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Directly behind my head is one of the world’s great engines – Lamborghini’s magnificently songful 5.2-litre V10, the beast that powers the Huracan line-up.
It’s the only naturally aspirated supercar powertrain left, and in this Huracan guise, all 426kW of power and 540Nm of tarmac-shredding torque goes to the rear wheels.
This is the new Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2 super sports car from the storied Italian sports car marque. That’s ‘2’ for two-wheel-drive, so forget about understeer. Lamborghini’s technical team says this car is less about outright performance and more about having fun.
That’s code for this car is designed to drift, at least if you’re game enough to disable the car’s electronic stability systems - otherwise you’ll find it grips like a Vertex pneumatic vice.
Rear-wheel drive is nothing new to Lamborghini, it's part of the company’s DNA – always has been. The LP580-2 is just the latest incarnation to emerge from the Sant’Agata Bolognese factory.
Lamborghini has a long history with big-league rear-drive supercars including the game-changing Miura, outrageous Countach and impossibly wide Diablo. But these days, it's almost all about all-wheel drive, with the company's flagship V12 Aventador and V10 Huracan line-ups subscribing to the notion that all four paws is better than two.
Whereas the previous rear-wheel drive Gallardo LP550-2 was very much a late decision in the model’s lifecycle, the LP580-2 was conceived from day one of the Huracan’s development, when it was decided Lamborghini would offer both four-wheel-drive and two-wheel-drive versions, with a clear view to further expanding the brand’s growing customer base.
Last year Lamborghini set a new sales record, notching up a grand total of 3245 units, or 28 per cent more than in 2014. Better still, the Asia Pacific region including Australia now accounts for 28 per cent of global sales (up from 13 per cent in 2007).
It’s a significant number and one that has allowed the Italian manufacturer to offer more variants per model, as well as develop brand new models such as the Urus – Lamborghini’s second SUV (after the limited-run LM002 of 1986), which goes into series production in 2017.
Lamborghini is the first to admit they put considerably more effort into the development of the LP580-2 than with the Gallardo LP550-2. And for that reason, this is an entirely different kind of supercar to its four-wheel-drive LP610-4 sibling.
Along with the rear-drive architecture, it gets completely new front suspension. It’s softer for more bite and sharper turn in, while the rear suspension has been retuned to accommodate a shift in the car’s weight distribution – now 40:60 front to rear compared with the LP610’s 43:57 rear bias.
Pirelli even designed a special P-Zero tyre for the two-wheel drive Huracan, with a softer compound for more front-end traction. The electric power steering has also been re-calibrated, with less power assistance and more accuracy.
Not only has Lambo’s latest road racer lost its two front driveshafts, it also loses 23kW of power and 20Nm of torque for the aforementioned maximum output of 426kW and 540Nm.
Technically, this engine has been detuned, but that’s not a word I’d ever use to describe the LP580-2 because it’s lighter by 33kg, so the car is still stunningly quick.
The figures say it all: 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds and a claimed top speed of 320km/h. But from behind the wheel, it’s hard to pick any difference between the two versions – at least out of the blocks.
Pulling out of pit lane and onto the circuit proper at Philip Island in Victoria, I think to myself, there’s no way this thing feels any slower than the all-wheel drive LP610.
It’s been a while since I was in the driver’s seat of a V10-powered Lamborghini, so I’d forgotten just how mesmerising the engine note is at full cry. Its totally unique and totally visceral, but more baritone than tenor.
The LP580-2 maintains Lamborghini’s signature Anima (Italian for soul) toggle on the steering wheel, which allows drivers to choose between three drive modes: Strada, Sport and Corsa.
Forget about Strada for anything other than peak hour congestion or monotonous highway cruising, as throttle response is far too lazy. Skip Sport too, and go straight to Corsa for any type of high-speed track work. It’s in this mode that all the major controls are at their sharpest, while the ESC is at its least intrusive.
Nail it, and there’s 405Nm on tap from just 1000rpm – or 75 per cent of the car’s peak torque output. There’s no irritating lag so acceleration is fast and furious. This is what a supercar should feel like. In a split second the tacho needle is punching through 8000rpm – the point at which Lambo’s in-house V10 is at its intoxicating best.
It’s paired with a razor-sharp seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that not only feels robust, but also is capable of banging out mind-blowingly quick shifts, with only fractional torque loss in between each gear ratio. It’s a techno-mechanical marriage made in heaven.
The two-wheel drive Huracan still piles on speed at an alarming rate, but it also feels like a totally different car compared with the all-wheel drive model.
There’s noticeably more feedback to rely on - to the point where you can feel the front tyres twitch a millimetre-or-two, even as miniscule mid-corner adjustments are made. Push on and there’s a confidence-inspiring level of grip on hand that helps maintain the car’s poise.
It feels pointy though never nervous, as I thought it might when you really start to wind things up, especially with the shift in the rear bias. Doesn’t feel like there’ll be any drifting going on today at Phillip Island. The ESC keeps things nice and tidy, perhaps a little too much so for those with a bit of experience. Better safe than sorry, I guess.
It’s also incredibly easy to drive, even at big speeds, though without the aid of electronic stability I suspect you could reach the car’s adhesion limits far more quickly than you would in the all-wheel drive Huracan.
There’s also some electronic wizardry at work deep inside the LP580-2 – Lamborghini’s high-tech Piattaforma Inerziale (LPI) measures yaw, pitch and roll using three accelerometers and three gyroscopes placed deep in the car’s chassis.
Visually, the LP580-2 looks a tad tougher. There’s a new front fascia with larger air intakes and an updated rear end with bigger vents. The changes are discreet though, and only really noticeable when the two cars are sitting side-by-side.
Don’t bother searching for any LP580-2 badging, there isn’t any, the designers thought the car looked cleaner without them.
Inside, it’s all standard Huracan – nothing bad about that, when the cockpit more closely resembles that of a joint strike fighter, complete with red-levered weapons select button, which in the Huracan serves as the starter button – so, so, cool.
I’m also a fan of Huracan’s big TFT instrument cluster that looks right at home with the aviation-themed fit-out.
Honestly, just sitting here behind the wheel of the 580-2 in pit lane, with the V10 at idle behind my head, is a moment worth savouring. There's a lot of drama going on inside this cabin.
Despite its positioning as one the world’s most celebrated supercars, the Huracan is also one of the most comfortable. The stitched leather bucket seats are brilliant – they’re cushioned, contoured and properly bolstered for high g-force assaults.
Lamborghini is predicting 30-40 per cent of Huracan buyers will choose two-wheel drive over four-wheel drive, but are more than happy to increase production of the new car should demand be greater.
Price will surely have something to do with the way Huracan sales are skewed, too. Priced from $378,900 (plus on-road costs), the LP580-2 undercuts it’s all-wheel drive LP610 sibling by almost $50,000.
Add to that the enthusiast’s desire for a bit of rear-drive excitement with their naturally aspirated V10 Italian supercar, and Lamborghini might just have struck on the perfect package.