Curt channels his inner rock-star and heads to Miami to drive the 2016 Lamborghini Huracan Spyder.
Alarm bells that Lamborghini’s touch might have been a tad soft on the “lifestyle” variant of its entry super sportscar range, the 2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4 Spyder convertible, are silenced in a glorious and deafening V10 tone the instant you hit Sport and plunge the right foot.
From its maker’s description to the fact that it launched the drop-top on the streets of Miami, USA – without opportunity for track testing, which is unlike usual Lamborghini protocol – it's one big, fat deception. Lesson learnt – you don’t have to scratch the stylised surface too deep in discover an absolute beast.
Even how the Spyder, on sale in Oz from April this year, sits in the Huracan range suggests a bull without a requisite Lamborghini rage. The LP 610-4 coupe is positioned as the “performance” variant, the upcoming rear-driven LP 580-2 as the lightweight “fun-to-drive” choice. Compared with its all-wheel-driven coupe twin, the Spyder is roughly 120kg heavier (1542kg dry), slower by 0.2sec in marching to 100km/h (3.4sec) and, at a frosty $470,800 plus on-roads, a sizeable $42,800 pricier. Yes, I know, it has Diet Lambo written all over it.
But this car deserves a different context. Lamborghini name-checks Ferrari and McLaren as its main super sports segment rivals, but neither offers the choice of two- and four-wheel-driven options and both have dived down the turbocharged route with their steeds. Sant’Agata has stuck firm with glorious 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 motivation in full-fat 449kW form, demanding 8250rom to achieve it. The engine produces one heck of a sensory onslaught on the journey from idle.
Nor is the Huracan Spyder some badged-engineered Audi R8. “They don’t share the same wheelbase,” explains Lamborghini R&D chief, Maurizio Reggiani, before explaining that his company’s goals for concocting drama and emotion in its cars couldn’t be further from how its corporate cousin from Ingolstadt positions its flagship sportscar. Spend even a short amount of time in the Spyder and you discover that, regardless of what relative numbers suggest, its certainly not lacking the drama and emotion departments. In fact, removing the roof from the Huracan roof absolutely amplifies them.
Lamborghini’s catchphrase for the Spyder is Own The Sky, but the sheer visual and sonic presence of the thing, particularly in because-you-can Sport mode, means that it owns pretty much anything in a five-kilometre radius. The fanfare that envelopes the chiseled soft-top at every move, be it crawling in downtown traffic or making the swiftest passage along a freeway, is ever present. With the roof down, the Spyder’s occupants aren’t so much exposed as highlighted to any onlookers, which is more or less anyone in eyeshot. It is not a car for shy shrinking violets or who are faint of ego.
Given the choice, I’d have opted for opening up its immense lungs in the privacy of some Italian hillside, yet there’s something particularly fitting about cruising the new Spyder amongst the palms, panache and pastels of the seaside city of sin. Particularly in our example’s oh-so-Miami Blu Cepheus paintwork with matching bright blue leather trim. Perhaps not my personal preference, but it seems nearly everyone else who spots it loves the colour and feels compelled to tell you.
It’s half a century since Lamborghini created what I consider the world’s most beautiful car, the Miura – in any colour will do, thanks – but the brand has something of a pillar for excessive and dramatic design. And while it doesn’t quite stoke the styling flames as dramatically and excessively as an Aventador, the Huracan Spyder looks fantastic in the flesh, though not necessarily beautiful in any classic sense. At 1920mm its not a wide as it first appears, but it’s reasonably short (4460mm) and impossibly low (1180mm), presenting proportions that make the Spyder appear to smear itself across the road.
It takes 17 seconds to erect or stow the electro-hydraulic automated roof – which can be had in black, brown or red – at speeds of up to 50km/h, and when in play it seals with the thunk and drops ambient noise markedly. In fact, the triple-layered lid creates such a quiet cabin ambience that you can’t tell you’re in a rag-top unless you look up. Interestingly, I spotted a ‘made in Germany’ sticker under the carbonfibre rear decking during one roof-stowing manoeuvre.
Lie the roof down and you feel quite exposed to the outside environment, very much by design. And while much aerodynamic effort has been made reducing air turbulence in the cabin, it’s a noisy place to be. In default Strada (aka, ‘street’) drive mode, the Spyder is, mechanically at least, almost alarmingly quiet, and it’s possible slip around town quietly without drawing undue attention, at least audibly. However, there’s no avoiding the magnificent ‘brap’ the engine makes on cold start up, a Lamborghini signature that’s at least a worth a chunk of the car’s near half-million outlay, though something that’d no doubt irritate the neighbours no end.
The open cabin conspires to amplify that engine note, perhaps one of the most glorious in any production car available which is, of course, largely the point of the Spyder format and payback for the premium ask over the coupe. It’s an incredibly smooth, vibration-free engine that, at 560Nm and arriving way up at 6500rpm, isn’t incredibly torquey. Indeed, when lazing around in Strada mode it takes a moment of ramp up in acceleration as the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, in its most silken shift mode, downshifts and harnesses the V10's ample shove. The upshot, though, is that the powertrain is very docile during normal driving, creating a nice, pliable throttle take-up ideal for heavy traffic or parking.
It’s in this mode, too, where you’ll have a hope of matching its claimed 12.3L/100km combined consumption claim, though this version of the 5.2-litre V10 includes the MY12 version of cylinder deactivation, shutting down one bank of five cylinders in some light-throttle conditions. Interestingly, the car varies which bank it shuts down so as not to unduly stress either engine bank in lifecycle operation.
Frankly, your Nanna could drive the Spyder. The steering, which is beautifully clear and linear, is nicely and not unnecessarily weighted. Vision, forward at least, is excellent, and it’s an easy car to place and judge on the road. Rear vision, though, is ample in the wing mirrors, but there’s little to see through the rear-view mirror. There’s a reverse camera and sensors front and rear – as well as a hydraulic lift kit to raise the nose over acute driveway entry angles – with the camera display projected into the digital driver’s instrument screen.
There’s no central infotainment screen in the cabin that, bar its array of plasticky console buttons and jet fighter switches, is nicely crafted but very short of features and creature comforts. There are no cupholders, there's no room inside the glovebox for anything other than the owner’s manual, and the tiny door bins are best suited to wallet and smartphones, pretty much the only addendum you want to carry lest it ends up on the cabin floor. The front boot, too, makes a Porsche 911’s look positively cavernous. Getting in and out, also, is typically awkward in an oh-so-supercar manner.
It’s no long-haul grand tourer. From the footwell to the rear firewall, it’s a short cabin space. The fully electric seats are purposeful and formfitting, though the seat backs are stiffly padded and can get uncomfortable given extended seat time. Even for my modest 175cm frame, the passenger side is cramped with little facility for under-thigh seat support.
The driver’s side seems a little deeper, allowing a better seating position, and the ergonomics are superb. A huge plus is that the digital instrumentation is, even under direct and blaring Miami sun, bright and easy to read. Lamborghini persists with mounting its (large and ornate) paddle shifters on the column rather than the wheel, limiting access to gear changes during half-a-lock of steering, though some drivers do prefer this arrangement as personal preference.
Operating it, or any Lambo, takes some practice. There’s no indicator stalk – instead there’s a motorcycle style switch on the steering wheel. The transmission interface is also unothordox: a button for Park, a button to toggle manual and automatic modes, and to engage neutral requires pulling back on both shifter paddles. All novel and quite fun once you acclimatize, though.
None of this really a markdown, it merely reinforces the supercar character and vibe. Add the exposed nature of the open-top cabin on a sunny day and it can fatigue the experience, but almost always once drenched in a sense of sporting adventure. And when you do dig in, boy, does the Spyder give back.
The degree of urgency and immediacy engaging Sport mode, via a wheel-mounted toggle switch, brings at a cruise is marked. The transmission becomes rifle bolt quick, it ‘primes’ the engine by raising its pulse to around 3000rpm, and the exhaust instantly becomes bolder and louder. At once, the Spyder feels both tempered yet straining against its leash. Then you plunge the right foot and the drop-top explodes forward in a fury of head-pinning acceleration and symphony of ear candy.
It feels beastly, ferocious, and very much the undiluted real Lamborghini deal. Whatever it lacks to the coupe in sheer acceleration is overly compensated for in sheer theater. And it’s theater that creates the sensation that road speed is quicker than it actually is. So, by the seat of the pants, the Spyder feels no slower than the swifter coupe, though this is not the leanest super sportscar an engineer might devise.
Frankly, the odd, irresistible and antisocial spurt of letting the Spyder right off its chain around the street, freeways and causeways of Miami, only hints at the potential of a machine that’s so clearly thoroughbred in all the right places, and will hit 324km/h if the appropriate venue allows. Although I mightn’t admit in print, over a quiet beer I might reveal that lunging the baby Lambo at full noise from 60 to 160km/h across an empty causeway is an experience worth trading body parts for.
At such a (theoretical) pace, one might imagine that the wind noise becomes deafening, though wind flow turbulence itself does penetrate the cabin below your hairline provided the side windows are up. If you own a toupee, this is not the car for you. You might also imagine that the massive 380mm carbon-ceramic brakes are completely untasked at restoring velocity to something resembling the posted speed limit.
I tried Corsa (aka Track) drive mode. Once. Just to see. And it introduces a degree of potency and immediacy in the interaction between driver and steed that, really, it’s not to be trifled with, in my humble opinion, on public roads.
Sat on standard issue passive suspension, the Spyder never feels anything other than flat-stanced and planted to the road surface. And, structurally, it’s 40 per cent stiffer than its Gallardo forebear. Lamborghini tempered the ride a little compared with the coupe it claims, and though its reasonably compliant by super sportscar measures, the ride becomes very jiggly over poor surfaces at low speeds.
It’s claimed to have the same ‘perfect’ 43/57 front/rear weight distribution as the coupe version, but apart from the occasional curved freeway on-ramps falling victim to momentary hijinks, the jury is definitely out on truly how fit the Spyder is at tackling corners with gusto. For another time and place then…
Is it any good? The way it balances its various facets is truly impressive, particularly how it transitions the enormous gap from being an easy-to-use around town commuter to a ferocious and properly raging bull. And through little else besides hitting Sport mode and sinking the right boot. It is a deceptive car and this alone is among its finest strengths.
It certainly conforms to the modern Lamborghini ethos, so while there’s otherworldly ability both tested and implied by our quick blast at the international launch, there’s no sign of the homicidal tendencies of models of old – it won't throw you off the road backwards if treated with disrespect. When discussing this with Reggiani, he suggests that perhaps the rear-driven LP 580-2 coupe is a better fit for owners who wish to dabble in old-school Lamborghini thrills.
“The Spyder is much more the lifestyle car,” he reinforces. But make no mistake. This is a lifestyle brimming with drama and charisma, and one easily underestimated. Also, one that will undoubtedly appeal to quite a few Aussies given that our local market is Lamborghini’s eighth biggest for global sales.