Concept-Lexus LF-A Roadster Preview
By Jeff Youngs, February 24, 2012
- 500-hp supercar
- Hardtop prototype already has exceeded 200 mph
- Roadster promises top-down experience
- Large and speed-sensitive rear wing
- Production announcement anticipated
Lexus unveiled its concept for a world-class, ultra-high-performance supercar-the LF-A-at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. A much more production-ready version of the 2-seater was on the stand at Detroit in 2007. At the 2008 Detroit show, Lexus unveiled a topless version of the car in the form of the LF-A Roadster concept.
Though technically still a concept vehicle, the LF-A is working its way steadily toward production. A prototype of the vehicle has been photographed at places such as Germany's famed N�rburgring race track. Lexus admits that the car has exceeded 200 mph in testing.
Ever since the original supercar coup_ concept was shown at Detroit in 2005, there has been an expectation that the Lexus LF-A would go into production. Lexus officials have said that the original car was designed to show a "bold new direction" in styling for the brand, and that the concept was well received to the point that "engineering analysis" was conducted. Then a second and more production-feasible version was built, and Lexus revealed that "we will be gauging consumer interest" regarding sales potential.
That Lexus would invest in a roadster concept of the vehicle adds credence to expectations of a production model and encourages hope that such a car will be available with a choice of fixed and convertible roofs, like other high-performance cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette and the various Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
The Lexus LF-A is built around a V-10 engine. Lexus' parent company, Toyota, entered Grand Prix (Formula One) racing in 2002 and had to build a new V-10 engine for that racing program. The version used in the LF-A concepts displaces not quite 5.0 liters and pumps out more than 500 hp.
The engine is positioned ahead of the passenger compartment, but is set back behind the front axle in what is called a "front-mid" architecture. This is done to enhance balance and stability in high-speed cornering. A "torque tube" provides structural rigidity to the LF-A and connects the engine to the rear-mounted transaxle. The transmission is controlled by paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. The car is built from carbon-fiber and aluminum.
Like the hardtop coup_, the roadster is 175.6 inches long (making it slightly longer than the Corvette), 74.6 inches wide (two inches wider than the Corvette) and 48 inches tall (an inch lower than the Corvette). It rides on 20-inch wheels and is equipped with large brakes: 14.2-inch discs in front and 13.6-inch discs in the rear.
The Lexus LF-A Roadster features a large and speed-adaptive rear wing. The tail section of the car has a pair of wraparound, inverted chevron-shaped taillamps that bracket a pair of large grilles; these vent hot air from the car's two rear-mounted radiators. That air vents into the car's aerodynamic wake, which helps to smooth the car's ride at high speeds, Lexus says.
The rear view of the LF-A also shows its trio of exhaust pipesmounted between wing-like aerodynamic devices that direct airflow, again enhancing high-speed stability.
The radiators are fed by vents sculpted into the bodywork just above and ahead of the rear wheels. By building such vents into the car's rear shoulders, designers and engineers are able to keep the front of the car low and lean, enhancing aerodynamics while providing sufficient cooling for the large and powerful engine, Lexus explains. Rear-mounted radiators also help optimize weight distribution: a crucial element in any vehicle, especially one with such dynamic capabilities.