Earlier this week, Lexus signed off the final LFA at its dedicated Motomachi plant in Toyota City. It ended a production life of just two years, during which time Lexus sold 500 LFA supercars produced at the rate of just one car per day, with 50 of these being the Nürburgring Package version.
Lexus describe the moment as ‘farewell’ rather than ‘goodbye’ saying in their press release that “This marks the end of production for Lexus very first supercar.”
But we’ve seen it before haven’t we? Despite the illustrious motorsport achievements of Japanese car makers, they seem to ‘dabble’ in and out of the performance car genre. Unlike Porsche, which next year celebrates the 50th anniversary of its 911, Honda, Toyota and even Nissan have all at some point reached for the stars, only to disappear back into obscurity after a few years of production.
It all began in February 2000, when TMC Chief Engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi’s idea for a Toyota supercar received the nod from his boss, Tetsuo Hattori. Development began almost immediately, but over the next few years the project came close to being killed with rumours of the production car’s breakeven costs being much higher than its retail price.
* * *
Lexus LFA A Symphony Of Sound
Back in December 2009, we decided to create a video which would convey the appeal of the LFA’s greatest asset – its 4.8-litre V10 engine. We captured several detail images of the LFA, combined these with the sound clips made by Lexus Japan and blended them into a simple 1:25 minute video that’s clocked up 1.15 million views on YouTube – making it the most popular solo LFA video on the web.
Even more remarkable is the overriding sentiment expressed by those who’ve viewed it, recording 2,240 likes, 105 dislikes and 1,072 comments. We don’t often produce videos these days, but when we do, they’re pretty popular..
One of the goals we sought to prove is that for a video to go ‘viral’ it doesn’t need a mouthy presenter, nor an exotic location – the role of a good editorial is to connect with the thoughts and feelings of an audience. Sometimes all this requires is a bullet cam and a microphone.
* * *
2000 was the same year in which Toyota entered Formula One, building its very first V10 engine, and setting out on a decade of frustrating competition before closing down at the end of 2009.
Fast forward to 2005 Lexus were running two LF-A concepts, a conventional version powered by a high-revving V10 engine and a hybrid based on the LS600h’s 388bhp 5.0-litre V8 combined with an electric motor. Power was rumoured to be close to 500bhp, making the LF-A the world’s first hybrid supercar.
Tanahashi’s goal was an all-aluminium supercar, but during testing around the Nürburgring Nordschleife engineers found the LF-A wasn’t quick enough. The decision was taken to shed around 100kg from the LF-A’s body, replacing aluminium with carbon fibre, but this moved an already tenuous project into the realms of unfeasible.
The projected sticker price of $100,000 increased to $375,000 (£336,000 here in the UK) and the hybrid powerplant was dropped.
In 2009 the production car was unveiled, simply called ‘LFA’ (Lexus Future Advance). The Roadster version unveiled at the 2008 Detroit motor show would never reach production, but 50 of the lighter and more powerful Nürburgring Package version was produced and for two weeks last year was the fastest road-legal production car around the ‘ring – with a time of 7:14.64 minutes.
It seems unfeasible that Lexus will merely end the LFA’s story on December 15th 2012, although Japan’s last supercar – the Honda NSX – met with a similar fate (thankfully soon to be reborn phoenix-like in 2014), but we’ve already seen Lexus sports car future and it look promising – in the hands of either LF-LC or LF-CC concept cars.
LFA chief engineer, Haruhiko Tanahashi said at the closing ceremony this week, “I’ve lived and breathed supercars for the past decade. Specifically one supercar, LFA. Very few people have the opportunity we had to create a world-class supercar from a blank sheet of paper.”
In honour of the last ever LFA, Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda visited the production plant, where he was seen sitting quietly in LFA #500 – a white Nürburgring Package version car.
It was clearly an emotional event for Toyoda and the 170 hand-picked takumi workers who made the LFA, so it’s reassuring to read the following official statement:
“Future Lexus vehicles will reflect the technological skills gained during the development and production of the LFA — in particular manufacturing know-how for carbon fibre reinforced plastic parts — as well as a philosophy of car design for delivering exhilarating and stimulating driving performance.”
* * *
FURTHER READING: The Truth About Cars (TTAC) published a revealing interview with Tanahashi earlier this year.
* * *