Lexus' LFA supercar is, or was, the most exclusive vehicle ever built by the world's largest automobile manufacturer – only 500 of the exotic carbon fiber 200 mph V10s will be sold at US$375,000 apiece. Now the racetrack-focused "LFA Nürburgring Package" is set to be revealed. Only 50 such 562 bhp vehicles will be produced with revised aerodynamics and technical refinements designed to fine-tune the exotic two-seat sports coupe to be capable of lapping the fabled Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit under 7:20. Now the average Gomer needs more than just a wad of cash, industrial-sized gonads and a sweet handling, brutally powerful car to get around the "Green Hell" inside eight minutes, let alone seven twenty, so the price includes special instruction sessions on the circuit into the bargain. The car can be had in white, orange or black at US$445,000 or in and matte black for US$465, 000, making it the most expensive Japanese road car ever.
The price also includes a nights accommodation at the circuit, a special jacket which will signify the wearer as one of the 50 to have lived the experience, and a one-year pass to the circuit so you can work on your lap times.
The Nürburgring Package LFA will be displayed in public for the first time at the Geneva motor show a fortnight from now and as there will only be 50 sold, may we suggest you contact your Lexus dealer right now if you want one.
If your perspective on Japanese sports cars is that they won't cut it compared to the best the Germans, Italians and British have to offer, THINK AGAIN. Nissan's GTR has already demonstrated that Japanese cars can do the business without a premium price tag, though it isn't Lexus' intention to subsidise the buying price too much.
Rumor has it that the decade long development campaign could not possibly be amortized effectively across just 500 cars and no matter how they juggle the numbers, each LFA cost a lot more to develop and build than the mere US$375,000 you're being asked to part with.
In time such as this, it's really only possible to think of the LFA as a frightfully expensive promotional exercise designed to build some brand value in the elite sporting category.
There is no doubt that Lexus could charge more for the vehicle – it's aim is to have the 500 cars all out there, all being driven, all with identical purchase pricing, and with an ownership experience second to none.
It's strange, but the LFA's raw numbers don't do it justice. It only has 552 bhp standard, and weighs in at over 1500 kg, so it's not a vehicle you'd immediately think would be a racetrack weapon in standard trim. The chief engineer on the project, Haruhiko Tanahashi mentioned during the release at the Nürburgring in Germany last year that the LFA had lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife in "better than 7 minutes 20 seconds."
This was not a mere passing remark. Toyota (aka Lexus) had no sportscar heritage to rely upon when, a decade ago, it set out to develop a car deep inside Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin territory. As the sportiest car Toyota had ever produced was the Supra, it had no real experience in the supercar area and hence began from scratch, purchasing benchmark cars from the logical competitors (Porsche and Ferrari among them) and plotting what it needed to do to produce something capable of making enthusiasts take notice.
At that stage, Toyota was just about to enter Formula One and ridiculous amounts of money were being earmarked for the company's assault on the pinnacle of motorsport. More than a billion U.S. dollars was spent prior to turning a Formula One wheel in 2002, and around US$500 million a year was spent for many years for no worthwhile result whatsoever. It was for many years the best funded team in F1, with budgets far greater than Ferrari, McLaren or Williams.
By comparison, a soft drink company in the form of Red Bull has completed six years of Formula One, spent less than half the money Toyota did, and has one manufacturers title and one drivers title, 15 race wins, 20 pole positions and 12 fastest laps – Toyota spent nine years for three pole positions and three fastest laps. No team in Formula One history has spent more money per point than Toyota and the Global Financial Crisis enabled it to withdraw without too great a loss of face in 2009.
The LFA was expected to be able to ride on the expected success of the Formula One effort where no expense was being spared but the results never came, putting further emphasis on what would eventually become the main benchmark by which Toyota could establish the LFA's sporting credentials – the ability to set a blistering Nurburgring lap time.
Now the LFA is a supercar into which extraordinary resources have been invested. The way in which Yamaha's musical knowhow was utilised to pipe the sound of the V10 motor to the ears of the driver is just another example of the extent to which Lexus obsessed over the machine BUT, the LFA spent a lot of time on the Nürburgring circuit for years before it was shown to the public. Indeed, Toyota has a major off-site facility near the circuit which was purpose-built for the LFA development.
Hence, it was always going to be very fast around the ultimate road car circuit and the fact that the company has run prototypes at the Nurburgring 24 Hour race each year since 2007 further indicates the importance of the stopwatch at the Nordschleife circuit. Hence Toyota has spent enough money to ensure the Nurburgring package is likely to be very close to Nordschleife nirvana for a sports car enthusiast.
For this year's 24 hour challenge, which kicks off on May 13, Lexus will return to the legendary circuit with two production LFA models under the Gazoo Racing banner, running four Japanese and three German drivers.
This limited edition LFA will be available in four exterior colors – whitest white, orange, black and matte black complemented by a choice of three interior colors – black, red, and violet. All come with a carbon fiber center console and door trim. The Nurburgring Package will carry a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of US$70,000. Matte black will carry an additional cost of US$20,000. The standard LFA carries a MSRP of US$375,000.
The Nurburgring Package has focussed on creating greater aerodynamic downforce through revisions and additions to several of the LFA's CFRP components, including a larger front spoiler, side fin-type spoilers and a new fixed rear wing.
Gear shifts in the six-speed sequential transmission have been cut to 0.15 seconds from the standard LFA's 0.2 seconds. Though extra drag has been created by the new aerodynamics, the LFA's 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time of 3.7 seconds and its top speed of 202mph have been maintained.
The car will be seen for the first time in Geneva on March 1.