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Breaking the Price Barrier

August, 2010 (Bloomberg Markets) -- The new Lexus LFA stretches the Toyota line to the limit.

The latest Lexus model starts at $375,000. Toyota Motor Corp., the same company that brings you the 51-mile-per-gallon Prius and the $13,000 Yaris, will also be producing the Lexus LFA, a 202-mile-per-hour, gasoline-evaporating supercar that competes with the $320,000 Ferrari 599 GTB. Talk about a broad family tree.

I consider this as I walk around one of three drivable LFA prototypes in the world, which is sitting on a racetrack in southern New Jersey. The other two are in Japan and Europe. Until now, the $109,000 LS 600h L “executive sedan” hybrid was the most expensive Lexus.

The LFA is no hybrid. It has beefy carbon-ceramic brakes, swollen performance tires and a 552-horsepower V-10 engine that will propel it to 60 mph (97 kilometers per hour) in less than four seconds.

The LFA is a so-called halo car, designed to showcase the company’s hottest designs and highest performance standards. Only 500 LFAs will be built during a two-year run, with production scheduled to start in December. About 175 will be sold in the U.S.

Behind the wheel, steering is precise if a bit light, and on my first lap around the track, I swing out too wide and rumble onto the extreme edge of a curb. Yet the LFA is beautifully weighted, a dancer on the balls of its feet, swiveling easily into tight corners. By the eighth lap, I feel comfortable.

The new Lexus brings excitement to the Toyota line--if only for a very few customers. Prius and Yaris, meet your new brother. Family dinners are going to be more interesting.

Jason H. Harper is in New York at jason@jasonhharper.com

#<535521.2245115.2.1.46.17993.25># -0- Jul/07/2010 13:49 GMT

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