Test-driving a new hardcore Lamborghini in a foreign land at an official F1 circuit is bucket-list stuff, no matter which way you put it.
That said, it’s been a while since I climbed aboard a new Lambo and nailed it on-track, but my enthusiasm for the brand with the raging bull as its emblem is as strong as ever. Principally because this is a carmaker that not only dares to be different, but has always stayed the course regardless of who has been steering the ship.
Some say you’re either a Ferrari guy or a Lambo guy, but in our business you get to appreciate the extraordinary engineering and design achievements made in both Italian camps. But that doesn’t mean we can't have our favourites.
For me, there are a few long-standing reasons why I would most likely choose Lamborghini over rival Italian brand Ferrari. I’ve always felt there was a certain mystique and an overwhelming desirability with this marque. Put it down to the poster of the outrageously styled Lamborghini Countach on my bedroom wall as a kid, and the passenger ride in a Miura S years later – as a clever marketing device used as an incentive to get me to buy another car off the same seller. Those things can have a lasting effect on you.
There’s also the courageous start-up story of Ferruccio Lamborghini himself. Unhappy with certain things in his new Ferrari, this led to him starting Automobili Lamborghini in 1963 in the tiny rural town of Sant’Agata Bolognese. Inspiring stuff for sure.
That passion for the brand was renewed not long after CarAdvice kicked off, when Lamborghini HQ offered myself, Alborz and Paul Maric the keys to a spanking new Gallardo Superleggera and Spyder version for several days, but only if we could get ourselves over to the factory in Italy. The trip ended up costing us a sizeable chunk of equity in the company, and that was with backing from several sponsors including Pirelli, Etihad Airways and German watchmaker Sinn. That was 11 years ago, and didn’t seem real back then.
We documented the trip with a video of the experience, and while both cars looked spectacular, it was the track-inspired Superleggera that screamed loudest. And not just because of its brash orange paint job and ear-piercing V10 overture – this was a very different kind of Lamborghini Gallardo that actually felt like a race car.
In the more challenging switchbacks in the mountainous terrain around Ascona in the north, the Spyder suffered from too much understeer, though the amplified exhaust note with the roof down was akin to Bocelli at his finest. Dynamically, though, the Superleggera was in another league entirely. Its naturally aspirated V10 sounded like the GT3 race car at full noise with a throttle blip that was also heavily addictive. There were more than a few moments of pure magic as the two cars played cat and mouse with each other for hours on end in those hills, as we pushed the cars to a level we thought road cars weren’t capable of.
Here was a Lamborghini with razor-sharp responses, breathtaking acceleration, and seriously dependable grip without the understeer that affected the Spyder. At least, that was in the dry. Wet-weather traction was another matter altogether despite the all-wheel-drive system.
That was the last time I drove a lightweight, hardcore Lamborghini. Thankfully, it wouldn’t be the last.
Still, there are some who firmly believe Ferrari, with its long history in Formula One motor racing, has always produced the more focused driver’s car. A sharper instrument that required a more skilful pilot than anything that rolled out of Lamborghini’s age-old factory in the heartland of rural Italy.
And while that may have been the case in the past, in reality, the Lamborghini factory is a high-tech facility that not only produces some of the most outrageously styled super sports cars on the planet, but also leads the way in some of the finest carbon-fibre technology in the business. Cutting-edge is what this brand is all about.
Take its latest super sports car effort, the Huracan EVO – a new Huracan that borrows from both the epic (according to Alborz) Performante and GT3 racing models to create a user-friendly Lamborghini supercar equipped with ground-breaking aerodynamics and predictive handling technology. That makes it faster than a Ferrari 488 GTB to 100km/h, and even faster than the Performante in some sections of the Nardò test circuit.
Lamborghini’s design and engineering teams have thrown everything and the kitchen sink at this car and then some. There’s on-board technology never before used on a Lamborghini like torque vectoring, as well as rear-wheel steering – also new to the Huracan.
It’s also the first Lamborghini to be equipped with predictive logic on the vehicle dynamics controller called LDVI (Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata). It's essentially a new super-powerful CPU that not only integrates every aspect of the car’s dynamic behaviour, but can also predict the best driving set-up for the next moment.
Does it work? You’re damn right, which is why they flew us to the challenging Bahrain F1 circuit in Manama to experience it for ourselves. This was a proper all-out test drive with speeds of 278km/h seen on the clock down the main straightaway.
But that’s only a fraction of the pleasure drivers can derive from the new EVO. The handling is not only off the charts; it’s the fact that within just three four-lap sessions you can be ‘on it’ with all the confidence in the world. It’s rare that I’ve had this level of belief in a car on a high-speed track for the first time – and in such a short time with so few laps under my belt.
Initially, I was thinking, nah, it’s the Performante for me, given that big rear wing and the terrific downforce it provides. But the EVO has a few tricks up its sleeve that not only compensate, but in the overall scheme of things make it a better all-round car to own, if not daily.
Speak to anyone from Lamborghini and they’ll tell you the Huracan EVO is a completely new car, despite the fact that its ‘EVO’ badge suggests it's more of an evolution of the model. But compared with a standard Huracan, this thing is in another league.
In some respects they’re right. While the front end looks similar at first glance, for the first time there’s a new front splitter with an integrated wing that is suspended and has two main functions. Firstly, it splits the flow of air in two parts for both downforce and aerodynamics, as well as engine cooling via an air curtain.
The result is the EVO is six times more aerodynamically efficient than the standard Huracan and 16 per cent more effective with its cooling systems. The underfloor also plays a key role in the new Huracan by channelling more airflow with less drag by using aerodynamic deflectors, and a new more aggressive rear diffuser for a result that provides seven times the downforce of the standard model.
There’s no bolted-on rear wing as on the Performante (if you’re like me, you won’t like it aesthetically), but there’s a rear spoiler that is slotted. This works like an open window inside the spoiler, and just like the front of the car, it has a dual function that both pushes the car down and accelerates air away like a Venturi effect.
One of the most difficult aspects of a launch program like this, is getting to know the track well enough in order to know the correct lines and grip levels on offer. Once you have that sorted, you can really start to push responsibly.
In the first session, even using the hardcore ‘Corsa’ track mode, I thought the front end felt a little soft, but by the third and final session at night, there was none of that. In fact, with each lap I felt more comfortable pushing harder and harder with the same high level of confidence. The aerodynamic balance and high-speed poise are extraordinary. It’s just one of the easiest (if not the easiest) super sports cars to drive on a track.
That’s because there’s an awful lot of clever technology at work inside the car to add a helping hand or two, including dynamic steering, all-wheel drive, MagneRide suspension, Piattaforma Inerziale 2.0 and advanced traction control.
But, for the EVO, Lambo’s engineers didn’t think that was enough, so they added three new features: torque vectoring for the first time at Lamborghini; rear-wheel steering for the first time with the Huracan (used on the Aventador S and Urus); and what is effectively a new dynamics brain for the car that we mentioned earlier.
Maurizio Reggiani is the Chief Technical Officer at Lamborghini, who told us that the goal for the EVO was particularly challenging. On the one hand, they wanted to maintain the same driving precision and responsiveness of the Performante in Corsa mode, but on the other, they wanted more comfort and daily useability in Strada mode.
It’s a comparison that I can’t make personally because I haven’t yet driven the Performante on the road or track. But given how effortlessly the car handled the high-speed straights and corners, I can only assume they nailed the EVO’s track performance hands down.
Part of that must come down to the new traction-control system, which Lamborghini refers to as ‘advanced’ because of a new logic that delivers the maximum useable torque to the tyres with an emphasis on useable torque. And there’s another controller that decides how much torque goes to each axle, which is critical for precise acceleration and torque distribution.
But, what really changes the game for the EVO is torque vectoring, because it’s able to distribute the torque from side to side of the vehicle. That means only the correct amount of torque is sent to any wheel and is continuously monitored.
You can’t really feel any intrusion via these active dynamic systems, but with each lap and each corner, I was thinking I should get on the throttle quicker and with even more intent. That's because I felt the car was asking more of the driver – like “Step on it, son".
The downside to such a manic drive program is that there was barely any time to think about, and indeed enjoy, what has to be one of the world’s great engines. It may well be the last of the high-capacity naturally aspirated powerplants, and reason alone to buy this car if you have the bucks – because at full cry there’s nothing quite like it, except of course the NA V12 in the Aventador.
It’s actually the same V10 engine out of the Performante developing max power of 470kW at 8000rpm and 600Nm of twist at 6500rpm. It can hit 100km/h in the same 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of 325km/h for those who live and die by the numbers. Not bad for a car that adds 40kg to the Performante, but the EVO is more about the fun-to-drive factor than any set of performance figures.
Lamborghini also told us the Sport mode is the true fun mode that allows for controlled drifts. But that’s another thing we’ll have to try later on in a less-threatening environment than a full-blown F1 track.
The sound effects while banging down four gears approaching turn one, at the end of what is an epic straightaway, serve as another sure-fire buyer’s trigger. You’ll feel like an F1 pilot, before getting back on the throttle and shooting towards the right-hand kink that is turns two and three, before the tighter turn four. Get these right (and trust me it won’t take long in this car) and you’ll wonder why you didn’t brake later, such is the chassis balance and linear progression with all the major controls.
In Corsa mode, the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a true manual-only affair. But, you’ll need to be quick with the paddles, otherwise the rapid rise in revs will catch you out and you’ll be bouncing off the rev-limiter at 8000rpm and kicking yourself for not shifting sooner.
Carbon-ceramic brake rotors are standard fitment on the Huracan EVO, and as good as they must be, I can’t recall needing to jump on them like I would have thought necessary on this circuit. It was more a ‘get on, get off’ sort of thing due to the sheer pace you realised the car could carry through the corners, and just how early you could get back on the throttle on exit.
While design can be intensely subjective, the EVO not only looks fantastic in the metal, especially presented in this intense orange colour called ‘Arancio Xanto’ – a four-layer paint process using mainly red and yellow that shows various hues under different lighting – but it’s also entirely functional and brilliantly aerodynamic without resorting to the Performante’s rear wing.
The Huracan EVO should also meet the connectivity demands of younger buyers these days with its new centrepiece 8.4-inch capacitive touchscreen with multi-finger gesture control, which governs functions like seats, climate control and the status of the LDVI system in real time. Other features include Apple CarPlay and connected navigation with voice commands.
It’s a comfortable car to sit in and to drive quickly, and the materials look and feel top-notch. But most of all, the EVO is a thoroughly exciting place from the moment you climb aboard, yet all very intuitive for first-time users.
It would be a travesty to call the Huracan EVO anything but a holistic triumph. Its myriad dynamic systems are in perfect balance with the chassis, and somehow it all comes together to provide one of the most exhilarating driving experiences I’ve had in a while. Bravo.
Priced from $459,441 before on-roads, the EVO sits between the standard Huracan LP 610-4 Coupe ($428,000) and the top-shelf Performante Coupe ($483,866), and for those that may not want a GT3-style rear wing, the EVO may end up the sweet spot in the model range. By way of comparison, the Ferrari 488 GTB is priced from $469,888 plus on-roads – if you can get one.
NOTE: We are scoring this car after only 12 laps of the Bahrain F1 circuit, meaning it might change either way when we get to test the car on local soil later this year.