Lexus LFA Supercar

 

INTRODUCTION

lfa1320x211cThe LFA marks a watershed point for Lexus – its global debut marks the spectacular arrival of a new flagship for

the F portfolio of Lexus performance models. A Lexus that single-handedly creates new boundaries to redefine

the supercar for the 21st Century.

“From the very beginning of automobile history, supercars have represented dreams, hopes and aspirations,”

explained Haruhiko Tanahashi, chief engineer of the LFA’s development program. “For Lexus, a brand that aims

to provide customers enlightened moments and memorable experiences, the development of a world-class

supercar was an indispensable next step”.

That indispensable next step centered on the creation of a supercar that would deliver the supreme driving

experience. To achieve this uncompromising goal, Tanahashi and his team created the LFA from scratch – a true

clean-sheet design. And in a radical departure from standard Lexus development practice, they approached the

LFA from a non-traditional angle, pushing their technological, material and engineering boundaries at every step.

The result is the rear-wheel drive LFA, a dynamically styled supercar powered by a sophisticated new highrevving

4.8-liter V10 engine that generates 553 hp (412kW/560DIN hp) and 354 lb-ft (480Nm) of torque for

adrenaline-fuelled 202 mph (325km/h) performance. This specially-developed powerplant is hooked up to a

unique six-speed Automated Sequential Gearbox (ASG) with paddle shifters for ultimate driver control. Linked

by a rigid torque tube for excellent drivetrain integrity, the ASG is located in a transaxle layout over the rear axle

for an optimal 48:52 front-to-rear weight distribution.

Lightweight, powerful and balanced, the Lexus features advanced Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP)

construction for its chassis and bodywork to deliver a light, incredibly strong and impact-resistant structure.

Rather than out-source this sophisticated materials technology, in a radical move, the LFA team developed its

own CFRP processes internally for ultimate quality control and to make a sound engineering investment in the

future.

Motorsport-developed lightweight aluminum alloy suspension component is complemented by Carbon

Ceramic Material (CCM) brake discs and an innovative electrically assisted rack and pinion steering. The LFA

driver sits in low-slung cabin that is as painstakingly constructed as it is driver focused, with every key control

perfectly positioned and every creature comfort catered for.

“The LFA is a thoroughbred supercar, a machine engineered to achieve one single goal – to deliver a supreme

driving experience,” explained Tanahashi. “Over the past decade we have pushed every boundary in the pursuit

of this goal. I believe that we have created the most driver-oriented car we possibly could.”

SUMMARY

• Global debut of the Lexus LFA - a thoroughbred supercar developed solely in the pursuit of the supreme

driving experience

• A supercar unlike any other and one that creates new boundaries to redefine the supercar for the 21st Century

• Clean-sheet design and development undertaken by an elite Lexus engineering team

• Singular focus on lightweight carbon fiber construction, dynamic balance and usable 202 mph (325km/h)

performance

• Production limited to 500 models worldwide, each being hand-assembled, with no more than 20 models

assembled each month

The LFA is a car of firsts. It is the first supercar developed by Lexus to meet and exceed the company’s

exacting standards, and it is the first supercar that is as dynamic and engaging around the Nürburgring

Nordschleife as it is tackling a favorite mountain pass. Featuring advanced carbon fiber technology, a high revving

553 hp (412kW/560DIN hp) 4.8-liter naturally aspirated V10 engine and rear-mounted six-speed

sequential transmission, the mid-front engine LFA combines lightweight construction and ideal chassis

balance to deliver exhilarating and usable 202 mph (325km/h) performance.

“The LFA is a thoroughbred supercar, a lightweight, powerful and balanced machine engineered to achieve

one single goal – to deliver a supreme driving experience,” explains Haruhiko Tanahashi, chief engineer of

the LFA’s development program. “Over the past decade we have pushed every boundary – including the

development of our own cutting edge carbon fiber monocoque chassis and bodywork – in the pursuit of this

goal. I believe that we have created the most driver-oriented car we possibly could.”

Painstakingly developed from a blank canvas by a small and dedicated team of hand-picked engineers that

pushed every possible dynamic boundary, the LFA is a halo model for the F performance marquee. The

Lexus F brand complements the core Lexus DNA by emphasizing serious performance and de-emphasizing

Lexus’ traditional attributes of NVH and comfort. The LFA therefore not only redefines the 21st Century

supercar, but also reinforces a new framework for Lexus and its advanced approach to automotive

development.

“Ever since the LFA project was started in 2000, my team and I have been driven by a passion to create a

world-class supercar, a car to make Lexus proud,” said Tanahashi. “For Lexus - a brand that aims to provide

customers with enlightened moments and memorable experiences - the development of a world-class

supercar with real visual drama was an indispensable next step.”

In 2000, Tanahashi and his close-knit team embarked on one of the greatest engineering challenges Lexus

had ever faced. The project would focus their minds on new technologies, new materials and new processes

as they strove to create the car they envisaged, irrespective of the difficulties they encountered in the

process. In doing so they would create a dynamic new approach point for Lexus, which would recalibrate the

company’s approach to the design of all its models.

Weight-saving measures were taken at each and every step of the LFA’s development. They include

innovative Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CRFP) monocoque chassis and bodywork – a world first for

Lexus – as well as carbon ceramic material brake discs, and extensive use of aluminum, titanium and

magnesium in the powertrain and transmission assemblies. Even the steering wheel employs carbon fiber

elements to make it lighter and more natural in its responses – a typically driver-centric detail of the LFA.

With a low 3,263 lbs (1480kg) curb weight, the LFA steps confidently into the supercar arena with an

effective power to weight ratio of 6 lb/hp (378DIN hp/278 kW per tonne).

“The LFA is a car with relentless power delivery and an accompanying exhaust note to give you goose

bumps,” enthused Tanahashi. “It successfully brings together motive performance, measured by times and

graphs, and emotive power – that inexpressible performance that can only be felt in one’s heart and soul.

While conventional cars focus on the destination, the LFA is all about the journey.”

Only 500 LFA vehicles are planned for production, all hand-assembled by “Lexus LFA Works” at the

Motomachi Plant in Toyota City by skilled technicians at a rate of no more than 20 per month. “Although

these inspirational, dreamlike moments will unfortunately only be experienced by a lucky few,” said

Tanahashi, “I firmly believe the spirit of the LFA will be the pride of any Lexus admirer.”

POWER AND

PERFORMANCE

CARBON FIBER REINFORCED PLASTIC CONSTRUCTION

• Radical rethink sees LFA switch from aluminum to Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) construction to

achieve exceptional dynamic integrity and performance-enhancing light weight construction

• A trio of sophisticated CFRP molding processes for an impressively low 3,263 lb (1480kg) curb weight – an

estimated 220 lb (100kg) saving over an equivalent aluminum construction

• CFRP technology pioneered internally by an elite team of materials engineers to meet Lexus’ exacting

standards

• Pursuit of the new technology results in an advanced new joining process for CFRP and metal alloys

• Internal development means this world-class quality CFRP production process is primed for future mass

production applications

According to Tanahashi, one of the LFA’s key defining elements was the need to keep the car’s overall weight to an

absolute minimum. This resulted in a dramatic decision during the LFA’s development life to switch from aluminum

construction to an advanced Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic chassis and bodywork.

This move was made even more challenging by Tanahashi’s decision to develop the LFA’s sophisticated CFRP

structure in-house, rather than call on a third-party supplier. This ground-breaking assessment – one that fell directly

in line with the ethos behind the LFA of tackling new and advanced material and production processes – was taken

with an eye on the past, and the future.

Toyota Motor Corporation’s (TMC) heritage as one of the world’s most advanced textile weaving companies

created a vital historical resource that Tanahashi’s team drew on when developing the LFA’s CFRP structure.

Historically, the groundbreaking development of the automatic weaving machine by Toyota Motor Corporation not

only made a significant contribution to Japan’s economy by producing high-quality fabric at lower costs, but also

made a vital contribution to society as a whole.

In a similar manner, the radical switch to CFRP production for the LFA’s development pushed the technical

boundaries as the engineers moved from TMC’s traditional weaving looms to the sophisticated three-dimensional

carbon fiber looms. As well as reaping the technological benefits of this progress, the use of lightweight CFRP

material over heavier metals also reduces the LFA’s impact on the environment.

A striking example of the benefit Tanahashi and his team extracted from Toyota Motor Corporation’s weaving

heritage was the development of the company’s broken thread detection technology incorporated into its original

fabric weaving looms. Updating the mechanical thread sensors with incredibly accurate laser technology to monitor

fabric integrity not only gave the team a crucial insight into the weaving process but also saved critical development

time.

At four times the specific strength of aluminum, not only would the CFRP center section create an exceptionally stiff

and strong structure, it would also deliver major weight savings, reducing body weight by more than 220 lb (100kg)

over an equivalent aluminum body. Working with CFRP would also significantly reduce the lengthy manufacturing

time for the LFA’s component. The decision to develop its own CFRP materials technology would also ensure the

quality of the carbon fiber used met with Lexus’ own stringent standards.

Unlike the handful of performance vehicles that feature CFRP construction, the advanced resin technology used in

the LFA’s chassis is the same employed in today’s most cutting-edge aerospace programs, favored for its

unmatched weight and strength qualities. This extensive use of CFRP accounts for 65 percent of the LFA’s body-inwhite

weight, with aluminum alloys comprising the remaining 35 percent. Lightweight CFRP was even used for the

hood support strut, replacing the traditional, and heavier, hydraulic hood struts.

Three different CFRP forming processes were employed in the structure, used according to their dynamic load,

form structure and location. The expensive and labor-intensive Prepreg hand-laid process, where carbon fiber

sheets impregnated with liquid thermosetting resin are moulded, heated and pressed in a furnace, was primarily

used for the cabin to create a hugely stiff and stable structure.

CFRP for the integrated floor panel and transmission tunnel, roof and hood was produced using the Resin Transfer

Moulding (RTM) process, where liquid resin is impregnated into dry preformed carbon fiber before being heated

and cured. And the C-SMC Carbon fiber-reinforced Sheet Moulding Compound process, where short fiber

materials are hot-pressed in a die, was used to manufacture the C-pillar and its supports as well as the rear floor.

And in a move that underlines TMC’s origins as one of the world’s most advanced textile weaving companies – a

vital historical resource that Tanahashi’s team drew on when developing the LFA’s CFRP structure – the undersides

of both the hood and hood lid were left unpainted to leave the bare CFRP on display.

As well as pioneering the use of CFRP at Lexus, the LFA team also focused their attention on how best to join the

carbon fiber and metal components – traditionally a complicated process. Most joining process use threaded

aluminum insert that is wrapped in the CFRP, but the LFA team decided against this method. It developed an

innovative system quite different to traditional methods. Requiring no threaded aluminum insert or direct CFRP

contact, it employs a flanged aluminum collar to link the two materials and overcome the inherent weaknesses in

such joints.

While this switch to CFRP construction pushed back the LFA’s market debut, it was exactly the kind of evaluation

embodied by the spirit of the LFA team: to push any and all new boundaries in the pursuit of excellence. The result

was that within a short three-year period, the engineers not only mastered carbon fiber production for the LFA but

also developed groundbreaking new processes to create a new LFA that was stronger, stiffer and lighter than any

metal-based alternative could ever be.

Drawing on TMC’s legacy of weaving and loom-making experience to develop the CFRP has also created a deep

and rich pool of internal engineering talent, a technological resource that accelerated the development of the LFA.

Capitalizing on an internally developed automated production system, this world-class quality carbon fiber

production process is now primed for future mass production, and will prove invaluable when it comes to work on

future Lexus projects.

ENGINE

• Breathtaking performance from an all-new 4.8-liter V10 powerplant rich in motorsport technology

• High-revving engine develops an exceptional 553 hp (412kW/560DIN hp) at 8700rpm and 354 lb-ft

(480Nm) of torque at 7,000 rpm

• Rear-wheel drive LFA rockets to 60 mph (96km/h) in 3.6 seconds and has a top speed of 202 mph

(325km/h)

• Low-friction powerplant features motorsport-developed independently controlled throttle body for each

cylinder and dry sump lubrication

• Front-mid engine V10 is smaller than a traditional V8 engine and as light as a conventional V6 engine yet

generates 115 hp (85.7 kW/117DIN hp) per liter

“What we needed – and what we have created – is a car that moves the driver in more ways than one,” explained

Tanahashi. “The LFA is a car that stirs all the senses.”

At the heart of the LFA lies a specifically developed V10 engine that sets new automotive standards for compact

dimensions, lightweight architecture and scintillating performance. From the outset, Tanahashi and his engineers

determined the LFA’s front mid-mounted powerplant would have a 4805 cc capacity, would develop 553 hp

(412kW/560DIN hp) and rev to a wailing 9,000rpm redline. It would feature a 72° angle between cylinder

heads – the perfect angle for both primary and secondary balance in a V10 engine for incredibly smooth running

characteristics. It would be naturally aspirated for a linear and predictable power delivery, with exceptional

throttle response from individual, electronically controlled throttle bodies for each cylinder.

It would feature a dry sump lubrication system that would not only position the block deep within the engine bay

to lower the center of gravity and lower the car’s moment of inertia, but also enable the engine to handle

sustained, high-speed cornering. And it would deliver exceptional mid-range responsiveness as well as a

powerful top-end performance.

The V10 powerplant generates 354 lb-ft (480Nm) of torque at 7,000rpm. The application of VVT-i variable

valve timing with intelligence on both intake and exhaust combined with equal length exhaust manifolds and highvolume

12-hole fuel injectors results in 90% of this formidable torque being available between 3,700rpm and

the 9,000rpm red line, for searing in-gear acceleration at any engine speed and in any gear. The result is a 0 –

60 mph (96km/h) time of just 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 202 mph (325km/h) – exhilarating performance

from a bone fide supercar.

With a low 3,263 lb (1480kg) curb weight – achieved by the extensive use of lightweight Carbon Fiber

Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) for the chassis and bodywork – and an explosive 412kW/560DIN hp, the LFA steps

into the supercar arena with a heady power to weight ratio of 278 kW/378 DIN hp per tonne. The combination

of a high, 12:1 compression ratio, low friction internals and optimised intake and exhaust flow results in the LFA’s

powerplant developing an exceptional 85.7 kW/117DIN hp per liter, one of the highest specific outputs amongst

the current crop of supercars.