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No V-12? Lamborghini Fighting to Save Aventador’s Engine

Is Lambo still a worthy investment for Audi, or is it about to become a burden?

Thanks to the successful and profitable Urus, right now life is good in Sant’Agata for Lamborghini and its affable CEO Stefano Domenicali. After all, the marque he’s in charge of doubled sales in fiscal 2018, and is expected to contribute upwards of 15 percent to the Volkswagen Group’s bottom line in 2019. A plug-in-hybrid version of the Urus set to arrive next year should only add to the coffers. Despite all the positives, the results still don’t quite cut it for VW CEO Herbert Diess, who keeps urging Lamborghini to bring its profits closer to Ferrari’s. An ambitious goal, no doubt, especially when you consider the increasingly scarce funds and the unclear situation at Audi, which owns the Italian sports-car maker, and the juggernaut that is Ferrari’s product-licensing business.

Then there’s the matter of Lambo’s core business, which appears to be living on borrowed time—despite a string of stunning and highly profitable limited-edition specials. Lambo needs a decision on the Aventador replacement about as badly as a junkie needs his next shot, but decision-making has never been Audi’s forte. Which is why the VW Group product strategy committee (PSK) keeps pushing back the Aventador MkII, first from 2020 to 2021, then to 2022, and now to 2024, which would relegate the next Huracán to 2025—and that’s an optimistic scenario. What happened? The German owners are reportedly reluctant to spend the money required to update the Aventador’s ancient V-12 to the EU7 emission standard. Instead, they would rather use hybridized, high-performance V-8 engines for both models, refusing to acknowledge that without the iconic V-12, the Aventador is little more than a token gesture.

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In an ideal world, the new Aventador (LB744) would use the same carbon-fiber chassis as the next Huracán (LB634), thereby also sharing the electronic architecture; the innovative, transversely mounted transmission; key suspension and brake elements; the steering; and the user-interface concept. The group’s strategy department has budgeted the new DNA—including two different shells and the revised V-12 engine—at a whopping $900 million or so. In stark contrast, the Italians claim they can do it for roughly half that number: They say getting the V-12 to comply with the EU7 commandments would cost around $55 million, while $400 million max would suffice to fund both redesigns. Lamborghini could alternatively invest in a full stopgap plan to re-skin the cars, which would extend the lifecycle of either model by four years if so required. While Lamborghini chief technical officer Maurizio Reggiani and his team continue to fight for the V-12, the V-10 will almost certainly be replaced in favor of a 4.0-liter V-8 being developed by Porsche that’s due to appear in 2024. In its most potent form, the new engine, codenamed LK5+, should push close to 800 horsepower all-in with hybrid enhancements. We’ll miss the V-10, but with that performance, we’re thinking most Lambo buyers won’t care. But the V-12? That’s another matter.