DRIVEN: LEXUS LFA
A £250k supercar and a circuit with minimal run-off. Is this sensible?
Something about this is wrong. Actually scratch that - everything about this is wrong. I'm sitting in the driving seat of a £250k, 203mph supercar - one that isn't even yet in full series production - about to be released for a solo drive round Goodwood Motor Circuit. For those that don't know it, this is a track that can charitably described as having limited run-off and where, once you have run out of grass, a thin veneer of tyres is all that exists to cushion your impact with a determinedly immovable earth bank.
Still, there it is - however unlikely it may seem, Toyota/Lexus has gone and built a supercar. And they must be confident in its ability, because they've plonked a scruffy PH journalist in the driving seat, pointed the car at a notoriously tricky circuit and said 'go drive'. No 'please be careful with our pre-production supercar', no speed limits, no passenger to calm any over-exuberance. Brilliant.
The LFA is a car that has taken a decade to develop. It has been planned from the outset as an engineering challenge rather than a commercial venture (itself a minor miracle in such a profit-obsessed company. It has even been switched from an aluminium monocoque to one made of carbon fibre - necessitating the creation of Toyota's own in-house carbon production processes. The Lexus LFA is, in short, the complete antithesis of the usual streamlined production ToMoCo fare.
Those few seconds are enough to flick through about three gears (the flappy-paddle transmission is only a single-clutch affair in order to help save weight) up to around 120mph, before stamping on the brakes for Madgwick, Goodwood's first corner.
So powerful are the brakes that the first time you stamp on them with enthusiasm, you'll almost certainly find yourself coming up short to the corner. Once you've adjusted to how hard and late you can brake - and therefore how much speed you can build on the preceding straight - you can begin to feel the huge grip the LFA has to offer, and how eager it is to change direction.
Everything also feels beautifully put together, but not extravagant, either in weight or luxury. The indicator stalks, for example, feel spindly, but solidly engineered, as though every extraneous gram has been shaved from them, but that not one penny has been pinched in their development.
That doesn't mean its limits are approachable, however. I would like to tell you exactly how the LFA feels on the very edge of opposite lock, but I'm no Stig (as you can see from the video below), we're not out to set record lap times, and the Lexus's limits are so high that at most places around Goodwood I run out of courage way before the car runs out of talent.
What Goodwood's fast, flowing corners and longish straights do show off beautifully, however, is the explosive mid-range pace of the LFA. The way it piles on speed between 75mph and 130mph is truly astonishing.
The LFA is also one of those cars that should warm the cockles of any car enthusiast's heart, because it proves that even an oft-faceless corporation like Toyota has a heart and soul.