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Apr / May 2016
Done in Pure Taste

WRITER: Nicolas Shammas

Lamborghini says a rear-wheel-drive Huracán was always part of the plan and they think it’ll account for the majority of the model’s sales. But we think this more exciting (and purer) variant will be loved for the pleasure it brings on the road, and not just its performance on the circuit. 

 

The Huracán LP 580-2 is obviously a serious sportscar but unlike many of its competitors’ products, it wasn’t strictly conceived to break performance records. Instead, Lamborghini’s engineers were instructed to push the envelope in terms of the amount of fun to be had in a high-performance road car [yes, you read that right: fun, not breakneck speeds]. So after downing their telemetry equipment, they called in the company’s trusty test drivers and together, they created the physical manifestation of a purist’s fantasy.

To be honest, it couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. In an age when SUVs actually go faster than you’d ever realistically need (and have enough room for the whole family, plus excellent visibility and a more upright, ergonomic seating position), and consequently, when low, cramped and flashy sportscars no longer have much relevance (bar attracting status-seeking members of the opposite sex), those nifty engineers at Sant’Agata struck gold by exploiting the most fundamental function of a sportscar and in the process, managed to neutralise its impending existential threat.

 

 

How did they pull it off? Well firstly, they took the most popular Lamborghini, the mid-engined Huracán, as their starting point. They resisted fettling with its delightful, naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 (made all the more extraordinary in the context of the turbo-driven era we’re now living in) but they did ditch its four-wheel drive system (to rid it of nasty understeer) and as a result, they felt the need to turn the motor’s wick down by 30 horses (as 610bhp through just two wheels was unduly hairy apparently). Then they threw out the ceramic brakes (due to poor pedal feel), softened up the front suspension (to get more bite out of the front tyres), added more positive camber (for an even sharper turn-in), recalibrated the steering (for better feel) and, as a cherry on top, switched the rear tyres to a harder Pirelli compound (that can be more easily coerced into power slides).

“The Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2 continues the Lamborghini tradition of pure, visionary and technology-driven models,” announced Stephan Winkelmann, the suave and impeccably dressed president and chief executive of Automobili Lamborghini, at the car’s unveiling. “The rear-wheel drive model fits perfectly into our Huracán family, appealing to those wanting an even more intense driving experience, or who currently drive other rear-wheel-drive marques and aspire to drive a Lamborghini. This is the purest expression of a Lamborghini to date, with class-leading technological refinements. It is a serious car for serious drivers: it is maximum driving fun.”

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking this “serious” car sounds like a tail-happy brute, and you’re not entirely wrong, it is tail-happy but it’s not a brute. Having just returned from putting the very fast LP 580-2 through its paces at its global launch on Doha’s Losail International Circuit, I can tell you that it is certainly not some kind of treacherous widow-maker suitable for only the brave and gifted (à la Porsche 911 GT2). And fortunately so, as that would have represented a massive failure on the part of those engineers, for, let’s be honest, scary cars may be exciting but they’re rarely enjoyable, especially if (and when) things go wrong. Instead, the LP 580-2 manages to be a blindingly quick 580bhp beast that can still offer “maximum driving fun” and it does so predominantly because it allows even average drivers to confidently dabble in some tomfoolery.

 

Largely the same car, inside and out, as its sibling, the Huracán LP 610-4, the rear-wheel drive model makes up for marginally slower acceleration times and a slight deficit in horsepower by offering both 38,000 USD in savings and the ability to power slide like the best of them.

 

Our day started with a briefing by Lamborghini’s chief engineer, Maurizio Reggiani, who, unlike at any conventional supercar launch, did not harp on about Nürburgring lap times, gear ratios, damper rates, basis point improvements to torsional rigidity or anything else that only gets the Top Trumpers excited. Instead, he spoke of the immeasurable and sensual pleasures of driving and then pontificated about power slides like he was Ken Block about to perform another Gymkhana.

By the way, in case you’re not sure what a power slide is, it’s essentially what happens when you apply enough gas in a turn to make the rear wheels break traction and then modulate the throttle in order to safely and smoothly skid your way through it. Your kids will think it’s fun and your wife reckless but to people who know what they’re doing, it’s a perfectly safe party trick. To those who don’t it’ll probably end in a bent axle, an embarrassing wait for a tow truck and an insurance-hiking repair bill. But what Reggiani has made abundantly clear is that Lamborghini hasn’t created the LP 580-2 for the stunt drivers of the ‘Fast and the Furious’ but for your average Joe Shmo. And that’s exactly why they have endowed it with not just a perfect balance (as well as a stiffer suspension and a new weight balance of 60 per cent in the rear and 40 per cent in the front) but also a very sophisticated stability and traction control system, which will imperceptibly do its part in helping you maintain control even in the most demented of manoeuvres. Which bring us squarely to the reason why they chose Qatar for its launch. For it is here, hidden in the desert, just a short drive from Doha, that you’ll find Losail, a twisty superbike circuit that hosts the MotoGP championship once a year. With more than five kilometres of flawless asphalt, an almost never-ending array of turns – 16 to be precise (six to the left and ten right) – and just the one relatively short, main straight, it’s a place that suits only the most sorted of cars.

At this point I should probably mention that the Huracán is a beauty to behold. You’ll no doubt notice it looks good in pictures. In the flesh it’s even more awesome and in LP580-2 form, it’s prettier still. The new front and rear bumpers were designed to increase cooling and downforce but they also make the car more aggressive (which is no bad thing for a Lamborghini, where drama is par for the course). And if you open the (regularly hinged) doors and take a look at the interior, you’ll see why being a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group has been such a blessing for this small Italian outfit. The fit and finish is superb, everything is covered in fine luxe materials and, at least to me, the standout features are the supportive and beautifully contoured seats as well as the two impressively high def TFT screens  (in the instrument panel and over the centre console).

 

 

Slip into the driver’s seat and you’ll want to bring this beast to life. You do so by holding down the brake pedal while pressing the starter button that’s concealed under a red safety cover, reminiscent of a fighter plane’s missile launcher. Now before you get going, you should familiarise yourself with the red toggle at the bottom of the steering wheel and its three distinct settings. ‘Strada’ is like a stealth mode and suitable for low-key daily commuting, ‘Sport’ rewards you with a more emotive experience but as for ‘Corsa’, that’s where you venture when you want to grin from ear to ear.

Having completed 16 laps at Losail, I must say that not once did I ever feel as though this car would rip my head off (and that’s despite the fact that I was really hammering it and unleashing as many of those 580 horses as I could through the twisty bits). Sure, I was slipping and sliding across the asphalt but ever so happily, and I never felt scared or out of control. It’s for this reason that I would say the LP 580-2 will open Lamborghini to a Porsche-type of customer. That’s no small feat. And as sexy and capable as the LP 580-2 is, this Lamborghini is also the most affordable in the current line-up. I mean, if that’s not the automotive equivalent of a Best Buy, what is?

 

Model Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2
Engine 5.2-litre V10
Drive Rear-wheel
Power 580 bhp
Torque 540 Nm
Gearbox 7 speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 320 km/h
0-100 km/h 3.4 seconds
0-200 km/h 10.1 seconds
Price 205,000 USD

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