A Lambo to love


Last night I attended the get together that VW hosts on the eve of every major motorshow around the world, in this case Geneva. A get together, that is, for at least 2000 hacks, executives, VIPs, engineers, designers, PR people and sundry hangers on. And amid all the tub-thumping and drum-banging that inevitably goes on, one stunning stastistic leapt from the lips of VW’s number one guy, Professor Martin Winterkorn. In 2013 his company spent €10.2 billion – on research and development alone.

How big is that number? It’s more than the most recently posted gross domestic product of Albania, a European country with almost three million citizens. More in fact than, curiously, every European country beginning with an ‘M’, including Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, San Marino and, yes, Monaco.

In a night where VW unveiled the new Lamborghini Huracan, Audi TT, VW T-Roc and many others including products from its expanding Italian portfolio like Ducati and Giugiaro, such a show of strength must have caused some its struggling competitors to wonder why they bothered.

Of the cars on display, and to my surprise, it was the little Lambo that really caught my eye. You might think a bright yellow Lamborghini might not struggle to garner attention but to be honest I’d been very disappointed by the photographs. It looked bland, insufficiently different and lacking that Lamborghini visual flair you can always count upon regardless of what lies beneath the skin.

In fact when you get close to a real Huracan, you realise that for all the visual drama it might have lost relative to, say, its Aventador big brother, it’s actually gained far more in simple elegance. Indeed it has the perhaps unintended ability of making many of its wackier stable-mates from times gone by look a touch contrived.

‘Customers will hate it,’ observed one grizzled hack standing next to me, and although I think he’s wrong, I know where he’s coming from. A Lamborghini may not have the pedigree of a Ferrari or the punch of a McLaren, but if you want more than anything else to stand out from the crowd, there’s only been one player in town ever since the Countach was launched over 40 years ago.

But you can’t look at it terms only of those who’d traditionally consider buying a Lamborghini for it ignores all those who’d just as traditionally never consider buying a Lamborghini. And now with the gorgeous but somewhat subtle Huracan, they just might.

Indeed I think there must be a strong case for considering a car developed on at least a slice of a €10.2 billion R&D budget and with all the engineering and technical capabilities of the VW Group behind it, yet which still has the air of an Italian exotic about it. Of course this has been Lamborghini’s pitch ever since it started selling cars developed with VW money over a decade ago but I feel that with this Huracan, and perhaps for the first time, it has got the balance of head and heart just right.

At least I hope so: over the years too many Lamborghinis have been styled to make a promise the car beneath cannot keep. Visually the Huracan appears to suggest a change of heart. How good would be if it were the first Lamborghini, perhaps in the entire history of the company, that turned out to be even better than it looked?

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