The Thrill of Tearing Through the Desert in a Lamborghini Huracan
The Asphalt Jungle
A friend was on the phone: "Hey, Art, let's do Vegas this weekend. Hit the tables, cocktails by the pool, cigars at Casa Fuente. Just you and me."
Me: "Vegas? Uh, I heard the Cirque du Soleil acrobats might be planning a labor riot on the Strip. Gonna swarm the Eiffel Tower. Could get pretty nasty, so ..."
"We'll take my Lamborghini. You can drive."
It took me 15 seconds to pack a suit, swim trunks, and my lucky copy of "Beat the House at Blackjack—Without Money."
My pal Theophylaktos (not his real name) lives large. Yes, he got off to a running start in the biz world thanks to a nice inheritance, but with deft investments in real estate and tech, he's transformed a nest egg into regular rides on NetJets. Though he travels so much he's rarely home in L.A., not long ago Theo treated himself to a barely used Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4. All cash. I knew he had the car, but I had never actually seen it. In fact, I'd never actually seen Theo drive.
Despite previous seat time in Huracáns, I wasn't prepared for Theo's. "Nice color, eh?" he said with pride after arriving at my place Friday morning. "They call it Verde Mantis."
"I haven't seen anything so green since the Grinch stole Christmas," I said, shielding my eyes. "I feel like I'm wearing night-vision goggles."
"I knew you'd love it!" Theo said, laughing as he jumped into the right seat.
Heading east on Interstate 10, we couldn't have been more conspicuous if we were on fire. Other motorists instantly transformed into wild chimps whenever we passed by in our wailing wedge of lime. (I'd bet there are 5,000 photos of us on Instagram right now.) I turned to Theo: "You realize the California Highway Patrol can see this thing from 20 miles away. We're probably being watched by the International Space Station too."
"Then let us divert from this common thoroughfare," said Theo with mock pompousness. "Take the long way. Vegas isn't going anywhere."
Within half an hour we were screaming toward Death Valley, the two-lane desert road all ours, the Huracán's 602-hp V-10 louder than the paint job, tumbleweeds flashing past the IMAX windshield, the all-wheel-drive chassis fused with the tarmac like the cheddar and bread of a grilled cheese sandwich. I took a quick glance over at Theo, his hand gripped white around the door handle. With a weak smile he nodded: "Guess this car is worth the money, huh?"
The unfortunate byproduct of all this high-rpm rocketeering: The Lambo's gas gauge was plummeting as if the tank had been shotgunned. We managed to reach the only gas station around for miles. Theo got out for a look around and shook his head at the expanse of bleached-white dry lake bed running into forever. "Where are we?"
"This is Trona," I said, hanging the fuel nozzle back on the pump. (I'd just spent $114.40 of Theo's money on the fill-up.) "Old mining town. Only a couple thousand people live here now, mostly working for the soda-ash plant. It's super hot like this almost all the time."
Theo stared out over the empty moonscape, shook his head, then turned back to me. "Place like this, you'd need to have crazy-wild sex." I motioned him back into the car.
On the scale of daily hardships, 10 being worst, driving a Lamborghini Huracán through the wriggling two-lanes and epic expanse of Death Valley in the company of a good friend ranks about a zero. The Huracán is simply one of the most fantastic motoring machines in existence today. Even in the brutal desert heat, it never complained. The sublime seven-speed dual-clutch paddle-shift transmission banishes the bitter aftertaste of Lambo's cantankerous old manumatic. The acceleration—the car can do 0 to 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds—will change your hairstyle.
I offered to let Theo drive his Lamborghini. (I know: how generous of me.) "No, you keep driving," he replied. I shot him a look, and he noticed. "Truth is," he said, "I'm a little scared of this car." I raised a "so why'd you buy it?" eyebrow. "You know that Ducati 1299 Panigale I have?" said Theo. "I'll never ride that bike. I'm just gonna keep it in my living room for a while, look at it. I like beautiful machines."
At this point I felt a certain sense of duty welling up inside. "Listen. I know a couple decent roads on Mount Charleston, just outside Vegas," I said. "Want to see what your Huracán can really do?" Theo looked at me a bit warily. Then he nodded. "Yeah. For sure."
Within two hours we were in the twisties, the V-10 hammering against its 8,250-rpm redline, P Zeroes yowling under the lateral gs. Brake, shift down, brake harder, turn, back on the gas, open the wheel, shift up, flat to the floor, shift up again. The Huracán was Hoovering up the road like a slot car, the lane stripes blinking in front of us like yellow strobe lights. Now Theo was laughing—a nervous laugh, true, but still enjoying himself. "Incredible! Wow! Holy … !" Then, suddenly, "Arthur! Pull over. Right now!"
I eased the Lamborghini into a turnout as Theo hastily wrenched open his door. Whereupon he promptly threw up all over Nevada. I patted his back as he continued to retch. "Hey, man, sorry," I offered. "It can happen to anybody."
Theo was shaking his head: "It's OK. I'm OK." (Another big barf.) "Shouldn't have eaten all that beef jerky."
Three hours later, the Huracán valet-parked right near the front doors of the Bellagio hotel, Theo and I were seated in cushy chairs at the Baccarat Bar, sport coats on our backs, icy martinis on our table. "So Theo," I began. "How are you do ...."
He waved me off with his hand, grabbed his martini, raised the glass. "Here's to beautiful machines!" he exclaimed with a big smile. "Today I file away in a very special place."
I clinked my glass with his and took a generous sip. "You're a sport, Theo," I said. "Rare."
Later that night, the wicked green now a velvet table, our respective fortunes turned. I lost almost $200. Theo won, as I recall, about $7,000. I honestly think he enjoyed his car more, though. Yes, the next day offered the promise of a leisurely
afternoon poolside, dinner steaks chargrilled to perfection, a good smoke, and talk in beefy leather chairs. But Theo's Lamborghini was waiting outside. And I knew what we were looking forward to the most was the long drive home.