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Is the Lexus Electrified Sports Concept the next LFA?

Will Lexus put its swoopy Electrified Sports Concept into production? And could it get an actual manual gearbox?

Published: 28 Mar 2024

In terms of unenviable jobs, trying to design the electric version of a legendary car whose identity consisted largely of its V10 petrol engine is up there with eating water with a fork. The Lexus LFA was a pointless masterpiece of a thing, centred around a 4.8-litre naturally aspirated V10 engine engineered by people with IQs larger than their budget lines. It developed 552bhp, most of which manifested as a noise that could summon the old gods and make F1 cars blush, an enormous roadgoing motorsport trumpet, braying beautiful horsepower. The Lexus Electrified Sports Concept cannot possibly hold a candle to that unique moment in Lexus’s production history, because, bluntly, it can’t.

But it can try.

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Photography: John Wycherley 

6 minutes 32 seconds

The Lexus Electrified Sports Concept is what an LFA might look like in an electrified age. Sort of. It’s a thought process rather than real production intent, a range finder for the aesthetic. And despite the immediate shock value, it’s actually fairly traditional. For a start, it looks like a front-engined GT supercar rather than an EV bubble, the long bonnet framed by a face that still ghosts the triangular front vents of the OG LFA, the quad-eyed look reminiscent of something like a McLaren supercar. There are vents on the bonnet – again like the LFA – but more sculpted, a line that runs from the bottom of the front wheel all the way through the side of the car to curl back in on itself and form a flying buttress/fin at the rear of the cabin section. And it’s that cabin that arcs up from the bonnet, out and way, way back, drooping into a very low rear, a rear that sports the double-lobed sections from the original. It might not be explicitly son of LFA, but look even vaguely closely and you can see the signs.

But the exciting thing about the LESC is the thinking behind it. Because this is where Lexus is putting the intellectual work in... making an electric sports car that’s more efficient, more usable and crucially, more interesting to drive. There are the practical bits first. Toyota’s been working on two sets of batteries. Solid state revolutions for 2027/28 with all the benefits they bring, and new prismatic batteries before that, in three versions. The first will be a performance battery that’ll offer twice the range of current batteries in things like Toyota’s bZ4X for 20 per cent less cost. Then there’ll be a quality, low cost LFP battery for mid-range EVs which’ll be 40 per cent cheaper, but only increase range by 20 per cent.

The LESC can't possibly hold a candle to the LFA. But it can try

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And then there's the big news for those of us who like the fast things: there'll be the high performance battery for things like the LESC that feature big outputs... but it'll be thinner and lighter than anything we've got at the moment. Which makes it easier for sports cars to be nimble. Oh, and all of these will charge from 10-80 per cent in 10 minutes. Which are the kind of practical improvements that shine. 

The LESC can therefore be lighter, a core value when you go to war with physics in a corner. There'll be dual motors, a predicted range of 435 miles, somewhere in the region of 1,000bhp to give 0-62mph in the region of two seconds. Want more? Lexus has already debuted a UX3000e SUV with a manual EV gearbox, a gearbox that can ape the transmission styles of any drivetrain you can imagine. Not a set of paddles with programmed-in ratios, but a proper gearstick and clutch, and the ability to stall itself if you don't manage the control surfaces properly. An electric car with digital imperfection. Not in pursuit of speed or efficiency, but for interaction - the joy of doing it. A daft idea? Possibly, but the enthusiasm for figuring this stuff out, for investigating and dissecting a human being's relationship with a sports car, is what needs to happen.

 

Koichi Suga – general manager of Lexus Design Division – is wonderfully animated on the whole idea of electric involvement, about how cars have to be desirable from all directions. It’s not just about how cars look, or trying to be objectively better than what went before. It’s about designing something that creates a connection with the driver. The LESC will feature not just power, but control. There’ll be a version of Lexus’s Direct4 all-wheel-drive system, a bespoke version of One Motion Grip, a system designed to make the car nimble at slow speeds and stable at high ones. There’ll be Toyota/Lexus’s ‘Arene’ AI operating system, designed to mature the car along with the owner’s needs and preferences, learning and over the air updating as it goes along. Emotional and physical evolution the longer you own it. And all of these ideas will add up. Some might work, and some not, but the process will refine the idea of an electric sports car into something we find acceptable. And even if the LESC isn’t quite the son of LFA, it might take us somewhere new, somewhere different, but just as good – and that’s the nature of progress.

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