I started writing about cars ten years ago and I’ve done the whole thing. The endless stream of cheesy metaphors, thesaurus synonyms and epitomes. The internet is awash with blogs and car mags and I never had any ambition to become the best or anything like that. I just wanted to be on board. I just wanted a way in. I’ve worked my way up. I started with Peugeots, Renaults, and small Fiats. I remember waking up in the dead of night, on a particularly cold September day, and catching four different regional trains to reach an uneventful small town in Northern Italy to drive a Daihatsu Copen.
I’ve been fortunate enough to drive a bit of everything, including some shocking cars, the Uaz Patriot and the Renault Megane CC spring to mind, and some wonderful ones, like the Noble M600 and the Ferrari 488 GTB for example. Then, in April 2014, I reached a high high that I’m 99.9 % confident I’ll never be able to top, or indeed match: I drove the Lexus LFA.
The LFA is a well known story in the supercar segment. For starters it was built by Toyota using the Lexus marque, a brand that had never before (and after) done anything even remotely similar. It is also rare, only 500 ever built, and expensive, with a price tag of $375,000 when it was new. The price for pre-owned LFAs has been rising steadily for years and I don’t see it going down anytime soon.
When it first debuted, some people called it an “overpriced Celica”, a witty remark based on the fact that Lexus is the luxury vehicle division of Toyota. They all stopped doing that pretty quickly because the LFA has been unanimously and summarily pronounced a masterpiece. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, loved it. Yes, no cup holders and no phone connectivity. So what? I heard stories about the seatbelt being difficult to do up but I never had that problem, even though I must admit that the fact that I’m not exactly a giant helped.
The LFA is low and wide, and it looks surprisingly compact. It is 4.5 mt in length, which makes it marginally longer than a VW Golf but shorter than a Volvo V60. It is also a bit raw, in terms of styling. It looks like it was carved from a solid block of carbon fibre with a hammer, which is more or less exactly what happened. 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. They started from scratch, built the car from carbon fibre and then tweaked every little detail to perfection.
When the LFA finally went on sale in 2010, Lexus promptly stated that they were going to lose money on each car sold. I’ve never understood why car makers say this, maybe they think it sounds cool, which it probably does, but whatever. It’s tremendous. There’s a single clutch gearbox, because Lexus engineers maintain this is better, and there’s a 4.8-litre V10 producing 560 hp. The top speed is 203 mph and 0-60 takes 3.7 takes.
It all sounds good and jolly but I’m not sure we should care because you don’t buy this car by the pound, you buy ‘by the decibel’. The sounds is by far and away the best thing about it. It’s just something else.
I drove this car in Monaco at the 2014 Top Marques and as I was pulling up at the hotel to give it back to its owner, I thought to myself “there’s no way I’ll ever drive a better car”. There are a lot of great cars I haven’t driven. The Huayra, for example. Or the Veyron. So I guess at some point I might change my mind. But I haven’t so far, and I’m not sure I ever will
this post was previously published on my tribe Game Changers on Drivetribe