Vellum Venom: 2012 Lexus LFA

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

I understand the need for a luxury car maker to create a super car. It spilled into my drawing books at CCS. But I love Lincolns. To wit: a stand up grille (modeled after the Bugatti EB110), covered headlights (Continental Mark III) , a power dome hood and an-ever-so-slight Continental kit that blended into a spoiler (like the final RX-7). Jokes about my Panther Love on TTAC is fine, but I was far too scared to encourage the stereotypes in design school. I showed absolutely nobody my super car Lincoln, and I never will…it, among other aborted design studies, went in the trash when I left Detroit.

But Lexus? No, they actually think they can play in this space. At least long enough to make a statement: since I never did, I do applaud their effort. Even if I don’t especially like it.

The LFA has an odd symmetry about it: from some angles, things like the bulbous and bowed headlight buckets look great. Especially from far away, as the front clip looks like a Honda S2000 that’s trying way too hard to look cool. Look a little closer to see why.

The hard crease which abruptly ends the headlights and this speed hole are a little too “static” for a high speed machine. Then again, it has the strong fender line of my Lincoln super car, which I used to reference the 1961 Continental’s flat fenders. Lexus did this because…well, who knows?

I still don’t know what’s going on here: the fender, hood and bumper meet up like a love triangle gone awry. Fix it by going Lambo, using the same bumper cutline for both the fender and the hood. This would certainly clean up the look.

Speaking of clean, this black aerodynamic thingie looks just right for a super car made by a subtle luxury car manufacturer. I’m sure it does…something.

I don’t know why the signal lights need such an extravagant appendage. It looks like a super-minimalist buffet table from the dining room of a coke dealer in Miami Vice. I love it.

The golfball dimples on the badge are a nice touch, but I’d prefer the corporate logo was mounted flush like damn near every other car in this class. This is another busy element to a car that needs to chill the heck out.

But when you step back and turn the corner, things don’t look that bad at all. Still busy and over detailed, but it also looks like a really, really pissed off LS460. Which I can appreciate.

Surprisingly, Lexus went understated in a place you wouldn’t expect: the carbon fiber side aerodynamic thing. Again, maybe this really helps, but at least it doesn’t look like an afterthought.

The fixed vent window is a little disappointing. Combined with the harsh meeting of the A-pillar to the fender, the LFA looks far too static and stodgy compared to the same implementation in the Ford GT.

These speedy side view mirrors do look pretty snazzy, even if they don’t “fly” quite as visually high as the original wing mirrors of the Ferrari Testarossa.

This scoop is definitely not Lambo or Ferrari. The L-Finesse design language works rather well here, and justifies the need for a Lexus super car. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it a bit too much.

This shot reminds me of aquarium fish brave enough to open their mouths against the glass, trying to eat whatever child is gawking from the other side.

Nothing works from this angle, and this is how you approach as you reach for the door handle (bottom RH corner). Not to mention that this speed hole literally covers the quarter window, big fish in the aquarium style!

When you step back, the “fish” turns into an odd bit of L-Finesse meets Volvo P1800. Except it is still an aesthetic affront to my senses because of its proximity to the quarter window.

I have yet to meet a super car that I didn’t adore from this angle. Tumblehome and flared fenderwells are a truly magical thing.

The negative area on the posterior (i.e. the black grilles) provides a carve out to the otherwise uninspiring rear bumper. While I admire the LFA’s blend of hard and soft contours, the meeting of the negative area with the fenders is far too harsh. It’s simply fighting every other element presented.

Negative area should accent or complement other design elements on a rear bumper. The LFA turned them into a duo of malcontents in the hen house.

But wait, it gets worse. The mini spoilers atop both taillights look just as bad as the afterthought body kit on a Toyota Corolla S. But I am sure these are not held on with adhesive backing, even if their placement would make that acceptable.

Yes indeed: I think the Corolla S reference is still valid…son!

And unlike the McLaren MP4-12C previously reviewed, the lighting elements are also slapped in odd locations with no attention to how their form can accentuate the LFA’s butt. Then again, with a butt as contrived as this…also take note of the exposed fasteners in the upper RH corner of this picture.

Now these fasteners look great. Everyone loves seeing a functional bit of kit when presented with such flash (shiny) and modesty (black paneling).

The exhaust pipes mean business. The dealer installed chrome license plate says what everyone already knows: the LFA is only for the Toyota loyalists. If this was the mid-1990s, I’d fully expect to see gold emblems, too. Just kidding. Except maybe not.

And that ends it. When a luxury brand goes for the heart of super car passion, this is their “end” result. There’s little to be excited about, considering the sizzle from the usual suspects at this price point. And considering the LFA’s not-mind-blowing performance, the steak isn’t that noteworthy, either.

Then again, perhaps the same thing could be said of the original LS400. And we all know how that turned out for the Lexus brand.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • CJinSD CJinSD on Apr 09, 2012

    Do the winglets over the tail lights make more sense when the rear wing is retracted?

    • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Apr 09, 2012

      Not from my eye's perspective on design. Whether or not all three of those things have a great impact on aerodynamics is anyone's guess. Unless you own an LFA. And a wind tunnel.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Apr 09, 2012

    I like everything about it but the triple exhaust. There's no place to put a trailer hitch.

  • James Hendricks The depreciation on the Turbo S is going to be epic!
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.