Japan and Germany have always been completely different in the automotive world. Actually, besides World War II, they are usually opposites on most things. One is a conservative nation that can be a bit boring, while the other is a nation of electronics, weird game shows, and amazing, yet crazy food.
The German automotive industry is one the best in the world. Mercedes-Benz , BMW , Volkswagen and the many others have been making some of the best cars on the market. They are safe, reliable, and perfectly engineered. Nothing says quality like a German luxury car brand.
Japan on the other hand, tends to be less wild than their culture. Toyota , Honda , Mazda , Mitsubishi , and Subaru aren’t perfectly engineered machines, but they are as reliable as the wind. There prices are cheaper and appeal to a greater mass of people than the Germans do.
Both of these automotive nations aren’t what you would call, supercar manufacturers. We usually look to the Italians for that sort of thing, but that hasn’t stopped these two from trying. Honda created the NSX , which flopped and Mercedes gave us the great SLR McLaren , but that didn’t sell well either.
Now, Mercedes has decided to give it another go and Toyota has decided to follow suit. One has gullwing doors and a design from the 1950s. Of course, we are talking about the Mercedes SLS AMG . On the other side, we have the Lexus LFA , a car packed with so much technology it can shatter a wine glass.
So, which is the better buy? Hit the jump to find out.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and the Lexus LFA are about as different as the countries that made them. It’s a brat versus a sushi roll.
Though there are a few similarities here and there, it’s because the way these two sound, drive, and look that makes them very different indeed. Both of these cars are insanely fast and very equal. Each will hit 60 miles per hour in under four seconds and both will do speeds above 190 mph. Yet, the way they go about it is as different as the management styles of Bill Belichick and Bob Knight.
Let’s get the least important information out of the way first. In regards to the interior, sitting inside the LFA feels a bit more special than the SLS does, more vodka bar rather than a German pub. The steering wheel is similar to what you will find on performance Audi models, with a flat bottom. Of course, to save weight, the wheel is carbon fiber, as are many other things. The LED instrument panel is very neat, with a large round rev counter that changes colors and a few other digital gizmos. There are so many things to play with on the instrument panel alone that you might not set off on your drive for hours.
The interior also feels a bit roomier than the SLS’s does. There is plenty of leather and carbon fiber that we have become used to on Mercedes AMG products. The gull-wing doors are neat and will get you noticed when picking up a beautiful woman, but don’t park in a low parking garage or you won’t be able to get out. More form than function for the Merc.
Around back, the trunk of the Mercedes holds around 6.2 cubic feet, but, surprisingly, we have no idea how much the Lexus holds because the Japanese automaker didn’t bother to say. But really, who cares. It’s not like you’re going to go grocery shopping in them. In the pounds department, the LFA comes in at 3,460 pounds and the SLS is around 3,573 pounds.
The transmissions on each cars are as far apart as Mercury and Neptune. Mercedes attached a seven-speed dual clutch automatic to the V8 that nearly eliminates power interruption during full throttle starts. Like most AMG cars, you have plenty of choices on how hard the car will shift. There are four modes: C for comfort, S for sport, S+ for sport plus, and M for manual. As you have probably figured out by now, the S+ is the ideal choice for hard driving, but for economy purposes, keep out of it during everyday driving.
The Lexus has a six-speed single clutch automated manual that isn’t nearly as good as the box found in the Merc. You change gear via the paddles on the wheel. They are attached to the wheel so you should have no trouble downshifting while cornering. Like the SLS, there are four options for the gearbox. There is auto, which is slow and pathetic; normal, which is just normal; sport, and wet. Sport is the ideal choice for most driving situations. No matter what setting you have it in, you will never be able to match the smoothness and the quickness of the Mercedes. Needless to say, the box in the Lexus is very disappointing.
The Lexus does have a few neat toys, like differently weighted shift paddles, but all those are just gimmicks that don’t come close to overshadowing the Lexus’s issues. The clutch is poor on aggressive starts and like the Nissan GT-R , the LFA struggles with slow and tight corners, which is odd because this car is so good in most every other corner. Overall, the LFA feels old school, a bit like the Vanquish when it first got the F1 style flappy paddles. A little disappointing to be honest.
The SLS has a bit of a different setup about it. The gear changes are smooth and quick and the car is easy to operate around town. Considering this is an AMG creation, you get the AMG Drive Unit, the same system that we find in the SL63. To keep you entertained there is the Mercedes Command system that gives you access to the navigation, audio, and few settings for the car. There is a similar system in the LFA.
Driving around the Wisconsin side streets, we were never able to take these cars to the edge. If we were in Germany we could take the LFA to 202 miles per hour and the SLS to 197 mph. The SLS feels fast on the roads and we mean, feels really fast. That is all due to the 6.2-liter V8 with 479 pound-feet of torque. The LFA on the other hand doesn’t feel as fast. That is due to the 4.8-liter motor and the smaller torque amount of 354 pound-feet. Supercars need torque and this Lexus doesn’t have it. Those numbers give the SLS a bigger edge of the line and you can most definitely feel that.
In order to get the most out of the LFA you need to rev the pants off of it. If you have ever driven the Mazda RX-8 you will know what we are talking about. The car redlines so high that even at 6,000 rpm you are just getting started. It’s fun to hear the engine noise at that high rpm level, but it will take a few laps to get used to driving it. The SLS on the other hand, is fast from the word go.
The insanely high-powered noise that comes out of the LFA’s exhaust when you are revving the nuts off it is simply amazing. Redlined at 9,000 rpm, the V10 motor sounds like a Formula One car, a Toyota F1 car to be precise. It can even break a wine glass, as we have seen in commercials. When this car drives by, you will be sure to hear it, even if you are sitting in your home eating supper, miles and miles away.
The SLS is more of a bass noise, rather than an F1 screech. It’s more of a deep rumble, like an old muscle car. If your an old school car guy, this noise would be intoxicating.
On the bendy bits of the road, the LFA’s lighter weight helps it be more nimble. The Lexus is also a tiny bit smaller, as the SLS is 5.2 inches longer and just a tad wider. The Mercedes is also hurt by it’s massive hood that can make you feel miles back in the cockpit. It’s almost like driving a Corvette.
The LFA’s steering is quick and responsive, while the SLS is a bit meatier. Despite the extra meat, the SLS feels just as attentive and its feedback is fabulous.
Both of the cars’ stability control systems have a few different settings. In the Lexus, the LFA’s intermediate setting turns off the traction control, while the SLS’s stays on, but becomes more attentive, in typical Mercedes fashion.
On the drag strip, or in our case, empty highway, both cars are equally quick. The LFA will hit 60 miles per hour in just 3.9 seconds, while the SLS managed it in 3.8 seconds. That sort of time difference doesn’t really matter much, as both of these cars are equally fast. That speed comes from the two impressive, albeit different, motors. The LFA gets a 4.8-liter V10 with 553 horsepower, while the SLS has 563. Eventually, the Lexus would win because of its higher top end speed.
When choosing a winner it was actually easier than we thought. The LFA is a let down by its transmission and high revving motor and for the price, these issues are unacceptable. You need to really adjust yourself to drive this car fast. We don’t much care for the odd looks and that black strip right below the hood. Plus, it’s a Lexus, which isn’t the most impressive badge in the world.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is the perfect supercar. It looks great, is super fast and handles well. The SLR McLaren was good, but this is just amazing. If you had to live with one supercar your entire life, this would be a smart buy. Better sell the house though, as one of these will cost you $183,000. Do you think that the price is bit high? Well, the LFA is $375,000, so in reality, the SLS is a bargain. Even more reason to pick one up.