Here’s Why Toyota’s 1LR-GUE Is One of the Greatest V10 Engines of All Time

Fitted inside the engine bay of the Lexus LFA, this ten-cylinder won’t blow your mind with its output figures. However, its high-tech construction, high-revving capability, and goosebump-inducing exhaust note surely will.
1LR-GUE V10 13 photos
Photo: Lexus
It all starts in the early 2000s when Toyota higher-ups decided it was time to change the world’s perception of their premium brand. Introduced in 1989, Lexus was meant to rival not just fellow Japanese corporations’ high-end brands (Acura and Infiniti), but global segment leaders like BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

During the next decade, Lexus had become well-known for offering a great blend of luxury, comfort, and reliability, but high-performance was the last thing it was associated with.

To change that, its model lineup needed something special, but rather than beefing up an existing model, Toyota kicked off an ambitious project with no budget limit that would result in a breathtaking supercar.

Lexus LFA
Photo: Lexus
After nearly a decade of development, the production version of the supercar dubbed LFA was finally unveiled at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. It looked better than any Toyota or Lexus model before it, but the most impressive thing about it was hidden under the hood.

Co-developed with Yamaha, the heart of the exquisite LFA was a ten-cylinder masterpiece condemned 1LR-GUE. In the years that followed, extensive tests and reviews performed by the motoring press from around the world highlighted the epicness of this high-tech powerplant, with many calling it one of the greatest engines to be fitted inside a series production vehicle.

A 4.8-liter, naturally-aspirated V10, it could produce 552 hp at 8,700 rpm and 354 lb-ft (480 Nm) torque at 6,800 rpm. This translated into a 0-60 mph (97 kph) acceleration of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 202 mph (325 kph). Yes, these figures didn’t propel the LFA to the top of the high-performance vehicle food chain, but that was never the point. Toyota’s goal was to offer drivers a near-flawless supercar that came with one of the lightest, best-sounding, and most advanced V10s that the world has ever seen.

1LR\-GUE V10
Photo: Lexus
The unit employed a 72-degree angle between the two banks of cylinders, which improved balance and allowed a lightweight construction while retaining the smoothest that all other Lexus engines were famous for.

In terms of size, engineers managed to design a package that was not only far more compact than other production V10s available at the time but smaller than previous Lexus V8s. Even more remarkable, the extensive use of lightweight, motorsport-derived materials made it as light as a conventional V6.

Inside the aluminum block, a fully integrated crankshaft was equipped with a set of titanium alloy conrods 40% lighter than conventional iron versions. These were connected to equally lightweight forged pistons fabricated to cope with the high 12:1 compression ratio.

1LR\-GUE V10
Photo: Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.
Behind the magnesium alloy cylinder head covers, the 1LR-GUE boasted a state-of-the-art valvetrain that included titanium rods and valves, as well as ultra-light solid rockers. These components, along with dual-VVTi and ten independently-controlled throttle body trumpets enabled a 9,000-rpm redline and helped the engine deliver 90% of its peak torque from as low as 3,700 rpm.

Not impressed? Well, you will be when you find out that this amazing motor was able to rev up from idle to redline in just 0.6 seconds, setting a new world record for a production car in 2012. This physics-defying figure meant that Toyota couldn’t find an analog tachometer that could keep up, so they had to devise a digital alternative.

The engine featured a dry-sump lubrication system, which allowed engineers to position it deep within the chassis in a front-midship layout, lowering the LFA’s center of gravity and improving weight distribution. The use of this system also meant that the car could handle sustained high-speed cornering in excess of 2G.

1LR\-GUE V10
Photo: Lexus
Apart from its compact packaging, reduced weight, and the multitude of race-grade components, this powerplant also sang one of the most beautiful tunes that you will ever hear. This was made possible by Yamaha’s acoustics experts who designed a bespoke surge tank inside the intake system that incorporated ribbed walls inspired by musical instruments. This component, along with the dual exhaust system that consisted of equal-length manifolds routed through a multi-stage titanium muffler, played a key role in the F1-like soundtrack that the engine could deliver.

The Lexus LFA and its fantastic, hand-assembled V10 were produced from December 2010 to December 2012 in a limited run of 500 units.

Light, compact, innovative, and mellifluous, the 1LR-GUE is an engineering work of art that deservedly earns a place among the greatest ten-cylinder engines ever built.

You can watch an awesome review of the LFA and hear its marvelous motor scream in the video below posted on YouTube by Throttle House.

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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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