From the very beginning, Lexus was founded as a company that would break down the traditional ways of doing things in the auto industry. For decades, the market for luxury cars was dominated by the established titans of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Looking to take a piece of their pie, parent company Toyota formed the Lexus brand in the 1980s and began developing a flagship car unlike any the world had ever seen.
Lexus spent seven years and over a billion dollars designing their top-secret new car. Over 450 exterior designs were tested along with 900 engine prototypes. They spent two years on the interior alone. What they built was a luxury sedan that stood unparalleled in automotive history.
When the Lexus LS400 went on sale in 1990, it was an instant success. The build quality and reliability were unprecedented, and the LS400 went on to win numerous awards from Ward’s and Consumer Reports. The car earned the #1 ranking for reliability by JD Power and Associates’ for fifteen consecutive years!
The LS400 did more than just get Lexus’ foot in the door as a company. It raised the bar significantly for what a luxury car should be. It changed customers’ expectations too – the LS400 offered all the comforts and luxuries of the big German sedans for about $20,000 less. It was a real David and Goliath story in which this upstart Japanese car company pulled a fast one on the established players of the industry.
Two decades later, Lexus has done it again. This time, they’ve set their sights on the supercar market.
With the debut of the LF-A supercar, Lexus is looking to take on the established players of the supercar industry: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, and Aston Martin.
From the first sketches in the year 2000 to the final production car in 2009, Lexus spent almost a decade developing their supercar project. Lexus engineers spent years developing the car’s suspension at Germany’s Nurburgring race track – which is regarded by many as THE most challenging race track on the planet.
Several different versions of the prototype car were shown at auto shows from 2003 through 2008, but the company remained tight-lipped about a release date.
The official announcement came in 2009: Lexus was putting the LF-A supercar into production. With a 4.8L V10 engine making 552 horsepower at a screaming 9,000 rpm redline, Lexus was clearly not joking around.
Rumors began flying about the car in automotive publications: that it had set a new lap record at the Nurburgring; that its engine revved so fast that a digital tachometer was needed because analog gauges could not keep up; that it would have a price tag north of $250,000 dollars, that it would be limited to a run of just 500 vehicles, and that its top speed was over 200 mph. All of these proved to be true. That is why I was so excited to finally see this car up close and personal at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2013.
What is it that makes the LF-A unlike any other supercar? Perhaps it is Lexus’ fanatical build process. I watched a video from Jay Leno’s Garage where he travels to Japan to see the factory in Motomachi first-hand. He observes that every employee is required to wear gloves, and that the car is not touched by anyone’s bare hands during assembly.
If you watch the series Megafactories on National Geographic Channel, you may have seen that all of Lamborghini’s cars are painted by hand by a single person, since no two people have the same technique and movements. Lexus does the same, but they also ensure the car is painted from one single can of paint to ensure uniform color!
I read in Motor Trend magazine that Lexus employees document the build of every single LF-A in excruciating detail. Each of the 500 cars produced has its own log book – 1300 pages when complete – where everything from the air pressure in the tires to the torque applied to each lug nut is recorded. If Bugatti, Pagani, and Koenigsegg do that, I haven’t heard about it. This insane level of detail ensures that the cars meet Lexus’ high standards of quality.
The LF-A has been performance tested by everyone from Motor Trend to Car and Driver, Edmunds, Consumer Reports, BBC’s Top Gear, and countless other publications worldwide. The overwhelming majority agree that this car ranks among the best ever built.
Lexus has some serious muscle when it comes to engineering. Their massive budget and lengthy development timelines are enough to make other car makers quiver with fear. Their fanatical production techniques are the stuff of legend. The Lexus LF-A is more than just a Japanese supercar, it is a game-changer in the supercar market just like its predecessor the LS400 was in the luxury car market.