Feature: Is the Lexus LF-A really the new SC?


The Lexus LF-A

Last week, when Edmund’s Inside Line blog printed a rumor that the production version of the Lexus LF-A could cost upwards of $225,000 USD, the backlash was instant and ruthless. Auto enthusiasts everywhere bristled at the idea that Lexus would be pitting their new supercar against the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini.

To be quite honest, it’s not difficult to see some merit to the criticism. After all, the competition in this price range are truly aspirational cars, the kind of machines that fuel childhood dreams. Up against that, the LF-A is a hard sell. What’s more, it’s impossible to ignore the appeal of exclusivity, and having to share a badge with a $30,000 entry class model doesn’t really mesh with that.

Looking at the uphill battle facing Lexus selling a supercar, maybe it’s time to wonder about other motives. It could be that the brand wants to simply wants a halo car, but what if it’s something else entirely? What if that wasn’t the plan at all?

Over the past few months, I’ve had a growing suspicion that the LF-A is actually the next SC sports coupe, and that the only way it would come close to $225,000 is with a fully loaded V10 SC-F.

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The first indication was a small detail on the LF-A Roadster concept shown at this year’s Detroit auto show, an F badge:

Lexus LF-A F Badge

If the F-Performance line is to follow the path set by BMW’s M Series and Mercedes’ AMG division, it stands to reason that the LF-A concept is actually a performance modified version of a regular vehicle, rather than something that stands on its own. With that in mind (and barring the possibility of a new, non-F coupe), there’s only one car in the lineup that has two doors, is offered as a convertible, and most importantly, in serious need of an extensive revamp. That vehicle, of course, is the SC.

Lexus SC 430

Now in its eighth year of production, the current SC is the oldest model in the Lexus lineup. The previous SC also lasted eight years, so it’s probably safe to assume that a new version is in some stage of development. The only issue with this is the lack of a possible next-gen SC concept.

Lexus concepts are generally introduced two years before the model goes into production[1], and the idea that the current SC will be around for that much longer is hard to believe. It’s true that there was a Lexus LF-C convertible concept introduced in 2004, but most of the design cues were included in the 2006 revamp of the IS, and would be entirely used up if the rumors of a IS coupe/convertible are true.

Of course, there’s nothing to say that the next SC won’t have a much shorter concept-to-production window, but even the LF-A name adds weight to the idea. Up to this point, the LF characters have only been used during the concept stage, so it’s more than likely that the super car would be receiving a new name when it’s released.

But why would Lexus invest so much into the development of a model replacement? Why would they continue to bring so much attention to the LF-A as a supercar, only to turn around and release it as anything less?

Therein lies the beauty of the new F Performance lineup. The LF-A currently racing around Nürburgring could exist as the SC-F, a supercar capable of competing with Ferrari F430s and Lamborghini Gallardos, while a lesser powered, less optimized version would be packaged up and sold as the new SC.

The first generation SC, built between 1992-2000, could be regarded as an instant classic, featuring a revolutionary and very influential shape that aged well. On the other hand, time hasn’t been kind to the current SC, which has overstayed its welcome by a couple years. If you consider Lexus’ new focus on performance & sportiness, what should be the first car that springs to mind?

[1] The two year wait between concept and production is based on the LF-Sh to fourth generation LS, the LF-S to third generation GS, and the LF-Xh to the expected third generation RX in 2009/2010.

Comments


Comments


  1. I’m warming to the idea.  The SC is really one of the few Lexus vehicles that had a radical change from generation to generation…going from the V6/V8 combo of the SC 300/SC 400, to the hardtop convertible V8 SC 430, which was positioned as the “jewel of Lexus” and its most expensive car for quite some time.  From this perspective, it might not be such a leap to see it become the SC 500 with a V8 engine and SC-F with the V10 plus hardtop roadster option.  However the price range would be tricky, if the $200K+ figure is true. How to make a carbon-fiber body + enhancements at the SC price point?

    Transforming the gorgeous LF-A into the next SC would vault the SC name further up the charts into something approaching celebrity, so far as cars come.

    However, at the same time I’m not sure whether or not this will come to pass.  The rumors are that the SC redesign is on the back burner. In fact, if we are to go by the model cycle of the first SC, the second generation has 2-3 years still left in it!!! But I really hope the more globally-minded Lexus is now willing to step up to the plate sooner.  Either an SC redesign or turn the LF-A into the next SC…

  2. I do not see Lexus introducing a new type SC at triple the current price. IMO the SC will stay a V8 possibly a SC460 and the V10 being in the LF-A though bodies may be similar in shape.

  3. Dan: In my mind, the carbon fiber, the performance enhancements, and the engine could be exactly what Lexus could downgrade in order to make this a sub-$100,000 car.

    I think the SC would see a price bump, but like you say, it would also see a bump in stature.

    Dr.: Yes, that’s exactly it. Same body, different options.

  4. I wonder if Lexus has space to make the SC as a grand tourer based on the LS platform, which in turn, can support a hybrid engine…which brings us back to the rumor of a hybrid LF-A.
    Wow…so many connections, and a little flaw might turn our thoughts completely off course.
    So yeah…here’s my analogy:
    SC : CL
    LF-A : SL /or SLR

  5. btw, from Dr.‘s comment, I can make out just one more analogy
    SC : SL
    LF-A : SLC/SLR

  6. Evan, Nashville, 1995 SC 400

    If it becomes an SC that will be completely awesome!!!

  7. edmunds hates lexus for some reason. it doesnt surprise me that they started this rumor.

  8. The LF-A will not be the next SC. Lexus has not committed to where the SC is going yet, but they will build the LF-A as a “halo” product based upon their experience with Formula 1 race technology to show the world they can. It will be something like a Ferrari 599 GTB, but have all the luxury & reliability that people have come to expect from Lexus. It will be Carbon Fiber, have over 550hp & be priced north of $300k. It will be a limited edition vehicle with no more than 500 units produced most likely. I expect that we might begin to see them in the next 18 to 24 months. If you are serious about one, you better get on the list with a hefty deposit.

  9. The redesign of the SC430 and the LF-A are two completely seperate projects within the Lexus engineering team. I have this on good authority from Lexus USA. However the body styles are similar. There are alot of rumors within the Lexus community, but officially Lexus has not commited 100% to either Project. There will be some cross over in technology, but like some of the commects above the LF-A is to be in the class of the “Super Cars”, pretty much attempting to show that LEXUS is a serious player in that market. The SC will continue, and the latest design has the bodystyle with a little of the first SC a little of the current SC and a good deal of the LF-A. The VP I spoke to at LEXUS USA said that with current economic climate it is most likely that the SC (LF-A look) will go to production and be called the SC-480 and then they will offer a High Performance option similar to what LEXUS did with the IS line and have a SC-F (SC Finnese) that will be a high performance coupe with similar features you see in the IS-F. He indicated that if the LF-A makes it to production they may opt for a base LF-A in the 150K range with a high end in the 250-300K range.

  10. Very interesting post, Evan—thanks for your insight. Hopefully we’ll know all the details soon enough.

  11. Thanks,Evan. Sounds like good news for the SC’s future. But can you please verify whether the next SC will be a fixed head coupe or a folding hardtop?

  12. LEXUSaddict will soon become LFAaddict

    yep im changing my name and i doubt that the SC will be continued…cmon the ISC is gonna sell much, much more than the SC. the worst selling point of the SC is that it just doesnt get any attention. no commercials, no new updates, nothing. and the shape is just…shameful…idk…
    btw should i or shud i not change my name?

  13. Glad to see you took my advice! HA,HA.
    Coming to the SC430, the only path forward is to make it a larger fixed head coupe, like the original 1992 SC (Love that car!) The IS C can then be the convertible & SC can be a bigger coupe positioned against the BMW 6-series, Jaguar XK etc. Like those cars Lexus can offer a regular 4.6L V8 version & a high performance variant with either the IS-F V8 or the LF-A V10. Makes sense cause the fixed head LF-A is limited prodution only supercar. I’m sure there are many potential Lexus coupe customers out there, me being one of them.

  14. I’m expecting the SC will be put on hiatus for 2010 & 2011, with a new model coming in around 2012. I don’t think they could possibly sell the current model for another year—at least I hope they don’t.

  15. LEXUSaddict will soon become LFAaddict

    yep….exactly what the doctor ordered

  16. I would like to know why you guys don’t like the SC430? Apart from the fact that its an open top (I’ll never buy one),I think the design has aged rather well, especially the interior.

  17. I wouldn’t say I dislike the SC 430, but more that it’s time for a change—that and I want to see a real Lexus SL competitor.