Lam­borgh­ini’s Espe­rienza al­lows sam­pling in a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment

The Weekend Australian - Life - - MOTORING - PHILIP KING Mo­tor­ing Edi­tor

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.

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