By on April 9, 2012

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.

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30 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2012 Lexus LFA...”

  • avatar

    Toyota, if you’re going to build a supercar, it should not look like a glorified Supra –wait, it actually very strongly resembles the Celica I followed this morning. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the same guy designed both.

    P.S. Maybe this is the result of the car having taken a decade to gestate?

    • 0 avatar

      “Maybe this is the result of the car having taken a decade to gestate?”

      Yep. If you look in the car mags at spy pictures of the early versions of this car, it was a much cleaner and more attractive design. It appears that Toyota felt the need to add more and more “surface excitement” as the years went by…

  • avatar

    Nice review, Sajeev, I agree 100%. In my book, no one has yet beaten the styling excellence of the R8 or the original Gallardo. Which one you prefer depends on your testosterone levels.

  • avatar

    …what are those side scoops doing at the back of a front-engined car?.

    …i’m told that, on the supra, they’re brake ducts, and as modestly-proportioned as they are in that instance, i can accept that explanation…here, though, on the LFA, not only are they oversized for any duty cycle this street car will likely see, there are *two* of them on each side…

    …the capacious rear cooling grilles seem just as superfluous to my eyes…

    …so: engineering decision, design affectation, or a bit of both?..

    • 0 avatar

      I try to stay light on techy terms, because that’s a Piston Slap thing. So instead, a Simpsons reference:

      Flanders: “Whatcha doing Homer?”
      Homer: “Puttting speed holes in my car… they make it go faster.”
      Flanders: “Maybe the Flanders mobile could use a few of them.”

    • 0 avatar

      AFAIK, LFA’s radiators are mounted out back, the back grille are for that reason, and the side scopes are the intake for the rads…

    • 0 avatar

      The LFA has the radiators in the back for better weight distribution, so the ducts are fuctional and are there for a reason. And Sanjeev, as a writer on this site, and someone who seems to claim to know much about vehicles, you should’ve been able to explain this, instead of making simpsons references. You’ve made it clear on several occasions that you don’t like Toyota, but you should give credit where credit is due.

      • 0 avatar

        I thought I made it clear to every brand loyal fanboi that they’ll never much care for anything I write. Then again, if people still think my name is “Sanjeev”…

        That’s the beauty of being a Lincoln-Mercury fanboi. I no longer care.

      • 0 avatar

        …ah, at least it’s functional – thanks for the information!..

        …curious engineering choice, though: most midengined cars struggle with cooling and end up locating their radiators up front for better efficiency, despite the added weight and complexity those long cooling line runs bring…i’m surprised that toyota found the weight distribution of its radiators compelling enough to put them around back, where they likely require a lot more active cooling than a more-passive up-front location would mandate…

      • 0 avatar

        “…curious engineering choice, though: most midengined cars struggle with cooling and end up locating their radiators up front for better efficiency, despite the added weight and complexity those long cooling line runs bring…i’m surprised that toyota found the weight distribution of its radiators compelling enough to put them around back, where they likely require a lot more active cooling than a more-passive up-front location would mandate…”

        That’s the beauty of the LFA. It’s an engineering marvel. They were so obsessed with perfect weight distribution that they even moved the windshield washer tank in the center of the car, next to the fuel tank. They found out ways to make things work where others have failed. For example, the engineers didn’t like how other manufacturers mated the carbon fiber to the aluminum parts, they came up with their own new technique. Sure, call me a fanboy, but anybody who appreciates excellent engineering and the attention to detail should be able to appreciate the LFA for what it is.

        Sajeev: Why not make some of your vellum venom articles about Lincolns then? I’m sure some people would appreciate them. In the last 2 weeks we’ve had 3 articles about Toyota producs (Scion IQ, Lexus GS, and now the LFA).

      • 0 avatar

        Fair enough. I will go visit a Lincoln dealer soon and throw them into the mix…I haven’t heard much venom from those fanbois in a while.

        Thanks for writing, I enjoy these conversations.

  • avatar

    The side mirrors are too vulgar for words.

    Despite this, I like it better than the 599.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand how Nissan can make money at ~$80k for a GT-R, but Toyota is losing money at $350k.

    • 0 avatar

      Because the LF-A is more a test-bed for Toyota’s fabricating process than an actual car.

      I still get both excited and highly creeped out watching the weaving of the A-pillar:

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting. Kind of like how the very first Taurus “cost” $1B. Still, if that is the case then saying that Toyota loses money on the LFA is like saying that Mercedes loses a million dollars a day on R&D. Or advertising for that matter. Debating the LFA is pretty much the only time Lexus even crosses my mind.

      • 0 avatar

        They also virtually started from scratch at one point didn’t they? So really they’ve spent 2 cars’ worth of experimental development on this thing. Like VW and the Veyron I don’t think it matters!

  • avatar

    its just too busy

    there’s a point where someone should have tapped the lead design on the shoulder and said “enough dude”

  • avatar

    I agree with the Top Gear guys when they commented that it is a brillant car, but too pricy and no status points either.

  • avatar

    Robert Cumberford should give up the throne…..

  • avatar

    I think the sole purpose of every detail of the design and function of the LFA is to produce the glorious exhaust note. IMO, it rivals an F1 car for the best sound in the auto world!

  • avatar

    I feel like the lone fan of the LFA here. I love it. I love the vulgarity of the design, how it looks like an insane version of the 7th-generation Celica body style. A lot of the elements pointed out as clashing or ugly are functional. The gap in front of the hood is an air intake. The hole on the front fender is most likely funneling cold air into the front wheel wells to cool the brakes. The curved inside surfaces of the side mirrors are aero surfaces that funnel air into the “aquarium fish” C-pillar intakes that funnel air to the rear-mounted radiator. Science isn’t always pretty.

    As for the “not-mind-blowing” performance, 7:14.64 on the Nordschleife, driven last August by Akira Iida. The LFA is also still the fastest wet lap time on the Top Gear test track (1:22.8).

    The engine sound alone is more than half of why I love the LFA. Yamaha did some amazing work with the in-cabin engine note, judging from various test drive videos. Some day I hope to go on a test ride, but until then, the GT5 representation of the engine sound is very close, and is one of my favorite cars to race in GT5, due to the euphoric experience of stomping on the throttle and hearing that engine literally scream.

    If all this makes the LFA a far more fun car to drive than to look at, so be it.

    • 0 avatar

      I was just logging in to be the lone fan, but now we have two. Totally agree with what you’ve got up there.

      Perhaps not artistically correct, but as an engineer, I love looking at this car spinning at the autoshow. Details galore, an orgy of function and form! You can see the dedication and thoughtfulness put in by the engineering team.

      Performance is solid unless you go by C/D testing numbers only, the thing is a beast on the track, the sound is amazing and the pros love the handling.

      It might be the first time we see true “passion” coming out of Lexus. I love it.

      PS> Have to grudgingly agree that I hate those mini spoilers. I have a feeling they were a last minute add-on after some very last minute wind tunnel tuning.

  • avatar

    Looking at the rear three-quarter view, I can’t help but think of how great this car would look without the “aquarium fish” intake. The taillights lead right into the beltline, the c-pillars aim at the inner corners of the taillights, and these elements could actually talk to each other if it didn’t have an overblended appendage creeping up the rear window.

  • avatar

    LFA – horsepower of a Gallardo, price of an Aventador.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    It looks like a Japanese comic book character come to life.

  • avatar

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

  • avatar

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

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