Driving the Lexus LFA

My Favorite Shot from the Lexus F-Sport Event

Picture the most intense, heart-pounding roller-coaster ride of your life, only instead of rails and a cart, you’re strapped into a prototype supercar driven by a race car driver.

That was the scene two weeks ago at the New Jersey Motorsports Park, where I found myself in the passenger seat of Lexus USA’s (formerly matte black, now white) LFA, with Scott Pruett behind the wheel ready to take me on the ride of my life.

It was a trip that almost didn’t happen — I had put my name down for the Lexus F-Sport event on a whim, unsure if I would be able to make the eight hour trip from Canada to Milville, New Jersey. But shortly after signing up, I received an email from Lexus USA wondering just when I’d be at the park, and letting me know it would be no problem to get a hot-lap with Scott Pruett in the LFA.

A couple emails back and forth after that, and all of a sudden I was going to be driving the LFA for myself.

As you can imagine, this changed everything — what had once been a long-shot trip was now turning into a concrete plan with hotel bookings and calculating the quickest route. Best of all, after hearing about my trip, Lexus Canada graciously provided me with an IS 250 F-Sport for the journey.

From there, it was over the border into New York state and onto the I-90, down the I-81 into Pennsylvania, and a night spent in Allentown. After that, it was just a two-hour drive through Philadelphia and onto the NJ 55, which took me straight to Milville and the New Jersey Motorsports park.

After getting a chance to meet with the Lexus team and an entertaining technical overview of the supercar from Lexus College’s Bob Allen, it was down to see the LFA:

Lexus LFA at New Jersey F-Sport Event

Even on the racetrack, the LFA looks like a landed spaceship from some far-flung future, not far away from Tom Cruise’s Lexus in Minority Report — yet somehow it still exhibits that usual Lexus gift of the subtle. So much of it is in the details:

Right before my hot-lap with Scott Pruett, we had our photo-op:

Lexus LFA with me & Scott Pruett

The whole experience was practically beyond words, so I’m really happy I decided to film it:

As you can tell from the video, I was beside myself for most of the three laps, barely able to catch my breath as pure gravity pushed me against my seat, and here was Scott Pruett, chatting in a natural voice, even taking his hand off the wheel to illustrate the precise handling.

It was near the end of the first lap that I started to feel situated. It’s amazing how quickly you adjust to high-speed — it wasn’t until the LFA hit 150mph (241km/h) in the second lap when I was struck suddenly by the possible danger, but even then, it was strictly mathematical and not something to be considered seriously.

The LFA exhaust note is less of a sound and more of a feeling, like being inside a thunderclap — it echoed in my head long after I stepped out of the LFA and is my strongest memory of the entire experience.

All told, our three laps around the NJ Motorsports Park took 4 minutes — and after that final lap was done and the car came to a stop, it took me a couple minutes to reorient myself to normal speed.

But then, before I knew it, I was pulling the helmet on again, only this time I would be driving the LFA myself.

To keep it simple, I had the technician set the drive settings to automatic — though I have experience with paddle-shifting (mostly in the IS models), I would hardly consider myself an expert, and I thought it would be smarter to focus on not crashing the $375k supercar.

Sitting in the LFA is an experience all of its own, everything is made with such obvious care, looking all the while like a Lexus:

KREW Lexus LFA Steering Wheel

Engine startup is an elaborate procedure requiring multiple button presses & paddle-shifts, but once the LFA starts moving, it’s startling just how “normal” it feels -— at least at low speeds.

Go a little faster and it’s a completely different story. Three turns into my first lap, and I was already diving deep into the curves, knowing that full well that was more than capable. The balancing, the way the car seems to pivot around you in the corners, the absolutely precise and crisp steering, every single aspect of the car feels dedicated to helping you control its brutal speed.

At one point, the LFA revved high into the 7000rpm range before shifting to fifth gear, but this is a learning transmission that has spent 5,000 miles on a racetrack with Scott Pruett — expecting low-RPM smooth shifts would be ridiculous.

If my furtive glance at the digital display was correct, I hit about 110mph on the straightway, which would have seemed incredible were it not for my previous hot-laps. Instead, it felt manageable and altogether too easy, like driving 25mph in a school zone. Speed is entirely exponential:

Kevin Watts driving the Lexus LFA

Of course, all good things come to an end, and after my second lap it was time to pull in. Truthfully, it’s hard to describe driving the LFA — I have absolutely no point of reference for driving supercars (notwithstanding my significant time investment playing Gran Turismo). Just minutes after getting out of the driver’s seat, my memory started to blur — in fact, I wish I had taken the time to drive it slower, but in the excitement, fast seemed like the only option.

Really, to be going so fast and not feeling scared is abnormal — yet inside the LFA’s cabin it’s the most natural thing in the world. Lexus has this way of taking the very idea of a car and adding this layer of refinement that just makes it better. No matter if it’s a flagship sedan or a crossover or even a supercar, it’s a characteristic that’s present in every model. In that way, one thing is quite clear: the LFA isn’t just a Lexus supercar, it’s the Lexus of supercars.

(Special thanks to Scott Pruett for an exceptional experience, Lynda Eguchi, Brian Bolain, Bob Allen, the entire staff at Lexus USA and AMCI for hosting such a wonderful event, and Lexus Canada for the IS 250 F-Sport. The photo of Scott Pruett was taken by Christian Thomas, and the photo of me driving the LFA taken by Glenn Alkema.)