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