2012 Lexus LFA
Was it all worth it?
Throughout this arduous, decade-long development process, Lexus pumped untold amounts of money into the LFA. Billions of dollars would not be beyond the pale. Lexus has never disclosed the exact figure. And still, after all of it, the LFA came to market at twice the price of cars at performance parity--and Lexus is losing money on each one, adding further to its expense.
Now, at the culmination of the project, it's worth looking back and asking if that expense was worth it--if it can, even possibly, deliver on the goals placed at the outset.
Undeniably, the LFA is a feat of engineering and design. Its high-tech carbon fiber and aluminum underpinnings lie near the outer boundary of technological feasibility even today, nearly two full years after its final production form was revealed. Its engine is a thing of sonorous beauty, inspired by the F1 program that went defunct in the same year the LFA was finalized, ripping 9,000 rpm out of its 4.8-liter displacement on the way to 552 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. The high-tech instrument panel looks and behaves like something from the near future.
But it took Lexus 10 full years to reach this point, and a budget that would likely amount to the full purchase price of the entire organizations of either Ferrari or Lamborghini. And for all its aspects of technical advancement, it lags noticeably in others: it uses a hydraulically-actuated single-clutch transmission, for example, rather than the advanced dual-clutches of most of the competition; its suspension is fixed, unlike the dynamic systems fitted to many other supercars, much less the pushrod suspension of the Aventador; its outright performance is matched or eclipsed by perhaps the lowest-tech of all supercars, the Corvette ZR1, a mere one-third the price of the LFA; its carbon fiber tub is matched or surpassed by the carbon fiber monocoque of the Aventador; on measures of power, torque, top speed, and acceleration, it's a full generation behind the top tier of supercars.
To fall short, then, despite this massive investment of time and money, seems to paint Lexus' technical ability in a different light. Despite applying what appears to be near-limitless resources for a decade, Lexus was unable to deliver a car to fully compete with, let alone dominate, the competition. Further, it was unable to do it at a profit on the individual cars sold, much less the project as a whole. In fact, viewed from this perspective, the whole LFA endeavor seems to fit more securely with the reality and, in the wake of the many recalls of the last two years, acknowledged self-image it not long ago promised to correct: that of a mired bureaucracy, hamstrung by its own internal inefficiencies, bent on leading the world but blinded by its own insularity.