Lexus LFA: Lion on the race track

By Jacqui Madelin

The Lexus LFA supercar. Photo / Christine Cornege
The Lexus LFA supercar. Photo / Christine Cornege

The Lexus LFA looks at home at Hampton Downs. The $956,000 supercar, a high-speed thoroughbred, is the only one of the 500 hand-built carbon-fibre cars to visit New Zealand.

Our own drives were cancelled given the wet conditions - fat 305/30 tyres and a slick track a recipe for potential disaster, said the clearly edgy Neil Bates, an Australian rally champ who's no stranger to tarmac, or the LFA's road manners.

This 4.8-litre V10 engine is fitted with a six-speed sequential auto transmission with launch control, a multi-step process you won't use to best that HSV from the lights, unless its driver is prepared to wait until it's primed. But that launch is impressive when viewed from pit lane, the revs climbing rapidly to a feral scream designed to replicate a Formula One car, before the throttle blips as the driver changes down for the hair-raising off-camber descent to the first turn.

Then it's my go; I'm in my helmet, clicking in the seatbelt. Bates warns the car feels good but it's slippery out there, and at that word my pen has streaked a straight line down the notebook page - he's floored it out of pit lane, 412kW pouring down and the rears flicking out of each bend like an angry bronco; 223km/h in the wet down the front straight and smacking on the massive carbon-ceramic brakes.

Down to second - holding 91km/h and out, still in second through the next corners then third, fourth, third - down to 52 at the hairpin, trailing the throttle then easing it on and the rear steps out, up to 179 - down again, holding her steady through the sweeper's puddles then that whiplash-kick as we pull out.

"I'm having to be as gentle-as, barely breathe on it or it'll go," Bates says; admitting to provoking this mighty car out of the sweeper "but not on that main straight, it's so sensitive and with that much power you have to put your foot down incredibly carefully."

Bates says the LFA is a pussycat on the road, and there is a lion-taming rain mode in case of wet. Had he trusted me with the key he'd have locked that in, and I'd have lost the chance to feel what this monster can do.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 23 Dec 2014 05:43:20 Processing Time: 478ms