Some people may be disappointed to hear this, but you can throw away many of your preconceptions about Lamborghini. And when I say preconceptions, I mostly mean prejudices.
Don’t get me wrong. The brand’s new car, the Huracan, starts at $237,000, fits only two passengers and has a top speed that far exceeds any legal street limit. If all that seems nuts to you, I suppose I won’t disagree.
Even those with a love of exotic sports cars have sometimes looked askance at Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy-based Lamborghini. Part of that, historically, was the very real problem of build quality and reliability. Keeping the cars running could be an expensive chore. Models such as the 1980s-era Countach were legendary for an almost deviant sense of impracticality -- you might have to sit on the sill of the driver’s seat, scissor door raised, to see behind you and back up (semi) safely.
There was also a somewhat pejorative perception of owners, that perhaps many of the cars were bought in places like south Florida, in cash, by young, bare-chested men without obvious professions.
Well, forget all that. The brand has been owned by Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen AG since 1998, and the infusion of shared technology, stability and R&D funding has placed the often tumultuous brand on far firmer ground.
Which brings us to the Huracan LP 610-4, ostensibly named after a Spanish fighting bull from the late 1800s. The mid-engine coupe will be the new volume model worldwide. It’s the successor to the hugely successful Gallardo, which sold more than 14,000 cars over its 10-year life span, many of them convertibles, special editions or lightweight variants.
No wonder the Huracan is a hugely important foundation for Lamborghini. Screw it up at the beginning and the company would suffer the consequences for years.
I test-drove the Huracan on all types of roads and on the racetrack, and can firmly say Lamborghini did not screw this one up. As a volume model, it’s by far the best blend of Italian flourish and sure-footed engineering ever released from Sant’Agata Bolognese.
As one would expect, the Huracan is all-wheel drive, with a V-10 engine mounted in the center of the car. Also expected, that 5.2-liter motor creates prodigious power: 610 horsepower and 412 pound-feet of torque.
At full tilt, the coupe makes hysterical, loud noises; is soil-your-pantaloni fast; and comes in vivid colors like bombastic orange and does-not-occur-in-nature green. All of which places it firmly in the world of Lamborghini, where drivers never feel older than 18 and there is no such thing as a boring commute.
And yet, by Lambo standards, the Huracan is almost, well, practical. For one, it doesn’t absolutely shriek for your attention. The car shows the magical hand of Filippo Perini, the head of design, who previously penned the Alfa Romeo 8C and the Lamborghini Aventador. He has a flair for interesting design using excellent proportions and negative space.
The Huracan, more elegantly shaped than the Gallardo, is a wedge that flows from hood to roof in a continuous angle. There is no wing in rear, just a simple upsweep of the rear deck. Clean and classy. The rear window can be either regular glass or louvers, which impede the rear view yet look quite cool in a throwback way. (A backup camera negates the need to sit on the sill while reversing.) Even the side mirrors are of a sexy design.
While many performance-car makers are using turbochargers or superchargers, the V-10 engine is unaided, revving as high as 8,250 revolutions per minute. It speaks many languages, most of them as ferocious as Klingon. Come off the throttle and the overrun pops like shrapnel in a tin barrel. It’s really fun.
But the biggest improvement in drivability comes from the new seven-speed double-clutch transmission, a far better unit than the clunky transmission in the Gallardo.
Left in automatic mode, it moves thorough gears briskly and smoothly. Driven in the most aggressive settings, using the paddles behind the steering wheel, it still doesn’t jar the car or its passengers. Expect to find it ported over to the Huracan’s more expensive big brother, the Aventador.
An almost Audi-esque refinement has crept into the interior. The infotainment systems work almost exactly like their German counterpart, and you’ll find leather and Alcantara spreading all the way to the front edge of the window.
There are a few odd plastic bits here and there, including at the bottom of the steering wheel, which just seems wrong. Otherwise the thin, great-looking seats are both nicely bolstered and comfortable, showing a level of detail and great care.
Lamborghini executives talk at great length about how easy the Huracan is to drive in everyday life, keen to dispel the idea that this is a scary or intimidating car. With systems in street mode, the steering is too light, but it’s no harder to navigate around than far more proletarian cars.
The car toughens considerably when placed in sport mode and then gets downright serious in race settings.
The all-wheel drive helps you through corners, working hand-in-glove with the electronic differential. Speed in, brake hard, get yanked through the curve and then spit out the other side. It’s a universe of difference from early Gallardo models, which were a mess, and a sizable edge on even the most hard-core later models. The Huracan’s technology is working to make you feel heroic indeed.
On the track, the car slides nicely when positioned correctly, and I noticed the stability controls kicking in in only one instance, when I made a stupid mistake. In an older Lamborghini I might have spun. The Huracan’s electronic controls threw on the inside brakes and I escaped the turn with no penalty.
Carbon ceramic brakes are standard, which is great on the track. As for making the Huracan easy to drive around town, variable assisted steering and shocks with magneto-rheological dampers are available as options. There’s a nice mix of hard-core and practical.
All of which makes the Huracan a very grown-up supercar, as sensible as any orange- or green-hued missile worth a quarter of a million dollars could possibly be.
The 2015 Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 at a Glance
Engine: 5.2-liter V-10 with 610 horsepower and 412 pound-feet of torque.
Transmission: Seven-speed double-clutch automated manual.
Speed: 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds.
Gas mileage per gallon: 14 city, 20 highway.
Price as tested: $255,000 (estimated).
Best feature: Probably the best driving Lamborghini ever made.
Worst feature: The significant jump in price over the outgoing Gallardo model.
(Jason H. Harper writes about autos for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)