Sant’agata’s latest delivers on the promise of its looks | by Andrew Frankel
How must a car be judged? I prefer to focus not on raw data whose importance can be interpreted a number of ways, but merely to ask how good it is at the job it set out to do. But when the subject is a Lamborghini, even this apparently simple formula suddenly seems complex and awkward to apply.
What kind of car should a Lamborghini like this new Huracán actually be? It might seem obvious, but it’s not. From its shape, its name and the charging bull on its nose, you would think it simply had to be one of the most thrilling ways ever conceived of progressing from one place to the next. It is a car whose visual language speaks of impossible speed, miraculous cornering power and a seminal experience, one that prioritises pure driving pleasure above all other interests, a car that might very well justify being cramped, noisy, uncomfortable and impractical because on the appropriate terrain it would allow you to live like few other cars on the road today.
But that’s not what Lamborghinis actually do. The truth is that for all their outlandish styling, vast power plants and howling exhausts, very few Lamborghinis I’ve driven have ever put much importance on delivering that unforgettable poise, feel and response that are the hallmarks of all truly great driver’s cars. Miuras are legendarily tricky and awkward to drive, I didn’t care at all for the only Countach to have crossed my path, I tried just one Diablo I really liked and the recently deceased Gallardo was unquestionably capable, but Ferrari equivalents were invariably more exciting. Which leaves just the Murciélago – effectively a Diablo re-engineered and reskinned with Audi money – as the only Lamborghini I really loved to drive. And it was genuinely wonderful – an absolute monster of a car but with the balance and agility of a winged angel.
Which brings us to the present line-up. I was considerably surprised and disappointed to discover that while its then-new flagship, the Aventador, may have looked even more amazing and been yet more powerful than the Murciélago, it was also less fun to drive. A lot less fun, in fact. On the track where I first made its acquaintance, it understeered like a supermarket trolley, though I am told later cars are better balanced.
Did this startling lack of on-the-limit dynamism hurt its prospects? Did it heck. The Aventador is selling in greater numbers than any of its forebears. Lamborghini has correctly identified that, so far as its customers are concerned, it matters really very little how the car behaves on the edge of adhesion so long as people continue to walk into lamp-posts when it rumbles past. Rightly or wrongly, it is the ability to generate feelings of jealousy among friends, family and the general public that is a Lamborghini’s main aim. And the Aventador does that brilliantly.
Such is the context in which this new Huracán must be seen and, so far as Lamborghini’s terms of reference are concerned, it does its job fantastically.
I am now so old, spoiled and obsessed with what cars do, rather than how they look, that I can walk away from almost any Ferrari, McLaren or Porsche I might drive without a backward glance. Not so with this Lamborghini.
I just wanted to stare at it, so much in fact I feared driving it because that might reveal a car that was nothing like as good as it looked. Its shape is subtler than that of the Aventador, but even more captivating. To me at least, this is the best-looking supercar on sale and if my theory about who buys these cars (and why) is correct, that alone should ensure its success.
But let’s not allow its commercial viability to delay us for too long. Under that extraordinary skin the Huracán is a surprisingly conventional supercar, but that’s because the same chassis is required to underpin the forthcoming second-generation Audi R8, too. Like the Gallardo, which was on sale for 11 years, its aluminium panels clothe an aluminium spaceframe, albeit now reinforced in places by carbon fibre.
The engine is the same 5.2-litre normally aspirated V10 used in the Gallardo, albeit tickled up to a mite over 600bhp, while the Gallardo’s single worst feature – its hateful robotised manual paddle-shift transmission – has been replaced by the double clutch unit already installed in the current R8. There is no manual option. But there are double wishbones at each corner, ceramic brake discs as standard and, for the first time, an electric power steering system.
Inside the TFT display screen looks like it was swiped from a fighter jet, which I rather liked. Less impressive is the squared off steering wheel (remind me what’s wrong with a constant-radius rim?) that has followed Ferrari’s lead, so now it groans under the weight of all the controls it must carry.
Significantly, the Huracán is quite an easy car in which to go looking for admirers. Its ride quality is tolerable, its powertrain snatch-free at low speed. This is a car that’s been set up to go slowly and not go kangarooing down the road, making a fool of its owner in front of his adoring public. It was what happened when you drove it fast that worried me.
And it is very fast. It’s so easy in these days of LaFerraris and McLaren P1s to be blasé about this level of performance, but it’s worth remembering that this entry-level Lamborghini is now almost as powerful as a McLaren F1 and quicker to 60mph. You’ll find no cause to complain about the sound of the V10 as it nears its 8250rpm power peak either, nor the transformed gearbox.
The handling is also superb in all normal conditions, insofar as it corners flat, fast and accurately. It’s also stable and reassuring in the wet, which is not always a given with this kind of car. What it won’t do is offer the same on-the-limit experience as the exquisite Ferrari 458, largely because its nose doesn’t bite into the apex with quite the same eagerness. Lamborghini asked me not to track test the Huracán. Had I been able to sneak in a few laps under the radar, however, I might have been able to report that the terrible understeer you will have read about elsewhere was notable only by its absence, and that while it is less willing to drift than the Ferrari, it is genuinely throttle-adjustable and even quite playful at the exit.
My bigger issues with the car were seats that lacked lumbar support and switchgear that seemed less than keen to do as I asked.
Far from being a missed opportunity, I think the Huracán is quite a clever car. It does all those things Lamborghini knows its cars must do, but is also impressively easy to live with and visually more beautiful but less extrovert than an Aventador. It’s not an ultimate driving machine, but which Lamborghini ever was? For those who want their supercar to look and sound the business while fitting into their lives like the Audi-engineered car it largely is, the Huracán is undeniably well judged. It’s not as good to drive flat out as the 458, nor as effortlessly easy to live with as the McLaren 650S, but with its Italian flair and German engineering it occupies the ground between the two with some confidence. I’ll go further: of all the Lamborghinis I’ve driven, the Murciélago is the only one I have preferred.
Engine: 5.2 litres, 10 cylinders, normally aspirated
Torque: 413lb ft@6500rpm
Transmission: seven-speed double clutch, four-wheel drive
Top speed: 202mph