A Supercar like non other: the Lexus LF-A

Lexus has long been rumored to be creating their own supercar.  The Japanese luxury brand which was created by Toyota, and first brought cars to the US in 1989, has finally shown pictures of it, and anyone lucky enough to be in Los Angeles this week will be able to see it up close and personal.

Why is this car is important to the rest of us?  Because car technology trickles down.  The luxury and supercar makers add ultra-expensive options to their cars, and as time goes on, some of that ends up in regular cars.  New takes on designing suspensions, chassis manufacturing, etcetera – they all started in higher-end cars, where the automaker who designed it can more easily recoup their research and development money.

This dividing of costs has also worked for manufacturers in the area of the electronics used in a car.  Ten years ago, built-in navigation was something reserved for a luxury car, whereas now you can get it on almost any car whose sticker price starts in the mid-teens.

How does the trickle-down in technology relate to the Lexus LF-A?  Toyota developed a way to use a machine to weave carbon fiber, a material that is as strong as steel, but far lighter.  They are using this machine to make parts for the LF-A, and I would expect that in another five to ten years, we will see certain parts of cars being made by machines.  In addition to lightweight materials, which increases fuel mileage, the technology used for the instrument cluster, mainly LED-lit screens, will also make their way into “regular” cars in the near future.  LED, which stands for Light Emitting Diode, has been in the news recently as lightbulb manufacturers switch to creating them in addition to traditional incandescent bulbs.  TV makers have also started using LEDs as well, to illuminate the screens on their LCD and Plasma televisions.  The Ford Fusion Hybrid is one of the first cars to use LCD screens as the instrument cluster, rather than a portion of it, as has been seen in other vehicles.

Beyond the technology and carbon fiber weaving machine, Toyota also did not use a single ounce of steel in the construction of the LF-A.  Instead, the aforementioned carbon fiber was used extensively, as well as aluminum.  Many car makers, from Audi to Jaguar, use aluminum frames in their vehicles, and this has led to a lot of cars using more and more aluminum in their construction.  Aluminum saves a lot of weight, which makes for better fuel mileage and better performance, as the engine doesn’t have to tote around a huge, steel structure.

What can we gain from this?  More and more cars will be made lighter through the use of aluminum.  Technological wonders will start appearing in cheaper and cheaper cars as the parts being made are made in much higher volumes.  As the volume of parts goes up, prices go down.  It’s the same reason that a television bought this year costs about a tenth of what that same television cost three or four years ago, and it can only mean good things for car buyers the world over.

Check out the video below for a sneak peak at Lexus’ $375,000 supercar and all the tech goodies it contains.

by John Suit

Sources: Toyota, Motor Mavens

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