The Lap of luxury – Lexus Summer of Performance

Lexus may have a well established reputation of being a luxury car brand but (just in case you didn’t know) they have deep-seated roots in Motorsport too – namely F Sport.

To underline their commitment to customers (and probably to have a bit of fun too) Lexus hold regular client days at the track as part of their ‘Summer of Performance’. It’s a chance for customers to stretch the legs of their own cars, learn potentially lifesaving driving skills and get behind the wheel of an F Sport model that is of interest before being chauffeur driven around the track at heart pounding speeds – so of course I wanted to go too.

After coffee, the day starts out with a series of track exercises (but thankfully no running shoes are required). Skills like Slalom, Car control at speed and Emergency Braking and demonstrated and then conducted, some are timed and some are designed to get you out of your comfort zone – for example; ABS braking is well worth experiencing especially when you understand that you can continue to maneuver the vehicle safely too.

Over lunch, we were taught (classroom style) best cornering lines and day/track etiquette – before letting the customers loose on the tarmac. They would be putting all their new found skills together (ideally apart from the emergency braking) while doing a brisk ‘follow the leader’ drive around the track. I took this opportunity to jump in the back of the V8 Course car and chat with one of the customers while being smoothly driven at speed by Lexus driver Grant.

It’s always interesting talking with car owners about what prompted them to make their purchase. This lady (let’s call her customer A) moved across to Lexus from a nigh on supercar. Although she enjoyed the speed and power of her previous vehicle, she found it difficult to get out of in NZ’s ever diminishing parking spaces.  So this, plus the free valet parking at the airport tipped the balance. She was now the proud owner of a Lexus, she knew it was an F Sport and its colour but was unsure of the model – in fairness I was interviewing her as the RC-F was picking up pace near the end of the chat.

My next ‘interview’ was with a gentleman that enjoyed to chat and certainly enjoyed the accelerator. During this spirited drive in the RC-F Carbon Fibre I found out that he too was an F-Sport driver and he’d attended a multitude of track days. Aside from the luxury and performance aspect, the Lexus brand appealed to him because of this type of event – he like the idea of going fast without any demerits.

Next was a back seat ‘hot lap’ ride-along in a GS-F. The 4 door saloon was in the hands of a professional that openly admitted to this car being one of his favorites. He threw the ‘family car’ around the track in tyre squealing fashion while he discussed its practicality (it was a little surreal). In case you were wondering top speed along the home straight hit 211kph, not bad for a car load of 4 adult males.

Then out came the big guns (well gun) the LFA – work on Haruhiko Tanahashi’s brainchild the LFA began at the turn of this century. The 4.8 Litre V10 Lexus Supercar would take 10 years to go from design to production, only 500 would be made and today I got the chance to get a couple of hot laps in the passenger seat (for some reason Lexus wouldn’t let me drive).

The LFA is damn good looking. Dressed in white and full of aerodynamic features and air scoops; it’s every bit the supercar and that’s even before the engine sparks into life. Accelerating out of pit lane; all 10 cylinder pots seemingly rejoiced at the prospect of going fast on the track (I did a little too). With the LFA under the expert guidance of a Racing Driver we hooned around the Hampton Downs Track at impossible speeds (and he was possibly taking it easy). Again, should you be curious, home straight touched over 230kph (236kph I think) but hey, who’s counting.  The experience was one I’ll savour for a long time.

During the wrap up back in the briefing room we were congratulated on our improved driving skills and given a glimpse of the new LC500 a coupe that is now on my to do list. A great day and an ideal way to get acquainted with the F-Sport line up – the adrenaline rush side of luxury.

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