I was a lime-green streak on the fastest road in America, a 10-cylinder terror in an origami wedge with everything from rusty minivans to customized diesel pickups swaying in my wake, when I decided to really break the law.
In a free-market attempt to attract toll traffic, Texas State Highway 130 permits paying customers to drive 85 mph. The problem is that, at 85, a Lamborghini Huracán is effectively asleep, drowsing along in seventh gear and returning nearly 20 mpg. So you step it up a bit, and nothing changes except the rate at which traffic recedes in the mirror. Which, by the way, is perfectly usable, unlike the one in the Lamborghini Countach.
Lamborghini sold 14,022 examples of the Huracán's immediate predecessor, the Gallardo, making it the most popular Lamborghini in history, accounting for about half of the company's sales since its founding in 1963. Yet it's the 30-year-old Countach that continues to define the brand for the man on the street. In particular, there's that opening scene of The Cannonball Run—you know, the part where a Countach comes to a tire-smoking halt next to a Speed Limit 55 sign and the passenger jumps out, crossing out the "55" with spray paint.
With that in mind, I swung onto the shoulder next to a Speed Limit 80 sign and whipped out a roll of black gaffer tape. Turns out speed-limit signs are mounted higher than they used to be, so I found some crates nearby and started stacking them so I could reach. The sheriff pulled up about 30 seconds later.
He didn't immediately get out of his truck, so I decided to surrender myself in hope of leniency. Rolling the tape into a ball and stuffing it into my pocket, I sauntered up. "Afternoon, officer."
"You need any help with what you're doing there?"
"Ah, no sir, just, um, stacking some crates." Stacking some crates? Why did I say that? Was there anything that I could have said that would have been more inane?
"You figure you can finish with those crates and get back on the road?"
He might have had a twinkle in his eye. I didn't give him time to reconsider. As soon as I saw him take an exit ahead of me, with no other vehicle in sight on this lightly traveled road, I pulled the left-hand shift paddle four times and let the 602-hp V-10 swing to its 8500-rpm redline repeatedly. About 30 seconds later, I knew one thing for sure: Even if you could get away with adding an extra hundred miles per hour to America's fastest road, you'd still cramp the Huracán's style. Which is why, in addition to driving on the road, I had scheduled time at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack.
There was a time when Lamborghini perpetually teetered between bankruptcies and acquisitions, bleeding cash and struggling to push its ancient lineup through a gauntlet of ever-stricter emissions and safety regulations. The company's 1998 acquisition by the Volkswagen Group and subsequent technological alignment with Audi ended that nightmare, but make no mistake: Lamborghini is expected to pay its bills. The Gallardo, sold in forms as diverse as the all-wheel-drive, automated-clutch LP 560-4 Spyder and the rear-drive, six-speed-manual LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni coupe, has shouldered Lamborghini's fortunes for a decade. With its sub-$200,000 price, conventional doors, Audi-sourced electronics, and all-wheel-drive docility, the Gallardo was simultaneously a gateway to Lamborghini ownership and a complete redefinition of the experience. It's not an easy act to follow.
Of course, there's always room for improvement. The Gallardo had an aluminum chassis; the Huracán cuts mass by replacing some of that aluminum with structural carbon fiber. As a consequence, at 3440 pounds, it's relatively light for an all-wheel-drive supercar. It's also claimed to be 50 percent stiffer. That's not the kind of thing we can easily measure at R&T, but I'll say this: I drove a 2013 Gallardo LP 560-4 shortly before this test, and the new car's improvement in chassis stiffness is immediately apparent, even on the street.
The dual-clutch seven-speed is new to Lamborghini, and it's also mandatory in the Huracán. The Gallardo's e-gear single-clutch setup was revised into acceptability over the years, at least on track. I've put a couple of thousand racetrack miles on the last variants of the LP 560-4 and LP 550-2, and each displayed little of the balky behavior or unpredictable engagement typically associated with first-generation auto-manuals.
This seven-speed, however, is much better in all respects, from low-speed traffic creeping to the rapid downshifts required to get from seventh to second gear in the braking zones. It's easily on par with the transmission in the Ferrari 458 Italia and considerably more pleasant than the click-whir-bang affair in the Nissan GT-R. Unfortunately, however, the shift paddles are fixed to the steering column. That's fine for shuffle-steering your way through afternoon traffic, but it's a recipe for annoyance at a racetrack. It should also be said that a manual would be welcome, but the people who actually buy Lamborghinis want the car to shift for them, and this transmission is the best yet for that.
The engine to which the gearbox is mated is revised heavily for 2015, according to Lamborghini. Most notably, the Iniezione Diretta Stratificata combines both port and direct fuel injection. The engine's output easily surpasses that of the 458 Italia, in both power—602 hp at a fortissimo 8250 rpm—and torque: 413 lb-ft at 6500 rpm. (We haven't yet driven the 458's successor, the 661-hp 488 GTB.)
Launch control is available. It produces the quarter-mile sprint in 10.6 seconds at 133.4 mph. We've tested some very quick cars lately, stuff like the C7 Corvette Z06 and Porsche 911 GT3. They're great value for the money, particularly the Vette. However, should Sir be possessed of the $243,695 required to buy a Huracán, Sir may rest comfortably knowing that Sir can drop them out of the mirror any time it pleases Sir. This may be the junior Lamborghini, but you'll need to spend close to a million dollars on a hybrid hypercar if you want to be assured of beating it.
Not that you'd buy a Huracán for the numbers. You buy it for the drama. And that was where the Gallardo always came up a bit short. It was a brilliant car to drive, particularly the later versions, but the interior was never as special as the one in its less expensive Audi R8 sibling. And the styling was conservative to a fault. It was a very German Lamborghini.
Which is a problem, because a Lamborghini needs to shock.
The Huracán, on the other hand . . . When road test editor Robin Warner and I pulled up at a Pilot station outside Austin to see just how much Lambo had fibbed to us about the weight (not at all, it turns out), it was like throwing a bucket of blood into shark-infested water. A couple of young women tried to surreptitiously camera-phone me, and I waved them over. They'd never seen the Huracán before but knew it was a Lamborghini.
Next, the truckers, mostly tough-looking Hispanic men. They approached the Lambo as if it would electrocute them if they touched it. A remarkably handsome and rugged-looking fellow with a thick gold chain around his neck and chiseled biceps took the time to educate me: "This green, this is good. This is right. But," he clarified, "a Lamborghini does not need to be green. A Ferrari, that must be red to be correct. With a Ferrari, there are rules. With a Lamborghini, there are no rules. Any color, any equipment. I prefer it."
I encouraged them, and one at a time, they climbed in. The interior of our test car was black Alcantara with lime-green stitching. The fixed-back carbon buckets, which will be available for stateside purchase later this year, are unapologetically track-focused and tight but not particularly size-discriminatory, even for your six-foot-two, 240-pound author. Which reminds me: There's more headroom than in a Gallardo, as well as improvements in shoulder and leg space. The pedal box is more S-class than Miura; you can wear a pair of big Alden Indy boots in here, no problem.
Where the Gallardo was almost sensible in its control layout, the Huracán is whimsical. There's a completely ridiculous start-button arrangement, rendered as some sort of hexagonal sci-fi control and guarded by a flip-up cover, also hexagonal. Aside from the tach, there isn't a rounded edge or plain circle anywhere.
The dashboard is a single TFT screen, because everything nowadays has to be capable of displaying everything from your Bluetooth audio to lap time and max speed. Remember that last bit—we'll return to it. The dash is surprisingly usable, even in the Texas sun. There's a second configurable screen in the center stack, which can be made to show a variety of temperatures and pressures that—the era of nontemperamental Lamborghinis continues—never seem to leave the recommended zone.
Most critically, the Huracán has the wide-body feel that was missing in the Gallardo, inside and out. The front end is more aggressive, in large part due to the wider, angrily slanted headlamps. It looks lower, though it's the same height, and there's far more angled drama down both flanks. Viewed in profile, the reverse slash of the tail is an unmistakable homage to the Aventador.
This is what customers wanted from the Gallardo: 95 percent of the Aventador experience at way less than 95 percent of the $400,000 price. As a Lamborghini, the Huracán utterly succeeds. It has an intergalactic amount of street cred. Homeless people yell at you—and yes, the destitute-looking man who screamed at me for attention correctly identified the car as a Lamborghini. "HEY, LAMBO! NEED SOME HELP HERE!"
In my first day on the street with the Huracán, it rained like hell, with pools of water everywhere. I wanted to floor the throttle. Not that the LP 610-4 cared. It has a trustworthy amount of traction. There's also a new three-axis, gyroscope-and-accelerometer thing called Lamborghini Piattaforma Inerziale on stability-control watch. This is a supercar you could lend to your grandmother. It doesn't have a rain mode like the 458, but the front axle intervenes before the rear wheels spin up, so it isn't really necessary.
Still, I left back-road heroics for another time. Instead, I did what you'd probably do if you had a car like this for a day: I went guitar shopping. Although I was careful to point out that the Huracán didn't belong to me, that didn't stop people from opening triple-locked showcases and handing me hundred-thousand-dollar Gibsons.
When I finally made a somewhat more affordable selection and tossed it in the passenger seat, I found that the combination of acoustic guitar and lime-green Lamborghini equaled "country star" in the minds of Austin's young women. The first question was always, "That's your car?" accompanied by a slight shift of the hips. After a few of those encounters, I abandoned the truth and settled for, "No, ma'am, it belongs to the record company."
The next day dawned bright and clear, giving me the chance to head for the hills surrounding Lake Travis. These are great sports-car roads; they're full of elevation changes and midspeed turns connected by short straights. Conversely, they'd be miserable in a traditional supercar, for the same reasons. The Huracán, however, is neither sports car nor old-school supercar. It's wide, so it's uncomfortable here. Yet the visibility's good and the front end can be placed with precision, so there's never a concern of going wide. The occasional smattering of pebbles or road irregularities doesn't faze it. The differentials redirect power before you know traction is lost.
By the same token, something like a Testarossa would be a nightmare here. You'd be fighting the gearbox and managing the brakes while simultaneously devoting half of your brain to making sure the rear end didn't lead you down the road. Those concerns simply don't exist in the Huracán. The engine and transmission are integrated in such a way as to make every corner exit a rocket-sled launch from the moment you're brave enough to press the throttle, while the carbon-ceramic brakes show zero fade in street use. The real challenge is convincing yourself to let the engine rev all the way out in each gear; as the noise builds, it starts to feel increasingly insane to not pull the right paddle and calm things down. When you do, the seamless shift means things just get worse, because the next corner approaches even faster.
On a back road, the Huracán feels faster than a 458 or GT3, thanks largely to its unmatchable traction on corner exit. It's not quite as instinctive to place in a corner as the Ferrari but more usable in that respect than the Porsche. Midcorner traction feels equal to either, although I'd sure like more front grip to make the car feel more pointable. Our test car did not have the active steering setup that caused some carping during the press introduction, and it was better for it. Feedback through the wheel is direct and truthful, although when the front axle gets excited about solving your traction problem, the steering can temporarily deaden as a result.
Is the Huracán as satisfying to drive in these circumstances as its competition? Sure, but it suffers from the same problem as those cars: It's so fast and capable, near-limit driving on a public road is an invitation to prison and/or the hospital.
To find out what the Huracán can really do, you need to visit the racetrack. So I did. America's only purpose-built Formula 1 track is the perfect playground for something with this kind of power and tire grip, and there isn't much to hit because the men who designed it had to consider that Romain Grosjean might visit for a race or two. (Hey ohhh! —Ed.) Our test car is the most track-friendly Huracán you can get: In addition to fixed buckets and standard steering, it also has a nonadjustable suspension. It's worth noting that all three of these features worked just fine in daily use, so you should consider getting your Huracán set up like ours.
To help me learn the track and the car, I had Richard Antinucci, Lamborghini's stateside test and demonstration driver.
I was impressed by the way he tossed the Huracán around COTA. By watching him, I was able to figure out how to compensate for the column-mounted paddles. Since the right paddle controls upshifts, to grab a gear exiting a corner, Antinucci kept his left hand on the wheel and dropped his unoccupied right to the paddle. When the Huracán stepped out a bit on exit, the resulting one-handed heroics were spectacular to watch.
Let's take a lap around COTA with the Huracán, starting with the start/finish straight. It's a steep uphill to the braking point, but the car reliably accelerated to about 147 mph before I stepped on the carbon-ceramics.
Turn 1 is the track's highest point, and you lose traction as you round it and head downhill in second gear. Grabbing third on the way out is quickest, but you'll be doing some left-hand heroics of your own, because with stability control off, the Huracán isn't shy about throwing most of its power to the rear wheels. T2 is flat, but you have to trust the grip, as the tires are close to their limits.
Turns 3, 4, and 5 tighten up in a way that finally lets the Huracán show some of its mid-engined character. If you lose the tail, it will be between 4 and 5. But here's something I appreciate:
Unlike in some cars, stepping on the brakes with things massively out of shape won't wake switched-off stability control. Not that you should, of course—but I'm willing to admit that I did just that during a recon lap, and the Lamborghini promptly punished me with a lurid, 100-mph slide. Proper.
In Turns 6 and 7, the Huracán feels a bit wide and sluggish. Again, a little more front grip would help here, but it's still an improvement over the Gallardo. If you step on the throttle out of 8, the front axle will grab you and toss you up 9. Ten is a steep downhill and flat if you're willing to run over the curb. Hitting an FIA curb at triple digits in a supercar is the stuff of madness, but the Huracán swallows it with nothing more than a wiggle and some scary-sounding, but ultimately harmless, noises from the floorpan.
Turn 11 is a hairpin. It's possible to do whatever you'd like; the V-10 will toss the Huracán sideways at speed, or you can treat it like a 911, braking hard in a straight line and working for the latest apex and earliest throttle application. That's what I did, because we were looking for a back-straight number.
With the windows down on the back straight, the Huracán quickly turned into the inside of John Bonham's kick drum. An F1 car does 200 mph here. I eventually stopped looking at the speedometer. The Lambo was stable, but the hammering wind noise took all of my spare attention. When I lost my nerve and nailed the brakes, I didn't get a glimpse of the speedo. Not to worry: The onboard data unit recorded it.
One hundred and seventy-six miles per hour.
On a racetrack, in a car that, I admit, was also playing "Ride Like the Wind" by Christopher Cross on the stereo and had the air-conditioning on. And that top speed wasn't a fluke, because I did it six times in a row in one session.
After that drama, the low-speed turns from 12 through 15 are just point-and-shoot, minding the front tires. Like any street car, the Huracán can push the nose a bit. The difference here is that the engine can always correct it, if you want. But save your rear tires, because you'll need them for 16-17-18. This three-turn combination is a big, brave, blind corner that requires throttle adjustment halfway through. The car reacts to lift-throttle well, although you're always conscious of the mass behind you. The Huracán feels half again as sensitive to line-tightening as a Corvette or Viper does, although that sensitivity is on a curve that starts off dead, runs to minor flexing of the ankle, and pulls up sharply into Don't You Do That.
I'd been tentative about taking 18 flat but was pretty sure I could make it happen, so I was on the throttle nice and early out of 17. The problem is, the nose was going way wide. If I backed off slowly, I'd enter 19 without frightening the corner marshal, dead ahead, about 300 feet away. Instead, I took a deep breath and did something counterintuitive: I gave it more throttle.
At that point, something magical happened: I felt the front axle steer the car back in line. There wasn't enough outside tire to make the turn, but there was enough inside tire to pull the Huracán straight. If you want an explicit demonstration of how a machine can outdrive a man, there it is. It fixed my line by going faster. What the hell. Let's ride with it.
I always forgot how fast T19 should be, but a smarter driver could take it basically flat. I kept changing my mind at the last minute and flooring the throttle, to which the Huracán responded with a mild slide. This car isn't a toy, but it is controllable. If you have a few years' worth of track days under your belt in something less ferocious, you'd eventually become very comfortable with it.
And the tight T20, a full brake. This is the only place on the track where I came close to hurting this expensive and pretty automobile. The Huracán isn't superfond of trail braking, and when I overdid it trying to squeeze a tenth out of the lap, the back end ran wide and pointed me toward the wall. There was little to do but straighten the wheel and haul down on the brakes, then rely on the mighty engine to pick up the slack.
Lapping done for the night, I headed back into town. This time, it was a man in an Aston Martin Vanquish scrambling to catch me. When he finally managed to pull up next to me at an intersection, having broken every traffic law in the book at least twice, he was out of breath. We rolled down our windows.
"Huracán!" he yelled.
He smiled. The look on his face said it all. He just needed to see it. That's all Lamborghini needed to do, make it look like this. For most of their customers, the rest is just gingerbread.
"IS IT ANY GOOD?!?" he yelled.
And I realized that I couldn't explain the whole thing to him in two seconds, so as the light turned green, I responded. "YES!"