Lexus Unveils $375K LFA Supercar
As usual, Autoblog is all over the Lexus LFA announcement, with the official press release, some analysis, photos, and video--all confirming that we now live in a world in which Lexus sells a $375K supercar. These photos and more can be found in the Autoblog image gallery.
The exhaust note certainly sounds great, and the performance specifications (552 horsepower, 3.7-second 0-60 time, 202-mph top speed) are nice, but I still don't really understand this car.
Lexus says the LFA will cost $375K. It's easy to gloss over big numbers when reading them in print, so I'm going to do the pretentious author thing and spell it out--three-hundred-and-seventy-five-thousand dollars. That is a lot of money--more than many Americans can afford to spend on a house, even with the payments spread out over 30 years. That amount of money is what you'd pay for an ultra-mega-supercar from Ferrari or Lamborghini, which both have the cachet, styling, and image to attract customers in this price stratum. More specifically, it's roughly four times as expensive as a Nissan GT-R, which is an astounding performer in its own right.
I don't really see how this makes much sense as an extension to the Lexus line. Top-of-the-line Ferraris and Lamborghinis make sense even in limited volumes; these range-toppers add cachet and attract buyers for the less-expensive, higher-volume sports cars. A customer who dreams about a $350K Lamborghini Murcielago would be able to step down to a $198K Lamborghini Gallardo or even its corporate cousin, the $115K Audi R8. Those of us with less robust resources could satisfy our performance cravings with other corporate stablemates--an Audi RS4, an Audi TT, a Volkswagen GTI to satisfy our performance cravings. Likewise, Ferrari offers a range of exotic sports cars, underpinned with Maserati sports-luxury cars and inexpensive but fun Alfa Romeos and Fiats. The upgrade lines are cohesive; the customer path makes sense.
For Lexus, on the other hand, a $375K ultra-sports car seems way, way off-brand. Toyota has no comparable range of options for the enthusiast who falls in love with the LFA. The closest thing Lexus can offer to the extreme performance enthusiast is probably the ISF compact sports sedan--it's a nice piece, but way downmarket from the LFA. Below that is ... erm ... the Scion TC? The Toyota Supra Turbo could serve as a respectable stepping stone to the LFA, if it hadn't been discontinued a decade ago.
When it launched in 1989, the Lexus brand proved that Toyota could compete with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi for the status-conscious luxury sedan customer, but the $300-$400K market values image and dream fulfillment at least as much as transportation competence. Consider the decision tree a customer would need to follow to purchase the LFA. First, the customer would have to be ultra-wealthy enough to afford a $375K car. Secondly, the customer must be fanciful enough to spend that amount on an exotic sports car. Thirdly, that customer must also be uninterested in the cachet provided by purchasing and driving a Rolls Royce or Ferrari.
To help us look at this in a different way, I put together two $375K packages, one built around the Lexus LFA, the other around the Nissan GT-R. Which of these two packages would you prefer?
Package A ($375K):
2010 Lexus LFA ($375K)
Package B ($375K):
2010 Nissan GT-R ($85K)
2010 BMW M5 ($85K)
2008 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster (~ $100K)
1971 Chevrolet Corvette 454 ($50K - show car, numbers matching)
1973 Jaguar E-Type V-12 ($35K - perfect, numbers matching)
1949 Cadillac Series 62 ($20K)
If the LFA proves to be either a game-changing performer or a scintillatingly beautiful object of pure lust, capable of scrambling the brain waves, maybe this would be a difficult decision. But, speaking personally, I look at the LFA and see a slightly faster and uglier Nissan GT-R. I mean, what's up with the weeping taillights?
For the record, I'd probably pass on both of the packages outlined above and would instead purchase 75 $5,000 cars.