Pri­mal screamer

For sHeer vIs­Ceral THrIlls, THe lamBo Can’T Be BeaTen

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Motoring -

McLaren has tried a few times over the years to make a su­per­car that would re­write the rule books and do to Fer­rari on the road what it had done so many times on the world’s race­tracks: beat it with a big stick. The first ef­fort was the F1, which had a cen­tral driv­ing po­si­tion, an en­gine bay lined with gold and a top speed that caused many to say: “I’m sorry. Did you say 386km/h?”

I dis­liked it a lot. It was ex­tremely wob­bly, and this made it hard to han­dle – a point demon­strated by actor Rowan Atkin­son, who fre­quently com­pleted jour­neys in his F1 by fly­ing back­wards into a ditch in an ex­pen­sive cloud of car­bon fi­bre.

Next, McLaren helped Mercedes come up with the SLR, which looked a bit like an SLK that had been to the gym, via a dop­ing lab; af­ter that, McLaren plainly de­cided to trans­fer all the best peo­ple from its rac­ing di­vi­sion to the road-car op­er­a­tion and came up with the MP4-12C. It was a fab­u­lous car, with more torque, power and down­force than any ri­val Fer­rari. But in the only con­test that mat­tered – the bat­tle to win your heart – the McLaren felt like an ac­coun­tant and the Fer­rari like an ac­coun­tant’s mistress.

McLaren then tried to make the MP4-12C more ex­cit­ing. It even short­ened the name to 12C so it sounded less like a fax ma­chine. But it didn’t re­ally suc­ceed un­til it took the hy­brid tech from a Toy­ota Prius, weaponised it and used it to cre­ate the fear­some P1. I loved that car. It was nuts. It scared you at half throt­tle and un­der­steered like a way­ward drunk if you went all in. Porsche and Fer­rari had clev­erer and faster ri­vals, but for hairs-onend thrills the P1 was just bril­liant.

And now McLaren has made the Senna, a su­perb track per­former due to its low weight. Be­cause there’s no fat to drag the car out of line, it turns into a cor­ner like noth­ing I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. You need a sys­tem re­set in your head to get used to the way this car goes and stops and cor­ners.

It is, then, far and away the best su­per­car you can buy right now. And yet I’d still rather have what is my car of the year, Lam­borgh­ini’s Hu­ra­can Per­for­mante. Partly this is be­cause the Senna doesn’t have air-con (it’s too heavy). But mostly it’s be­cause the Senna im­presses your head and heart while the Hu­ra­can is busy in your un­der­pants.

Se­ri­ous peo­ple have it in their heads that the real su­per­car bat­tle these days is be­tween Fer­rari and McLaren, and they’re right, of course. Both build cars to go round a cor­ner 0.1mph faster, whereas Lam­borgh­ini just paints ev­ery­thing orange. Lam­borgh­ini, I like to think, is run by a bunch of 10-year-olds. Sure, it’s owned by the Ger­mans these days, which is why the books get bal­anced and the en­gines work for more than 16 sec­onds. But the way the cars feel and sound and look – that’s all done by a gang of Ital­ian schoolkids who’ve had too much pop. You get the sense that, were it not for Audi be­ing all head­mas­terly, the Hu­ra­can would have space lasers on the roof.

The Per­for­mante is only a lit­tle bit more pow­er­ful than the stan­dard car with just 470kW. But, thanks to some light­weight parts and a lot of jig­gery-pok­ery with aero­dy­nam­ics (it pro­duces 750 per cent more down­force than the stan­dard car), it set one of the fastest Nür­bur­gring lap times yet. Some ac­cused Lam­borgh­ini of cheat­ing – it didn’t – and I can see why, be­cause a lap time round the “Green Hell” of 6m 52s beg­gars be­lief.

The Senna would go faster, I’m sure, but it wouldn’t have the V10 bel­low and howl of the Lambo. And the truth is Lam­bos may look as if they be­long on the track but they don’t. Not re­ally. They are – and al­ways have been – for show­ing off. They’re big watches, jer­oboams of cham­pagne, beau­ti­ful girl­friends and Riva speed­boats. They’re Le Club 55 in St Tropez, and ev­ery­one laughs at that. But ev­ery­one goes when they have half a chance, be­cause you’d rather eat a sec­ond-hand piece of cauliflower on Pam­pelonne beach than the per­fect souf­flé in a base­ment.

If you want the per­fect souf­flé in a base­ment, get a McLaren or a Fer­rari. But I think that if you want to live, you should live. And that means get­ting your­self the car of the year: Lam­borgh­ini’s Hu­ra­can Per­for­mante.

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