Lamborghini's raging Huracan
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Audi's practical influence on the Lamborghini Huracan hasn't dulled the marque's legendary thrills
Taking an exotic car to an inappropriate place is such a cheesy motoring-journalist thing to do.
But on my first day with the $418,000 Lamborghini Huracan, I took it to the supermarket. I shamefully admit I thought it was hilarious to roll into my Countdown in such a surreal machine.
But actually, I'm not sure squeezing the sensational Huracan in amongst the Corollas and Commodores in a supermarket carpark is inappropriate at all. There's a dichotomy between what this car looks like and what it's supposed to do.
Sure, it has the knockout shape and low-slung stance of a proper supercar; it's definitely from the same stable as the company's flagship Aventador. But Huracan is also the entry point to the Italian marque, a Lamborghini that you might potentially drive every day. No, seriously.
This is not a new idea. Such thinking was the catalyst for the Gallardo, which was launched back in 2003 and enjoyed a decade of production. Huracan, of course, replaces the Gallardo.
Much of Gallardo's usability and durability can be attributed to Audi's ownership of Lamborghini (it took over in 1998).
The Italian flair was still there, but underpinned by German build quality and solid ancillary systems.
Like Gallardo, Huracan owes quite a lot to the architecture of the Audi R8. In this case, the next-generation R8, due in 2016. They share an intriguingly engineered platform, constructed from aluminium around a carbon fibre spine. They also share a direct-injection 5.2-litre V10 engine, albeit in different states of tune, and a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Sorry to labour the family connection, but the thing is that Audi's influence at Lamborghini over the past 18 years has created a new ethos that understands supercar excitement and ease of use need not be mutually exclusive.
You could step out of an Audi A3 hatchback and drive the Huracan to work with hardly a worry. Visibility is not brilliant, of course, but it's actually quite a compact machine (just 4459mm long, or about the same as that A3) so it's easy to place on the road. You can raise the nose of the car 39mm at the push of a button to negotiate rough roads and vehicle entrances.
In heavy traffic, the dual-clutch gearbox is sweet and smooth even at low speed. This is perhaps the most obvious difference in everyday driving compared with Gallardo, which had a single-clutch system called E-Gear which could be quite erratic until you mastered it.
A Lamborghini that's relaxed in the city is quite an achievement. But now, the real test is whether the supercar thrills are still there. Lamborghinis are legendary for their sound and fury; without that, the spirit of the marque would be lost.
The engine should be at the centre of any great Lamborghini - literally and metaphorically - and so it is with Huracan. The mid-mounted V10 makes 449kW/560Nm and can propel the car to 100km/h in just 3.2 seconds. That is A-list acceleration.
But they're all just numbers, aren't they? The Huracan's powertrain provides an incredible experience every time you get into the car. It's an event. Like so many modern supercars, the Lamborghini's V10 defaults into show-off mode at startup: there's a whirr, then an angry roar as the 5.2-litre wakes up with an automated blip of the throttle. It settles after a few seconds - not quickly enough to make peace with the neighbours, though.
Once you're on the move, the soundtrack is epic: a proper supercar noise to accompany proper supercar pace. No other way to describe it, really. In almost any other car you'd say it was bordering on being too much; in a Lamborghini, it's pretty much perfect.
There's a certain school of thought that says a Lamborghini should be scary. Deploy all of the Huracan's performance at once and you're certainly in for a few white-knuckle moments. The same goes for cornering speed: the car is capable of extreme velocity through turns, thanks to four-wheel drive and a huge amount of mechanical grip.
The Huracan combines exotic looks with an excellent chassis.
But the Huracan's chassis is not the least bit nervous. Indeed, regardless of how aggressively you turn into a corner, the response from the car's front end is cool, calm and progressive. The optional ($3650) Dynamic Steering system fitted to our test car might have something to do with that, as it varies the ratio according to speed. The same goes for the four-wheel-drive system, which automatically mitigates any impending cornering emergencies.
That's not to say it's all Sunday driving. You can dial up the excitement via a steering wheel-mounted button that allows you to switch between Strada, Sport and Corsa modes. With each, the powertrain and chassis become progressively more aggressive. Corsa is essentially a circuit mode, with completely manual shifting via the steering column-mounted paddles.
Racing drivers might be disappointed with the benign nature of the Huracan's chassis. For us mere mortals, it's a great combination of supercar sensations with a safety net, especially given the explosive performance of the V10 engine.
Inside, the cabin blends exotic design with surprisingly good ergonomics (again, much of it courtesy of Audi). As with the Aventador, the main instrument is a gorgeous high-definition TFT digital screen, which can be split and/or mixed and matched with various information and entertainment functions. You sit as you should in any proper supercar: with the feeling that coarse chip seal is scraping the studs on your jeans. Love the angular dashboard shapes that echo the outrageous exterior - right down to hexagonal ventilation outlets for the air conditioning.
The interior includes hexagonal shaping (top), fighter jet start button and high-definition digital screen (below).
You expect a great sense of theatre in a Lamborghini and you get it, with only a couple of detours into overdesign. The fighter jet-style style start/stop button, which nestles underneath a cover that you have to flick up to activate, is something you'll want to show your friends but quickly becomes an annoyance. The Ferrari-style indicator controls, which are located on the spoke of the steering wheel, are fiddly and hard to find when you're turning the wheel.
So, can you drive a Huracan every day? Yes you can. Does it have traffic-stopping style like a supercar should? Yes it does. Will it rocket across a backroad at surreal speed and shatter the silence for kilometres around? Yes it will. Huracan puts a big, red flamboyant tick in a lot of different boxes.