Introduced to the public at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in January, the Lexus LF-A concept is reportedly quickly moving toward production. The front mid-engine sports car—its 500-hp V10 engine is mounted almost entirely behind the front wheel centerline—will compete with the Mercedes SLR, BMW M6, Aston Martin DB 9 and Ferrari 550 among others.
The 200 mph sports car is being engineered with the help of Lotus Engineering, which reportedly has designed a composite front crash structure for the vehicle, and is providing advice and feedback on its suspension setup. The car has been a regular visitor to Germany's famed Nurburgring race track, where it has undergone high-speed aerodynamic and suspension testing. Sources close to the project say the development team divided the track into multiple sectors in order to allow back-to-back comparisons and creation of "virtual" laps of the track. Toyota has been careful not to run the prototypes at speed for a complete lap in order to keep the car's performance potential under wraps.
Like the concept car, the engineering prototypes feature large radiators at the back of each rear fender. Air is drawn through the ductwork and supported by large electric fans mounted in front of the radiators. The engine oil cooler and air conditioning condenser are said to reside up front in the engine compartment. Unlike other front-engine/rear-drive supercars, this keeps the thermal load under control; a major consideration for a high-performance vehicle, especially one that could race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans by 2010.
Rumors that the car will dump its V10 engine in favor of a smaller V8 in order to keep current with Formula One's changing engine regulations are thought to be wide of the mark. [Formula One will drop the current 3.0-liter V10 engine formula for one based around somewhat restricted 2.4-liter V8s in 2006.] Toyota is nearly finished with the development of the compact V10 production engine, and is not likely to undertake development of what is essentially a V10 with two fewer cylinders so close to production. The production version of the car is scheduled for a debut at this year's Tokyo Motor Show.—CAS