long to have forgotten the merciless bumps awaiting those who inadvertently stray offline. We lift, streak through at 170 mph and curse for not going faster.
The next lap is a little quicker but toward the end it's clear the tires are less keen than we are to continue, so we dawdle down the straight at an inconsequential 140 mph and think about this machine.
On one side, there's no denying you could buy a ZR1 Vette for a fraction of the money and go pretty much as fast. Does that knowledge make the Nurburgring LFA less special? Not to us. It's not just about how fast you go, but how you go fast. More important is the way it's built, the way it delivers its performance, the sound it makes and its ability to involve its driver in every action. The 2013 Lexus LFA stands out as an ultra-rare piece of precision engineering. And if that's your thing and you can afford it, it's worth buying even at its crazy price — not least because you'll be one of just 50 people on earth who will have that opportunity.
Personally, we'd save a fortune and have just as much fun going hardly any slower in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, but that probably says as much about us as the LFA.
Ultimately, this isn't a car for a hooligan. It's for someone who appreciates (and can pay for) the finer things in life — the sort of person who'll happily spend $10,000 on a Swiss chronograph knowing it hasn't a hope of keeping time as well as a bit of battery-powered junk costing 1,000 times less. It is a car for connoisseurs and collectors.
And they, we think, will love it forever.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
Used 2012 Lexus LFA Overview
The Used 2012 Lexus LFA is offered in the following submodels: LFA Coupe. Available styles include 2dr Coupe (4.8L 10cyl 6AM).
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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Lexus LFA?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.