Hello and welcome to Monaco. You join me at the wheel of the Lexus LFA.
When I first started writing about cars I knew I had everything to prove and everything to gain. The internet is awash with motoring blogsites filled with news and road tests and I knew, in order to get some street cred, I was going to need two things: 1. some experience on a paper publication, and I’m still currently writing for Kerb Motori, bi-monthly publication by EzPress based in Monza, Italy, and 2. experience with some serious cars.
I’ve gone through the whole process, I’ve worked my way up. I started with Peugeots, Renaults, and small Fiats. I remember, on a particularly cold September day, waking up at 2 AM (yeah, you read that correctly) to catch the first (at 3:30 AM) of four different trains that would eventually take me to Treviglio (Bergamo, Italy) where a Daihatsu was waiting for me. It was the fantastically fun Copen, ok, but still, it was quite gruelling. Then I started moving up in the world. I finally had my chance with a serious car. The Uaz Tigr, of course. But after years of small hatchbacks and the occasional sportscar, like the Lotus Elise for instance, I had the opportunity to take the almighty AMG C63 Estate for a spin. Since then, I have been able to enrich my portfolio with road tests of the Ferrari 458, the SLS AMG, the Tesla Roadster, a couple of Porsches, the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, and many others, but there’s always been something missing. I needed my Picasso. I needed my Avatar. I needed my Catcher in the Rye.
Then, in April 2014, the Lexus LFA.
Very few people in the world have owned and/or driven this car and the reason is simple. Actually, there are two reasons. One; it cost $375,000 when it was new and two; you can’t buy a new one anyway, because only 500 were made. Of course, a few of them have been damaged over the years, and so the price of second-hand LFAs will keep on rising.
Some car writers and fans have unceremoniously shunned the LFA and called it an “overpriced Celica”, a witty remark based on the fact that Lexus is the luxury vehicle division of Toyota. They’ve probably never driven the LFA because it is, by far, the best car I’ve ever driven and one of the most sensational and sensorial cars ever made. It demands respect and causes reverence. It is definitely striking. Low and wide, and it looks surprisingly compact. It is, after all, 4,5 M long which makes it longer than a VW Golf (4,2 M) but still a bit shorter than the Volvo V60 (4,6 M).
The styling is a paradigm of pragmatism and visual crudeness. This is not a cute car. It’s tough, it’s grumbling. It looks as though it has been styled with an axe and a hammer in the name of science, performance and efficiency. It’s a supercar in the practical sense of the term. A relentless quest to find automotive perfection. But then it would be, because the LFA has been endlessly tested at the Nürburgring until it was just about perfect.
Driving this car is such a joy, such a climax. It makes absolutely everything else here, in Monaco, look dull and pointless.
This car was destined to be unique and special from the get-go, it took 9 years to develop. It was actually ready after 5 years but just before they were due to put into production, the engineers decided it would be better if the body were made from carbon fibre and so they told Lexus, with a straight face presumably, that they were going to need some extra cash. A lot of cash. When the LFA finally went on sale in 2010, Lexus promptly stated that they were going to lose money on each car sold. Now it may as well have been a publicity stunt or marketing malarkey, or perhaps it was the truth, but either way, it tells a lot about the nature of this car.
The mighty Lexus is coarse, raw and beautiful. And despite the years it took to be ready, it’s not especially sophisticated. There’s a single clutch gearbox, so that gear changes feel more natural and crude, it has a 4,8 L V10 which develops 560 HP. The top speed is 326 kph (203 mph) and 0-100 takes 3,7 seconds.
It has been said that the LFA isn’t good looking. Personally, I think it’s spectacular, but whatever else you may think of it, it is definitely stunning and visually imposing.
Whichever way you look at it, it is not at all a perfect car and on paper, it’s very difficult to justify its steep price. It’s also quite thirsty, the fuel tank is quite small, there are no cup holders and the seatbelt is annoying but honestly? I couldn’t care less.
I’ve driven this car in Monaco during the Top Marques 2014 event, and it’s clear that the Lexus LFA is an event. It is the very embodiment of what a supercar should be. It’s a poster on a wall. Montecarlo, Principality of Monaco is well familiar with lavish lifestyle and supercars. Every day, any day of the year, no matter the weather, the streets of Monaco are brimming with rare, expensive, and exciting cars. Yet all eyes were on the LFA.
Red light. Amber. Green.
A white LFA. The Rascasse in Monaco. And the V10 echoes.
words & pictures by Alessandro Renesis