Thursday, October 22, 2009

Japanese supercar to shake Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche

The Lexus LF-A is the most powerful Japanese car ever produced and is designed to cement the luxury brand as a technology leader with genuine supercar performance.

It's rarer than a Rolls-Royce, faster than a Ferrari and more expensive than a waterfront unit - and it's from Japan.

Meet the latest supercar to be conceived as the global financial crisis thaws and car makers regain confidence in building the sorts of vehicles owners love to dream of and beancounters love to sell.

The sleek sports car is designed to catapult Toyota's luxury brand, Lexus, in to a new dimension usually reserved for Italian and German brands with decades of heritage created by Hollywood, celebrities and some of the world's best race tracks.

Lexus has officially joined the supercar club with its two-door, V10-powered LF-A coupe that's designed to take on Ferrari and Lamborghini and position Lexus as a serious performance brand.

After various concept cars, years of speculation and spy photos, the Lexus LF-A has been revealed at the 2009 Tokyo motor show, bringing another Japanese sports car to the unofficial supercar club dominated by Germany and Italy.

The LF-A is the fastest, most expensive and most exclusive Lexus ever built.

It's also the most powerful Japanese car to ever be sold. Only five of the 500 that will be produced will be brought to Australia and each will have a price tag of "anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million".

Lexus says the LF-A has a recommended retail price of "approximately US$375,000", but that's before hefty Australian taxes - including import duty, GST and luxury car tax - are applied.

The exact price is yet to be determined but could swing by tens of thousands of dollars depending on the exchange rate.

The Lexus LF-A has a 4.8-litre V10 producing a supercar-like 412kW of power, which is enough to propel the two-seater to 100km/h to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds.

Top speed of the LF-A is 325km/h. Unlike the eight-speed transmission in Lexus' LS limousine, the LF-A makes do with six forward gear ratios in a dual-clutch set-up similar to those used by Porsche and others.

The LF-A also gets massive carbon ceramic brakes as part of a sophisticated braking package that also relies on tricky electronics.

In keeping with the supercar theme, Lexus has worked on the advanced, lightweight body to ensure a low centre of gravity and weight distribution that puts 48 per cent over the front wheels and the remaining 52 per cent over the rear.

While only a handful of Lexus owners will ever experience the LF-A, it's expected to ensure the brand is mentioned in the same sentence as Ferrari and Porsche.

Rather than adding volume to the brand that trails Germany's dominant luxury brands, the LF-A is about cementing Lexus as a serious performance car contender.

"The LF-A proves to people you don't need to be around for 100 years to produce a supercar," says Lexus Australia boss John Roca.

"A brand that didn't exist in 1990 is building a supercar in 2009 - that's a bold statement.

"We've been accused of being non emotional (as a brand). You'll see emotion is all over it. Roca says the LF-A is all about brand building and putting Lexus on a very European-dominated sports car map.

"The LF-A is the halo over the brand. It has technology that will flow down through the range. It shows that not only can you build the world's best luxury saloon but you can build a supercar."

Roca defends the decision to import just five, when established supercar brands can sell dozens more than that each year.

"The market just isn't there for a supercar at the moment, regardless of the badge," he says.

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