10 years on and Lexus' LFA super car is still one of the most talked-about cars ever built

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• Lexus' LFA celebrates its 10th birthday in 2021.

• The car was a revelation at the time, sporting a 411kW 4.8-litre V10 engine.

• Lexus South Africa has one model in its heritage fleet.

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Ten years have passed since the start of the LFA's production. This authentic supercar revealed Lexus's new aspect as a committed and visionary manufacturer of world-class high-performance cars.

For all its exclusivity and rarity - production was limited to just 500 examples - the LFA left a legacy that has influenced every car Lexus has built since. It pioneered new powertrain and materials' technologies and exemplified the takumi hand-crafted approach to manufacturing and design that has become a brand-defining quality for Lexus.

The LFA story began in early 2000 as a research and development project to produce a thoroughbred supercar. Lexus Chief Engineer Harahiko Tanahashi was given free rein and the chance to work with new materials and processes. This "clean sheet" approach echoed the way Lexus rewrote the luxury car rulebook with the flagship LS sedan that launched the marque ten years previously.

In 2001, Master Driver Hiromi Naruse joined the team, and his skills would prove key to the LFA achieving its handling and performance goals. In the early stages, 500 key assets were identified, from the suspension design to the steering wheel's shape; every detail had to be perfect. The first prototype was completed in 2003 and a year later was running its first laps of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the legendary race track that would be the cradle of the LFA's development, based in Germany.

Lexus LFA
The Lexus LFA

What Lexus was planning

The world had its first glimpse of what Lexus was planning with the reveal of a design study at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in the USA, Detroit, followed by a closer-to-production concept car two years later. In 2008 the LFA - still a work-in-progress - made the first of four annual appearances in the gruelling 24 Hours of Nürburgring. It was the most stringent possible test of the car's performance and quality before Lexus confirmed its production at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.

Manufacturing began at Lexus' state-of-the-art Motomachi plant in Japan at the end of 2010. Such was the dedication to precision engineering that production was at a rate of just one car per day with each engine assembled and signed off by a single technician, complete with an engraved plate bearing the car's production number.

The LFA was rich in amazing and revolutionary features. At its heart was an all-new, naturally aspirated 4.8-litre V10 engine, produced in a joint venture with specialists Yamaha. Even though it was smaller and had fewer cylinders than some supercar rivals, its performance was exceptional, delivering a maximum 411kW at 8700rpm. Front-mounted and driving the rear wheels through a six-speed automated sequential gearbox positioned on the rear axle, it could power the car from rest to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds and on to a 325km/h top speed.

Lexus LFA
The Lexus LFA interior

Exclusive F stable

Keeping the car's weight down was essential to its performance, achieved by switching from the aluminium used for the original concepts to carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). This strong but lightweight advanced woven composite material was used for the most of the bodywork, the passenger cell and the transmission tunnel and has since been used in other Lexus models, including the GS F and RC F, members of Lexus' exclusive F-performance car stable. Stopping power had to be as effective as the drive; hence the use of high-performance ceramic brake discs.

There was still more the LFA had to offer, in the form of the ultra-exclusive Nürburgring Package, a version re-engineered to maximise the car's track potential. Drawing directly on the car's racing experience, it gained stiffer suspension and lighter forged alloy wheels with performance tyres. Extra aerodynamic features included a new front lip spoiler, front winglets and a fixed GT-style high rear wing to maximise downforce. With ride height reduced by 10mm, the car also hugged the ground more closely. To compensate for the extra drag, engine power was increased to 419kW.

Production for this package was just 50 cars, with each owner given professional instruction and a year's driving pass to the Nürburgring. Its quality was confirmed in 2011 when it set a new Nordschleife lap record for a production car, driven by Akira Ida.

The last word on the LFA should go to Harahiko Tanahashi, the man who realised the dream. He explained: "I intended to build a supercar that would put the driver to this state through the unity of its parts - the engine's sound, its feel when revving, its handling and stability." Asked what "this state" meant, he simply replied "euphoria".

Due to its iconic status, Lexus South Africa has an LFA (372 built) in its heritage fleet.

Compiled by: Charlen Raymond

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