"It's just a car," I keep saying to myself, "just another car." Knowing full well that it isn't. Here I am in the new 602-hp 2015 Lamborghini Huracán, waiting for the light at the end of the pit lane to jump from red to green. While my body is still trying to make friends with the narrow bucket seat, my brain switches on the adrenaline pump. Eventually, my right index finger lifts the red metal gate and stabs the starter button. I can hear myself breathe quite loudly now, sucking oxygen out of the ridiculously small cabin in deep, short draws.
The environment of my metallic orange test car is a cave clad in black leather and in-your-face orange Alcantara. The daylight opening, a term designers use to describe the shape of the side-window area, gains an ironic new meaning in this Lamborghini—small openings, little daylight, zero over-the-shoulder visibility, and a wide and deep windshield that kisses the ground just in front of the pedal box. The dashboard is a hypermodern creation that incorporates Aventador, Reventón, Sesto Elemento, and Egiosta styling cues. The main TFT display, located behind the steering wheel, can switch among three different modes labeled Full Drive, Mixed, and Full Navi and Infotainment. The center stack accommodates the MMI and navigation controls, auxiliary instruments, a row of classic rocker switches, a push-button parking brake, and a U-shaped metal gear lever for reverse that stands up tall and is much easier to use than the push-button device in the outgoing Gallardo. The multifunction steering wheel, now with integrated wiper and turn-signal switches, awaits the firm grip of my sweaty palms. Mounted to the steering column are the world's largest shift paddles. Ready to hit the road? Abso-bloody-lutely!
Your neighbors will hate you for owning a Lamborghini Huracán because it so incredibly loud, but emotion is the approach you must choose when you can't win the numbers game. That's emotion as in noise and throttle response, steering feedback and shift speed, curb appeal and envy. Especially envy. Knowing full well that the uprated normally aspirated 602-hp V-10 cannot beat the turbocharged eights in the 641-hp McLaren 650S and next year's 660-hp Ferrari 458-T, nor the 0-to-60-mph times of the Porsche 911 Turbo S and the Nissan GT-R (both twin-turbo six-cylinders),
R&D chief Maurizio Reggiani and his team decided early on to add a large measure of italianitá to enhance the appeal of their latest effort. Since Lamborghini did not obtain the funds required to develop an all-new carbon-fiber sports car or a new artificially aspirated V-8, Reggiani's crew created their own version of the MSS (modular sports car system) architecture that the Huracán shares with the next Audi R8, due in 2015.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Gallardo replacement is not only a sharper and faster driving machine, it is also a more compliant and accessible sports car. The carefully tweaked V-10 makes for a compelling opening gambit. Its displacement is a generous 5204 cc, and it drives all four wheels to put up to 413 lb-ft of torque to the ground, molto presto. Compared with last year's Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, the maximum power output has increased from 561 to 602 hp, peak torque is up by a relatively modest 15 lb-ft, and the 0-to-62-mph acceleration time has improved by 0.2 second, to 3.2 seconds. Even fuel economy has improved slightly. The Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4 can reach a top speed of "over 202 mph," which puts it in the same ballpark as the Gallardo and the Ferrari 458 Italia.
"Right now, we have a small advantage over the 458," claims Reggiani, "but the next round of updates will almost certainly produce a new leader of the pack." In addition to the long-running competition between Sant'Agata Bolognese and Maranello, the raging bull must fend off challengers from within the VW Group, such as the pending mid-engine Porsche 960 (now delayed until 2019) and the next Audi R8, which will, in top-of-the-line guise, feature a slightly detuned version of the very same V-10 engine the Huracán relies on. To escape this squeeze and to end the struggle for more grunt once and for all, the Italians have quietly started to work on their own high-revving twin-turbo unit. Until that engine is ready, the output will reportedly go up biannually in the usual 20-hp increments.
On the country roads around Málaga, in Spain, we quickly opened the window to relish this engine's catchy tunes. It is surprisingly easy to single out the soloists in the forty-valve, ten-cylinder, quad-cam orchestra. Like the common-pin crankshaft that produces that characteristic distant midrange drone; the forged pistons and connecting rods that add a metallic high-rev whirr; the intermittent, idle-speed slurp of the dry-sump lubrication; the typical click-clack that accompanies the stop/start system; the background hum of the chain drives; and the pneumatic lungs that govern the dual-stage intake system—sotto voce up to 4000 rpm, chiaroscuro above 6000 rpm.
In this car, even the fuel injection plays two distinctly different tunes. The direct injection that prevails when the engine is started and under high load works to a different rhythm than the darker and deeper voice of the indirect injection that's active under part-throttle operating conditions. Between 3000 and 6500 rpm, both systems merge in a dense, fast-flowing techno jam session. Last but not least, there's the flap-operated exhaust that answers to full-throttle orders with a hungry growl that becomes a veritable roar between 8200 and 8500 rpm.
Although this Lamborghini can bark louder than most of its rivals, its personality is now much more mature and less aggressive. One case in point concerns the new LDF transmission, which bites faster and harder than the Gallardo's rather rough automated six-speed e-Gear box, yet at the same time can be totally seamless and relaxed. LDF stands for Lamborghini Doppia Frizione, denoting the same seven-speed dual-clutch automatic known elsewhere as S tronic. In auto mode, LDF works smoothly and unobtrusively, seldom putting a dent in the impressively shaped torque curve. Preselecting the wrong gear, a common flaw when this technology was in its infancy, is now a rare occurrence. But since the car cannot yet read the road, dictating the pace with your fingertips is still the most rewarding modus operandi. Revs permitting, the transmission will change down several gears at a time while you keep the paddle pulled, but it has yet to learn how to slip into fuel-saving coasting mode.
Four-wheel drive is clearly a bonus as far as traction, stability, and launch-control takeoff are concerned. Torque is split automatically. Although no more than 50 percent can be diverted to the front wheels, 100 percent rear-wheel drive is a possibility under certain conditions. Extra grip is provided by a mechanical limited-slip rear differential.
The Huracán is every bit as low as the Gallardo, but it is a little longer and wider, and its wheelbase now measures 103.1 inches instead of 100.8 inches. While the curb weight has come down a smidgen (it's still about 3400 pounds), torsional stiffness improved by 50 percent. The aluminum spaceframe is kitted out with carbon-fiber sills, transmission tunnel, rear firewall, and B-pillars. The suspension is again control arms all around, but the nineteen-inch wheels have been replaced by bigger twenty inchers shod with Pirelli PZero tires—245/30 in the front, 305/30 in back.
Extra money buys even lighter rims, adjustable MagneRide dampers, and Lamborghini Dynamic Steering (LDS). LDS can vary its ratio from a very quick 9:1 (around town) to a very relaxed 17:1 (at speed). The steering also will automatically make tiny corrections to suppress beginning understeer and oversteer. In sync with MagneRide, which reduces yaw and roll by selectively increasing the damping force on the outer front wheel, LDS duly speeds up the turn-in action.
Most modern sports cars come with character-shaping devices such as Drive Select (Audi) or manettino (Ferrari). Now Lamborghini joins the fray with Anima, which lets you tweak the soul of the Huracán by pushing a red button at the bottom of the squared-off steering wheel. The three attitudes one can choose from are Strada, Sport, and Corsa. Anima connects its electronic feelers to the stability control, the LDS steering, the adjustable dampers, the LDF transmission, the four-wheel-drive system, the throttle blades of the V-10 engine, and the flaps inside the free-flow exhaust. Why is it not possible to select a personalized mix of preferred settings? "Because we don't want to confuse the driver," says Reggiani. "Instead, we provide three different setups, two for road use and one for the track." Although stability control can be deactivated completely, it takes a low-friction surface or a racing circuit to explore the Huracán's otherwise well-concealed tail-out antics.
Even more so than the Aventador, the Gallardo replacement is two cars in one. Its soundtrack will silence the busiest street cafés, its extroverted stature is a magnet for camera phones, its presence in the rearview mirror often has that hot-knife-through-butter effect. But when you look behind the glamorous façade, you will find raw talent, real ability, and rare composure. On the Ascari circuit, high up on the hills above the Costa del Sol, the Huracán was not only stunningly fast but also beautifully balanced. In Corsa (race) mode, the steering action speeds up dramatically, tip-in is an object lesson in preemptive obedience, torque vectoring clearly favors the rear wheels, and the dampers keep the body almost level even under hard braking and through maximum-g corners. Initially, stability control provided exactly that and perhaps a bit too much of it, but after about twenty laps when the tires started to melt and the car would fishtail out of second- and third-gear bends, the calibration was suddenly spot-on. By then, the carbon-ceramic brakes were hot enough to decelerate our gleaming citrus fruit on wheels with such effectiveness that it seemed perfectly OK to ignore the cone markers and to hit the pedal eerily late even though extreme deceleration would occasionally trigger an initial wobble or two.
Littered with fat marbles from two dozen slowly dying Pirelli tires, the two fastest curves could no longer be taken flat out by midday, but the interaction between man and machine remained unfazed. As safe and sure-footed as a 911 Turbo S, the Huracán is all about clarity and confidence. You can go seven-tenths in this Lambo and still feel like a superhero through the twisty stuff, you can overdrive it by two-tenths and will not be punished as long as stability control is active, and you can expect total satisfaction for every lap completed at ten-tenths. On the same turf only three weeks earlier, the McLaren 650S was all exaltation, excitement, and exaggeration. The latest Lamborghini, once a role model for extrovert excess, contrasted unexpectedly: totally predictable all the way to the limit, it fused Italian karma with German efficiency. If you like your Lambos coarse and loose and unrefined, go look for a brutish, pre-face-lift used Gallardo. But if precise handling is as important as making a wave on the approach to the golf/yacht/tennis club, check out the Huracán. Its talents are more than skin deep. Comments Reggiani with a wide grin: "For the sign-off drive with the board of directors from Ingolstadt, the car had to master a certain bend on the proving ground at almost 200 mph. Early on in the gestation process, it didn't. But after we increased the downforce by 50 percent, even our German friends were convinced..."
Normally, it takes an empty autobahn to explore such extreme velocities, but the famous Marbella to Ronda hill-climb is not a bad substitute, so we left the hotel at the crack of dawn to unleash the beast inside one more time. In more ways than one, the new coupe from Sant'Agata is still living in the past. Turbochargers, driver-assistance systems, and active aerodynamics are conspicuous by their absence. Thankfully, the iconic V-10 made the transition from LP570-4 to LP610-4. In terms of spontaneity and urge, the free-revving and free-breathing forty-valver is still a rare gem. While the V-10 beams us effortlessly past slower traffic, four-wheel drive is redistributing the torque with surgical precision, the variable-ratio steering keeps carving out the most pragmatic flight path, the suspension successfully deals with deep craters and sharp ridges, and the brakes reel us in from the brink time after time. Special requests? Complaints? Final remarks? Tall drivers would appreciate a little more head- and legroom, smartphone connectivity is lacking, and a decontented, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive Huracán powered by a bespoke V-8 might be a tempting future entry-level model.
2015 Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4
|BASE PRICE||$240,245 (plus gas-guzzler tax)|
|ENGINE||40-valve DOHC V-10|
|DISPLACEMENT||5.2 liters (318 cu in)|
|POWER||602 hp @ 8250 rpm|
|TORQUE||413 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Control arms, coil springs|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Control arms, coil springs|
|TIRE SIZES F, R||245/30R-20 (90Y), 305/30R-20 (103Y)|
|TRACK F/R||65.7/63.8 in|
|WEIGHT||3400 lb (est.)|
|WEIGHT DIST. F/R||42/58%|
|Est. fuel MILEAGE||14/21 mpg|
|0–62 MPH||3.2 sec (per manufacturer)|
|TOP SPEED||202 mph|