The Lexus LFA isn’t getting the respect it deserves. “It costs too much”, they unimaginatively opine. “The shifts are too abrasive”, they continue. Was anyone this harsh on the ultra-expensive hypercars of the early part of the past decade? The Porsche Carrera GT, the Mercedes McLaren SLR, and the Ferrari Enzo have all occupied a similar stratum in motor car society; yet they all received near universal praise, despite their monumental costs. They were also all European offerings. So why isn’t the Lexus LFA, the first Japanese car in decades to even attempt the crown, being mentioned in the company its engineering justly deserves?
Because it needs 50 more horsepower. At least. A hundred horsepower more would move the game on that much more.
All of those European wonders that you see pictured, launched between 2002 and 2004, boasted in excess of 600hp. Somewhere between 612 and 651, to be exact. The Lexus LFA? Only 552. I refuse to admit that eking out 600+ horsepower was an unachievable feat for Lexus while making the carbon fibre A-pillars with one of the world’s two rotary textile looms was feasible. I mean, if you’re going to make an engineering masterpiece, make sure people notice it. People notice two things, performance figures and appearance. If the performance figures are suitably impressive, people will even forgive appearance (eg. Gumpert Apollo); and if the appearance is suitably impressive, people will forgive the performance aspects (eg. Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione). Considering a design that could most generously be described as a grower, more power would have gone a long way towards making the Lexus the envy of the car enthusiast community.
I understand that there is only so much horsepower that is useable in normal circumstances, but when making such an irrational purchase, numbers matter. Otherwise all city-dwellers would drive Golf GTIs because of their perfect balance of practicality and useable driver enjoyment. When you place that Lexus keyfob down on the bar at the W Hotel, it would be nice to have the numbers to back up your decision to buy a Toyota product instead of an Aston Martin DB9 and a Ferrari 458 Italia. Without those regurgitatable numbers, it would appear to casual observers that the LFA is grossly overpriced. Which is fine, except that it isn’t overpriced at all. Like the Bugatti Veyron and the Volkswagen Phaeton, two other cars of Homeric engineering pedigree, the LFA loses millions of dollars for its parent company. Yet, they all three exist because of the tireless push of a single man within each company.
For its engineering and attention to detail, the Lexus LFA deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Bugatti that takes its name from the winner of the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s that good. But without 50 (or 100) more horsepower, it will never be bestowed the credit it rightly deserves. Instead, when you think of all the amazing high-performance cars you’d like to own one day, you will likely skip over the enigmatic Lexus LFA. Perhaps it will take a James Glickenhaus-like wallet and Pininfarina to turn the LFA into the car it deserves to be.