Prior Convictions: Hybrid horsepower


Good news. M'colleagues on HMS Autocar report that Lamborghini will retain naturally aspirated engines, rather than switching to turbocharged ones.

Well, on its sports cars, at least. We'll overlook the Urus SUV for now, a vehicle which, um, serves the purpose for which it was created.

But when the Huracan and Aventador - the staple supercars in Lamborghini's range - are replaced, they'll get hybrid electric assistance rather than turbochargers to boost their performance and, more pertinently, efficiency.

Good news? I think so.


There are things about turbochargers that are great, obviously: they add specific power and can enhance efficiency.

But they add weight, they add complexity, they add a need for additional cooling capacity, which adds more weight again. And beyond that, they alter the way an engine responds: they want time to spool, they tend to rev lower, and they change the sheer character of the way torque is delivered, which, along with their muffling qualities, also affects the noise engines make.

To a lesser or greater extent, all of that is true on all of today's turbocharged cars.

The Ferrari 488 Pista's 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 is terrific; Ferrari talks about 'zero turbo lag' and limiting torque slightly in lower gears at lower revs, to keep a naturally-aspirated feel: you get more as revs rise.


It is, for me, the best turbocharged engine in production. (Followed by, cripes, probably AMG's, Porsche's, McLaren's, then the rest.) In third gear, at 2,000rpm, Ferrari says the Pista's V8 wants 0.8 seconds from full throttle before it is delivering its peak output. The naturally aspirated 458 Italia, meanwhile, wanted 0.6.

Which is not, admittedly, much difference. But it's one you feel: not when planting your foot to the floor and waiting the extra 0.2 seconds for the last ounce of torque (at which point, in the turbo, there'll be much, much more of it, too). No, you feel it more subtly, in general driving: in a razor sharp naturally aspirated car like a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or a 458 Italia or a Huracan, little throttle pushes just beget a quicker transient response.

Hence Lamborghini's naturally-aspirated V10 (Huracan) and V12 (Aventador) engines are currently two of the finest in production, and why Lamborghini would like it to stay that way, by adding electric assistance rather than blowers.


Hybrids have their downsides too, clearly. Batteries and motors are not weight-free, either. An issue McLaren is also struggling with for its mooted electric hypercar, is that battery research is being directed towards increasing energy-density, which is good for providing range, rather than power-density, which is good for providing... power.

So there's work to be done, though that is good news in itself, because if it's done for these tow manufacturers, it's available to others.

Lamborghini's technical director, Maurizio Reggiani, told me that the day the company didn't make a V12 any more would be a day he didn't work at Lamborghini any more. And I like that Lamborghini is sticking to this principle, even though it is a part of the ever more homogenous Volkswagen group. Now, about the next-generation 911 GT3...



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Comments (18) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Cambs_Stuart 22 Jun 2018

    Hang on.
    How much more does a turbo (inducing inter cooler & pipe work, modified manifolds and cooling capacity) weigh, Vs an electric motor, (batteries, charge controllers and cooling as well as possible modifications to transmission depending on how the two power sources are integrated into the drive train)?

    I suspect a turbo will be a small fraction of the weight.

  • jmcc500 22 Jun 2018

    Cambs_Stuart said:
    Hang on.
    How much more does a turbo (inducing inter cooler & pipe work, modified manifolds and cooling capacity) weigh, Vs an electric motor, (batteries, charge controllers and cooling as well as possible modifications to transmission depending on how the two power sources are integrated into the drive train)?

    I suspect a turbo will be a small fraction of the weight.
    My thoughts exactly! Turbos are really one of the most simple devices - blow gas out through the turbine and use the energy extracted to push air into the intake. To say "they add weight, they add complexity, they add a need for additional cooling capacity, which adds more weight again" and then cite a hybrid as an alternative is rather odd.

    The performance trade off makes a lot more sense as an argument, but that benefit is fighting cost, weight and complexity IMO.

  • culpz 22 Jun 2018

    Let's be honest though, hybrid technology is just a stepping stone for easing us into full EV's. I'm know there's more to it than that and the electric technology does have it's own benefits when paired with the ICE. Gradual steps and all that, as apposed to a sudden jump into the unknown.

  • Jon_S_Rally 22 Jun 2018

    This article just further proves why I dislike the standard journalistic response to turbocharging. I even wrote a ranting soapbox piece about it for another motoring website a few months ago. Why is the best turbocharged engine one which doesn't feel turbocharged? Why has someone decided that normally aspirated engines MUST be better than forced induction ones? It's utter nonsense. Some of the most thrilling cars ever created feature turbocharged engines which are laggy, flawed and, quite frankly, fking brilliant.

    This obsession with trying to make turbocharged cars feel normally aspirated has, in most cases, simply left us with cars that feel flat and actually pretty dull. No excitement from the boost building, followed by the shove that keeps you pinned back into your seat all the way to the redline, but also no thrill as the revs rise to a crisp, wailing crescendo in your normally aspirated motor. Apart from a few exceptional cases (which generally seem to beyond the budgets of most people), modern engines seem to be giving us the WORST of both worlds when it comes to engine-based excitement.

    A Sierra Cosworth or Lancia Integrale are thrilling because of the flaws that come with turbochargers, along with the associated whooshes and hisses, while an Alfa V6 or M5 V10 offer a different kind of thrill by requiring a few more revs but having great throttle response and that crisp free-revving feel.

    Yes modern engines are more efficient, yes they're more effective, yes they're easier to live with, but most of them are dull as dishwater. I genuinely can't get my head around why so many journos obsess over eliminating everything that is exciting about turbocharged cars.

    I'm glad Lamborghini are sticking with normal aspiration, it's part of their signature really. Any kind of electrification will always divide opinion though.

  • I 8 a 4RE 22 Jun 2018

    How cool would it be if ... An extreme car maker like Lamborghini would create a plug in hybrid, that you as the user could 'tune' to your liking.

    Speculative: Say, 100 KG of batteries would provide 300 extra BHP
    But you as the user could remove batteries through a simple flap down to 10 or 20 KG of batteries.

    For all the tests, it would be an energy efficient car, but by removing the majority of weight to one's liking, you would still have an 'analogue' supercar with a little bit of extra hybrid power helping low in the rev-range.

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