It only now occurs to me that the first decade of the 21st century is behind us, and we might as well reflect on its greatest cars now that we have a little perspective.
Cars got increasingly weighted, regulated, and complicated from '01 to '11 but there were some absolutely unbelievable feats of engineering from the time as well.
A perpetual favorite of mine and many of my colleagues that I swear we bring up every couple of days is the Lexus LFA. It was a product of the biggest car company in the world, which is certainly fitting for the era of consolidation in which it was created.
The thing took years to build, partially because of Toyota's extremely conservative corporate culture and mostly because they decided to switch from aluminum to carbon fiber construction late in the car's gestation. They had to redesign the whole thing after that.
The car ended up a bit lost when it debuted at the end of the decade, with a six-figure pricetag that started with a three. Except for the extra extra racey Nürburgring edition, which started with a four.
In no way is the LFA a pretty car, or beautiful in any way. Weird is a better word. Or shocking.
Lexus claimed they sold all of their cars, but many in the media were skeptical in multiple ways and odd cars turned up in strange places. Paris Hilton got one. There's one getting ready to run in Japan's drift series as we speak, for instance.
The car just wasn't as strong in the Internet numbers game as its contemporaries. It's not like it was slow — 552 horsepower pushed 3,263 pounds — but those were mind-bending supercar figures of the 1990s, not the 2000s. The LFA was also particularly out of tune with the statistics crowd. Peak power out of the Yamaha 4.8 liter V10 was at a wailing 8,700 rpm and peak torque of 354 lb-ft was at a 7,800. A grunty 0-60 sprinter it was not, and the world shrugged at it in measured testing.
But the car was supposedly sensational to drive, knife-edged and visceral and dangerous.
It all sort of adds to the allure of the thing among car enthusiasts — here is this treasure, forgotten even when it was new, deserving more respect than it ever received.
More than a timely orphan status, there's a feeling of technology being used to further the design of a car rather than hindering it or overwhelming it, like you find in many other top-rung cars of the period. The Veyron is more like a ground-based spaceship than anything else. To that point, I was once standing next to a Bugatti technician showing off the disembodied bowels of a Veyron (they detach everything aft of the seats for servicing, rear wheels still attached) and we both thought it looked surprisingly like a piece of an Apollo module.
The LFA is something else. Its carbon fiber is woven in a loom. Its engine revs so quickly it requires a digital gauge. It is a car for its time maybe more than anything else. You start to feel like it's a happy coincidence that it's one of the most visceral driving and sounding cars of all time.
Am I wrong? Can you think of a greater car from the oughts?
Photo Credits: Lexus