It is only logical to think that automotive manufacturers set out to create the best cars they can…obviously. What is interesting is the definition of the word ‘best’ and the differing interpretations of what to prioritise to make the ‘best’ car. Speaking to various CEOs and Chairmen it is evident that different manufacturers who create products that compete with one another have very different takes on what makes them better. You only have to look at the latest iterations of the Audi RS5, BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe to see that the three biggest German rivals all do things very differently. There’s a mix of V6 and V8, rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive – these are just the differences on paper, drive the RS5 and C 63 back-to-back and you would struggle to understand how these cars are considered competitors. Where companies often have to create machines designed to objectively and scientifically win group tests and be deemed the ‘best’, once in a while it seems the focus on engineering, science and numbers are expelled from senior minds and are replaced with ‘fun’.
In 2009 the engineers at Lamborghini pulled the sheets off a car that caused something of a stir – the 550-2 Balboni. Since VAG ingested Lamborghini there was an instantly recognisable change in focus. The cars became safer, more technology focused and all-wheel-drive. Many thought that the raging bulls’ horns had been blunted with corks from bottles of Italian red.
The Balboni was proof that Lamborghini still had heart and soul. The car was rear-wheel-drive and featured a manual gearbox. It was slower, less powerful and harder to drive than the standard 560-4. On paper, it was just worse. No one drives on paper – the reviews were fantastic and the 550-2 became a part of the Gallardo line up and not just as the limited run Balboni edition. As the Gallardo made way for the Huracan rear-wheel-drive fanatics, such as myself, waited with baited breath for the RWD Huracan variant. In 2016 it landed and, as with the old 550 Gallardo, it did not disappoint. Fast forward a year and I find myself sat low behind the wheel of an LP580-2 Spyder.
LP580-2 vs LP610-4 – As the name would suggest, the 580 is down on power against the 610 at 572 brake horsepower where the 610 outputs 602 brake horsepower. Power is arguably the least significant aspect of the changes, it’s the number after the hyphen that matter. The 580 is rear-wheel-drive, something that the Lamborghini engineering department openly admits is ‘not the optimum setup for the Huracan’. 0-100 km/h takes a couple of tenths longer than the 610-4 at a ballistic 3.4 seconds vs 3.2 and the all-wheel-drive car will hit 325 km/h, the 580-2 wont make it past 320.
The drivetrain means the front end has nothing to do aside from focusing on turning the front wheels and the rears have the challenge of handling all the power. This means the chronic understeer that so many claim the AWD model suffers from is neutralised, the trade-off being the loss of the all-weather capabilities…do you really buy a Lamborghini to drive it in the rain and snow?!
The driving experience is dominated by two aspects – the engine and gearbox. Aside from the Audi R8 I am struggling to name another car currently in production that utilises a naturally aspirated V10 and that makes me sad. It makes me sad as the explosive way the engine revs is spectacular and the accompanying soundtrack is something that should never be silenced. The 580-2’s engine has been slightly tweaked so peak power is delivered at a screaming 8,000rpm, 250 lower than other models. In Corsa mode you reach for the redline at 8,500rpm you pull a paddle and the gearbox engages the next gear almost instantaneously accompanied with a satisfying viciousness. You feel the shifts and it is something so many cars today lack.
In Sport or Strada modes the shifts are smooth and quick but after experiencing the savagery of Corsa you’ll miss the involvement and physical sensation of feeling the gearbox working. I thought Porsche had the crown for best gearbox with the PDK gearbox in a number of models I had driven, the gearshifts are so smooth the only notification you are in the next gear comes from the rev counter and the change in engine tone. Then come the downshifts and as you barrel into a corner with scrubbing off speed with the standard steel brakes you pull for a downshift and there is no hesitation from the transmission, you get what you want when you want it. The changes are nigh on instantaneous. If you’re on a track or really fancy working the box you can pull the left paddle and the gearbox will shift down to the lowest available gear. This means the car can go from a steady cruise in 7th and engage 2nd in the time you would expect a single downshift to be achieved. It is nothing short of remarkable and the accompanying satanic sounds of the howling V10 is the material of dreams.
Once the braking and downshifts are dealt with it’s time to turn in. There’s a smidgen of understeer on the way in when you’re pushing hard. It must be noted that in Strada and Sport the ESC is far too intrusive – in Corsa things are a lot better. Pirelli had fitted the car with the latest iteration of the fabled P Zero tyre that is not their ultimate performance tyre, there’s still the Trofeo and Trofeo R if you really want to dial out every smidge of understeer. Communication through the steering still lacks a little but feels a lot more reassuring than the all-wheel-drive car and the absence of the dynamic steering option makes a world of difference.
Coming out of a corner is where the 580 comes into its own. In 2nd and 3rd gear with Corsa mode selected, the rear of the car is relaxed and will slip under heavy throttle but never to antisocial angles with the ESC enabled. As side slip is controlled the Pirelli P Zeros show their worth and hook up providing impressive traction that really inspires confidence knowing that you can apply more throttle earlier and earlier the more you drive the car – the grip levels are just right allowing for an entertaining but controlled drive. Despite the incredibly low profile of the sidewalls, comfort is not sacrificed and road noise is more than acceptable. It is a fantastic example of a car and tire combination is one that can make you look like you have Chris Harris like skills when all I have is an immature and overeager right foot.
Looks are subjective and open to interpretation and differing opinions. The Gallardo was considered a very pretty and futuristic. The Huracan is instantly recognisable as a Lamborghini with its jaunty angles and tense lines. The cliché ‘looks like its going 100 mph when it is stationary’ is one that is horrendously overused, it should be saved for cars like the Huracan. The 580-2 sets itself apart with its revised front bumper and the slightest re-profiling of the air escape between the rear lights. Whatever your opinion is of the styling you cannot deny the Huracan is striking. Retract the electric roof and spec it in the attention seeking shade of Verde Scandal and you’ll struggle to not turn a head and draw a crowd armed with camera phones within seconds of coming to a halt at the traffic lights. If ever there was an antonym for witness-protection it would be a green Lamborghini.
The drama continues on into the interior. The centre console is a smorgasbord of buttons and switches, many of which could be retrofitted to a Eurofighter, most notably the red switch guard that covers the ignition button. This is about as purposeful as a flimsy paper cocktail umbrella in an Atlantic hurricane, but hey, drama is what this all about. Where the switches are all about form and less about function, the driver’s cockpit display manages to be a fine balance of fun and functionality. There is a large and incredibly sharp TFT digital display that displays everything from infotainment to satellite navigation exclusively for the driver to toggle. What it means is that passengers will be thoroughly bored in traffic and will have nothing to pretend to be occupied with to hide from the embarrassingly large crowds that gather every time you are stationary.
The driver focus is great, but it is a little frustrating when you want a bigger navigation screen (you will want it!), because the rev counter disappears and is replaced by a few small numbers in the corner of the screen. It is also not possible to have two round dials for speed and RPM simultaneously like you can in Audis with their Virtual Cockpit. The entire MMI is taken from the last generation of Audis so looks a little dated. It is also worth noting that the rear camera is horribly distorted and the quality is very low. When it rains it is rendered useless and do not even think about using the rear view mirror, all you can see is the roof of the car behind or the gorgeous leather behind the rear seats. Perhaps passengers can use it to make sure they look the part for the endless stream of photos that will inevitably be taken.
The ergonomics are fantastic, build quality solid – the Huracan is generally very well thought out and a comfortable place to be but only if you are less than 6ft tall. Any taller and you’ll be able to rest your chin on your knees. What lacks are cup holders and perhaps a few more storage spaces. On the topic of space, let’s talk about luggage capacity – there is not much. A couple of squashable duffle bags is the most you will manage to smush in and anything you do store in the front trunk will also get extremely hot after an hour’s drive. Best to keep any perishables or precious items, such as chocolate, in the cabin…somewhere.
All-in-all it is terribly difficult to not fall in love with the 580-2. The sacrifices of being rear-wheel-drive are irrelevant given how much more involving the car becomes. It has all the drama, impracticality and fun you could want from a supercar. It shook my garage walls and woke half the neighbourhood on cold start, it made the elderly smile it went sideways coming out of tight bends and made tunnels echo its V10 war cries. Yes, there are a number of faster, more focused cars on sale today in the same price range, but I doubt there are many that are brimming with character and charm. A convertible, naturally aspirated V10 supercar that is rear-wheel-drive – you only have one option and boy-oh-boy is it something special. You won’t even complain when you’re stuck in a service station staring at it with your coffee in your hands because there aren’t any cup holders.