After years of casting around for a third model, Lamborghini has settled on what Manfred Fitzgerald, head of brand and design, rather presumptively calls “the world’s first supersedan.” The dramatic Estoque, revealed in concept form at the Paris auto show, isn’t called a four-door coupe by its makers, but it certainly would travel in the extrawide tire tracks of cars like the Porsche Panamera and the Aston Martin Rapide, both of which it would follow to market, in 2012.
Quest for the third leg
“The [exotic car] business is quite volatile,” allows Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann. “So three legs are invariably better to stand on than two. That’s why we have been thinking for several years about a third model to complement the Murciélago and the Gallardo.”
Lamborghini bosses evaluated options ranging from a Miura successor (remember the 2006 design exercise?) to an LM002 reincarnation to a front-engine GT.
“The SUV fell through because that wave has passed. We also dismissed the front-engine sports car because the segment is, on a global basis, deceptively small,” says Winkelmann.
“In the end, we decided on the four-door supersportwagen. Despite its unconventional architecture, it perfectly matches our key brand values, and research tells us that it will work in all markets – especially in Asia and Russia, which will soon account for one-third of our total sales volume. Perhaps most important, it addresses a very wide customer base, from sports car aficionados with families to style-conscious businessmen with full-time chauffeurs. To satisfy these clients, who are used to the space, comfort, and convenience of a full-size luxury sedan, we created a generously roomy car free of head- and legroom compromises.”
“Entry and egress will be effortless,” promises Mauricio Reggiani, who is in charge of the technical department. “The big doors open wide, the seats are cushy yet supportive, there is plenty of legroom, and once you’ve made yourself comfortable, the low roof is never an issue. Although visibility is excellent, the first thing you’ll notice from inside is the high beltline, which provides a charming cocoon effect.”
What makes the bull run
Mechanically, the front-engine Estoque is unlike either of Lamborghini’s current offerings, both of which are mid-engine two-seaters. The Estoque is loosely based on the ASF (Audi aluminum spaceframe) platform shared with the next Audi A8 and Bentley Continental families. For production, an ASF architecture is bound to be the most practical choice in terms of investment, weight savings, and commonality.
A front-mounted engine is a given, and odds favor a twin-turbo V-8. To be on the safe side, the engine bay is just big enough to house Lamborghini’s V-10, but that thirsty and expensive engine is more appropriate for a hard-core sports car. The show car’s V-8 is derived from the V-10, but for production, Lamborghini is more likely to modify the next A8’s new 4.0-liter, direct-injection twin-turbo V-8. Rated at about 420 hp and 400 lb-ft in A8 guise, it would probably get a power and torque boost to 500 hp and 480 lb-ft (although that would still put it behind the 620-hp, Lambo-sourced V-10 in Audi’s next S8).
A transaxle would be nice but is difficult to accomplish with four-wheel drive. “Even with the transmission bolted to the engine, we think we can achieve a well-balanced, 55/45 percent weight distribution,” states Reggiani. “Instead of the fixed torque split preferred by Audi, I would vote for an active, electronically controlled on-demand system that is even more responsive and progressive.”
As for brakes, why look any further than the industry’s largest-diameter rotors, which Bentley currently installs on the Continental GT? The Estoque almost certainly will get the same setup, with optional carbon-ceramic discs, of course.
The A8/Bentley architecture also offers a control-arm air suspension, but Lamborghini prefers a more pure (and lighter) approach. “For the Estoque, a more straightforward coil-spring suspension tuned by means of Audi Magnetic Ride or a similar system might be a better solution,” says Reggiani.
Where to build it
The Gallardo, which shares its genes with the Audi R8, starts life in the Audi plant in Neckarsulm, Germany, and the Estoque would follow a similar build process. (Only the Murciélago is designed, developed, and built 100 percent in-house, and there’s no more room at the Lambo factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese.) The Estoque’s genetic link with the A8 and the Flying Spur allows the possibility of partial assembly either in Neckarsulm (Audi) or Dresden (Volkswagen/Bentley). Lamborghini would bring in semicompleted body/chassis/drivetrain units from Germany for the final build phases in Sant’Agata, to warrant that all-important, made-in-Italy provenance.
How many and how much
“If [the Estoque] does happen, it would have to account for approximately half of our total sales,” says Winkelmann. That’s 1500 to 1700 units per year. To achieve that volume, the Estoque needs an attractive price, perhaps something less than $150,000. That would put it $25,000 below the Flying Spur and $50,000 above the S8. Wishful thinking? “It’s still the early days,” says Winkelmann. “But, yes, that’s probably the price point we would have to aim for.”
The political questions
We’re confident that messieurs Winkelmann, Fitzgerald, and Reggiani can pull off this car in terms of concept and content. But thorny issues of funding and politics remain. The biggest worries: How will Porsche management and newly crowned VW Group supremo Wendelin Wiedeking react to a new model that targets Porsche’s Panamera? Will the Estoque be the first casualty under the new regime? “This is a challenging business that requires a lot of out-of-the-box thinking,” says a suddenly pensive Winkelmann. “To us, the four-door supersedan has huge potential, and it marks a totally new opportunity.”