Lamborghini’s Esperienza allows sampling in a natural environment
If you want to know what a Lamborghini is like before splashing out — and none of your Colombian friends has one they’re prepared to lend — then the Italian supercar specialist has just the thing.
It recently brought its Esperienza program to Australia, which allows potential customers to sample the cars in their natural environment: a racetrack.
Lamborghini says it’s a chance to hone your skills with the help of factory-trained instructors, then put them into practice in a track session. Last week, the Esperienza roadshow, with a multinational team of racers led by former German test driver Peter Mueller, set up shop at Phillip Island racetrack. In their fleet were a half-dozen left-hand drive examples of the latest Lamborghini, the Huracan LP580-2.
The LP580-2 expands the Huracan junior supercar line-up to three, following the release of the coupe two years ago and Spyder convertible at the Frankfurt motor show in September last year.
It’s the rear-wheel drive version of the Huracan; the standard car comes with all-wheel drive. Its predecessor, the Gallardo, also offered a rear-drive model (called the LP550-2 Balboni), but in product planning terms it was something of an afterthought. Lamborghini says this time rear-drive was factored in from the outset.
With LP580-2, Lamborghini can offer something familiar to those who drive rival supercars as most Ferraris and all McLarens put power down via the rear rubber. Lamborghini describes the LP580-2 as a “seri- ous car for serious drivers: it is maximum driving fun”. On price it’s the most accessible Lamborghini you can buy at $378,900, or about the same as a Porsche 911 Turbo or McLaren 570S. An all-wheel drive Huracan LP610-4 costs a further $49,100.
Visual differences between the two Huracans are minor, with the LP580-2 having squarer front air intakes. Their dimensions are identical and construction is the same combination of aluminium and carbon fibre. Suspension is double wishbone, with steel springs and hydraulic dampers or electromagnetic dampers as an option.
However, without the components needed to convey power from the engine behind the cabin to the front wheels, an LP580-2 sheds 33kg and weight balance shifts aft, with 60 per cent of its modest 1389kg over the rear axle instead of 57 per cent. More weight over the rear rubber helps traction.
The standard engine has been retuned to 426kW — 23kW less than the standard Huracan but 21kW more than the Balboni. It arrives slightly lower in the rev range and torque drops by 20Nm to 540Nm.
That adds up to a slightly less favourable power-toweight ratio, which in turn shows in acceleration times, with a 3.4 second sprint to 100km/h slower by twotenths. It’s the same margin at the 200km/h mark, which takes 10.1 seconds. Top speed is 5km/h lower, at 320km/h.
Also reduced is the size of the front brakes although carbon ceramic disks remain standard all around and braking distance from 100km/h is an impressively short 31.9m. The 19-inch wheels are fitted with special Pirelli tyres, 245/35 at the front and 305/35 at the rear.
The pay-off for all this is more driver involvement. The goal was to change the character of the car with revisions to the steering, suspension and electronic stability control. The dynamic software offers three settings, Strada, Sport and Corsa, via a switch on the lower spoke of the steering wheel. It uses an internal gyroscope rather than sensor data from around the car, so it taps directly into how the car is behaving.
Strada delivers neutral handling for everyday use while Corsa allows a certain amount of oversteer but aims for effective lap times.
Sport mode, the middle of three, intervenes later so that power oversteer is not only possible, it’s encour-
aged. Technical director Riccardo Bettini calls it the “fun setting”.
The suspension tune, unique to the LP580-2, is designed to make its behaviour predictable. Springs are softer but anti-roll bars stiffer, so the front wheels respond quickly and the back wheels telegraph when they are about to slide. Wheels retain better contact with the tarmac. Also tweaked is the steering, to make it more direct and sensitive.
Esperienza is the first rung of Lamborghini’s driver tuition programs and it’s about sampling the cars rather than driving flat out. The team has placed cones around Phillip Island to mark braking points and apexes, and made a chicane before the final corner that reduces entry speeds on to the straight.
We play follow-my-leader, with an instructor in front setting the pace. Maximum speed is well below what is possible in this car, although we’re hitting 220km/h before the first corner, a fast downhill righthander, and it remains one of the scarier turns on Australian tracks. The Huracan’s body shifts its weight once, then again, before it settles into the right posture and the front end turns in faster than I expect.
Confidence in the amount of grip generated by the front rubber grows with each lap, though, and that encourages faster and faster cornering. The rear-drive Huracan also gets power down with little drama and, with the dynamic software in Corsa mode, the gearbox snaps through ratios in response to fingertips on the steering wheel paddles.
The Huracan’s V10 is still a naturally aspirated engine when rival cars from Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche now all have turbocharged units. It’s rev-happy — with peak torque at 6500rpm and peak power arriving at 8000rpm — and needs to be worked to produce its best. But it responds eagerly to throttle inputs and sounds utterly alive.
Taken all together the LP580-2 is an engaging set of wheels and — particularly in the green example I’m driving — one that’s impossible to miss on the road or track. The cabin, like the one in the standard Huracan, plays straight to a Boy’s Own version of the supercar with switchgear that could come from a fighter jet.
Lamborghini thinks LP580-2 will appeal to Australians, with about 40 per cent of Huracan buyers opting for it. Its track prowess would be a clincher for me, were I in the happy position of being faced with the choice. Although the decision may be more difficult if, or more likely when, Lamborghini offers a convertible LP580-2 alongside the coupe.
In two years, Lamborghini will even add a four-door to its line-up with the Urus, a large performance-oriented SUV. The brand is investing heavily in product and facilities to handle the doubling of production that will follow. Some of it is going towards engine development with turbocharging a distinct possibility. The longer cars like the LP580-2 can avoid it, the better.