"Rival products? We're not looking at rival products," says Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann as we make the short walk from the Centro Stilo design studio to the nearby on-site museum. "We want to be trend setters, when we look at what we're doing it's something we create on our own." The glowering presence of nearby Dr Hackenberg from Audi might have cracked into a thin smile at that last point but Winkelmann's in his stride now, talking about how the Huracan's brief is to be broader in scope than the 458 or 12C and all things to all drivers. Well, ones that can afford to spend 200,000 euros on a Lamborghini.
'Hybrid' chassis combines carbon and aluminium
"With the Huracan we wanted a car to be built with balance. The challenge for the engineers was to have a high performance car that is easy to drive and giving you the feeling that you are a better driver than you are." But shouldn't Lamborghinis be a bit wild and scary? Right on cue we walk past an Aventador, stripped back to show off its carbon tub, onboard dampers and monstrous V12 motor. Winkelmann glances at it and the point is left unsaid. As with the Gallardo the Huracan is intended to bring a taste of the Lamborghini thrill without the fear factor. And if you crave the latter just look further up the range.
From the top
To basics though. The Huracan - accepted pronunciation seems to settle on 'oooh-rah-kan' - is built on Audi's new MSS platform from a combination of carbon fibre and aluminium. The 5.2-litre V10 is an evolution of that in the Gallardo, sharing the same basic architecture and identical bore and stroke, the latter undersquare in the tradition of its Audi roots but still revving to over 8,000rpm. R&D boss Maurzio Reggiani is quick to point out that the heads, crankcase, pistons and injection system are all new though. The latter, dubbed Iniezione Diretta Stratificata, uses common-rail direct injection at start up and high revs and indirect multi-port injection (MPI) the rest of the time. Both systems can work together when required, Reggiani saying "MPI is the master of ceremonies" and the tandem system permitting high revs and Euro 6 particulate compatibility. More detail in the full press pack, uploaded here.
Downforce from rear diffuser, not pop-up wings
Power is 610hp and torque 413lb ft, both figures a match for Ferrari's screaming normally aspirated V8 and McLaren's twin-turbo equivalent. At least in their standard trim. What'll she do mister? Well, 0-62mph is in 3.2 seconds, 0-125mph in 9.9 and it'll break 203mph flat chat.
Sole transmission choice is a seven-speed Graziano-supplied dual-clutch (branded Lamborghini Doppia Frizione) that Reggiani insists is not the same as Audi's S Tronic equivalent in the R8, despite Hackenberg begging to differ and the casing bearing Audi rings. It drives all four wheels through an electronically controlled differential at a default 30:70 torque split that can vary between 50:50 and 0:100 as required. Ceramic brakes are standard fit, magneto-rheological dampers and variable ratio steering on the options list.
Thinking for itself
One especially clever feature Lamborghini is claiming as a world first in a production car is an aeronautics inspired 'Lamborghini Piattaforma Inerziale' that uses three accelerometers and three gyroscopes mounted at the car's centre of gravity to feed real-time information to the various electronic systems. Data is relayed to control systems for engine, gearbox, stability control and, where fitted, variable steering and dampers. As Reggiani is proud to point out rivals - he singles out the tech heavy 12C in particular - depend on (relatively) time consuming calculations to calibrate their systems and can only ever be reactive whereas the Huracan is constantly thinking for itself.
Family resemblance strong - too strong?
So much for the technological heart. What about the all important Lamborghini soul?
You need to look in the highly stylised interior for that. The hexagonal design motif is repeated throughout, giving an edgy, dynamic feeling and though - inevitably - some Audi switchgear remains it's here Lamborghini shows its playful side. Theatrical touches include a military-style starter covered by a hinged red 'fire button' style lid and a row of paddle switches that look like the fire control for some sort of missile battery. There's no central screen, all the navigation, infotainment and driving instruments displayed instead on a 12.3-inch TFT in the driver's binnacle. You configure what you want to see, up to and including a full-screen map flanked by digital readouts for speed and revs. Look familiar? Yup, that'll be the Audi influence again, the concept shared with that previewed by the forthcoming next-gen TT. Lamborghini does at least get first dibs.
Huge paddles bracket the wheel, meaning controls for lights, indicators and wipers are now mounted here too. At the base of the wheel is a red button labelled 'Anima', apparently Italian for 'soul', which cycles through the familiar Strada, Sport and Corsa modes that will seemingly transform the Huracan from a refined cruiser and into a proper raging bull.
Interior is a massive step from Gallardo
Does it look like one though? Hackenberg's comment that 'everything is dictated by the architecture, from there the stylists can apply their dreams' might raise a few hackles among the polo-necked marker pen brigade and in white and on silver wheels as shown the Huracan does look a bit, well, safe. Design boss Filippo Perini reveals one design goal was to achieve the required downforce without any pop-up or active aero features - another dig at McLaren and Ferrari perhaps - and correspondingly this has been improved over the Gallardo. Never knowingly nostalgic when it comes to design, the single sweep from nose to tail is, however, distinctively Lamborghini and little details like the sill mounted oil cooler inlets and slatted rear deck (see Miura and Murcielago) are recognisable signatures. A lick of lurid paint might be required to really give it the necessary attitude, though we'd draw the line long before a purple chrome wrap.
Last word should, however, go to the man who's spent the most time driving it, chief test driver Giorgio Sanna. Compared with the Gallardo he cites the improved stiffness and the active differential as the two main areas of improvement. Of the former he says, "It's one of the main differences in terms of chassis but in terms of handling there is a very big step with the electronic differential. Because it's an active system you feel you have a very live connection with the car with what you are demanding of the throttle or the steering or the slip of the tyres. On the front especially you perceive a big difference compared with the old viscous coupling."
Display configurable according to driving needs
And what of that variable steering, able to switch between a ratio of 9:1 and 17:1 compared with the standard passive rack's 16.2:1? He looks a little sheepish. "One of the targets was to give more option and gadgets to the customer because some people use the car on the street for daily use, some are more interested in using it on the track so we have technical features to make the car for all people." Which would he have if he were speccing his own car though? "I have to say I prefer the passive steering. With the dynamic steering what you perceive is to be able to play more with the amount of steering angle and it is an enjoyable gadget. But as a racing driver I prefer the passive because you have more reference at the higher level of the driving experience." Pays your money and all that.
And of that claimed two-second improvement over the standard Gallardo LP560-4 over the favoured 5.6km handling loop at Nardo; is it faster than the Aventador? Another grimace. "On a medium slow track this one is probably better ... but it depends on the driver experience. This one is more ... open, on the Aventador you need to be more, how do you say, high skill."
We'll have to wait and see but clearly the Aventador remains the embodiment of traditional Lamborghini values while the Huracan is intended as an introduction to the brand for a new generation of customers. Customers Lamborghini doesn't want to scare off at the first encounter. Whether it's too grown-up and sensible will be what we need to find out when we drive it ourselves.
LAMBORGHINI HURACAN LP610-4
Engine: 5,201cc V10
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto (Lamborghini Doppia Frizione), four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 610@8,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 413@6,500rpm
Top speed: 203mph
Weight: 1,422kg (dry)
MPG: 22.6mpg (NEDC combined)
Price: 201,000 euros