Has Lamborghini saved the best until (almost) last?
By Mike Duff / Tuesday, April 12, 2022 / Loading comments
The supercar market is going to miss the Lamborghini Huracan, arguably more than most other combustion-engined retirees. While Ferrari’s junior supercars rarely live long enough to feel even middle-aged, the 2022 Huracan is still substantially identical to the one that was first shown in 2013, and which went on sale the following year. There has been a steady evolution since then, but the basics of that wedgy design and power from a naturally aspirated V10 engine have remained constants, the latter now being a technical stand-out in what has become an almost entirely turbocharged part of the market – the only notable exception being the closely related Audi R8. The Huracan’s replacement will be hybridized and turbocharged; it will almost certainly be quicker, but will struggle to beat its predecessor on character.
The Huracan Tecnica isn’t going to be the last variant launched, that looks set to be a production version of the Safari-look Sterrato concept that was shown a few years ago. But it’s not hard to see the Tecnica as the equivalent of a greatest hits compilation, a synthesis of most of the best bits of earlier versions of the long-lived family. And although Lamborghini has only just revealed images of what the finished Tecnica will look like, PH has already been in the driver’s seat of a prototype version.
This took place last November, on the handling course at the vast Porsche-owned Nardo proving ground in southern Italy. The long delay between the drive and being able to write about it means that Maurizio Reggiani, who was Lamborghini’s Chief Technical Officer at the time, and who introduced journalists to the car, has since moved on to become the company’s head of motorsport. But the finished Tecnica is still very much his project – as the Aventador’s hybridized V12 replacement will be.
The Tecnica is intended to occupy the narrow gap in the existing range between the Huracan EVO RWD and the range-topping STO track special. The Tecnica uses the same 631hp version of Lamborghini’s long-lived 5.2-litre V10 as the STO, and also sends drive exclusively to the rear axle through a standard seven-speed twin-clutch transmission. Like the STO it also does without the variable ratio steering that we haven’t always loved when we experienced it in lesser Huracans, deploying a fixed-ratio rack instead. Yet in apparent contradiction to this desire for dynamic purity it also gets an actively steered rear axle which is claimed to both improve stability and adjust the car’s handling attitude under hard use.
The various active systems are under the collective management of the Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata dynamic brain, this looking after the traction control, adaptive dampers, torque biasing rear differential plus engine and gearbox mapping. Settings have been recalibrated around the mission of giving the Tecnica a higher level of track ability than the EVO, but also better road manners than the stripped-and-whipped STO.
While many test tracks have been designed to be used as assessment tools rather than to deliver excitement, Nardo’s handling course is a guaranteed adrenaline high. In addition to a full set of slower and medium-speed corners it incorporates two savage crests, one of which gets anything quick off the ground, plus the fearsomely fast turn one that comes at the end of the 1km long main straight – and which leads straight into the braking zone for the far tighter turn two. In the STO prototype I drove there in 2020 managing this transition was thrilling and terrifying in equal measure – and that was a car with more than twice the peak downforce.
Beneath its black cladding the Tecnica prototype is much closer to production reality than the far scuzzier STO version was. It has both what seems to be a near finished interior and a welcome absence of the sweaty smell that engineers tend to leave in hard-working test mules. The Darth Vaderish wrap did little to disguise the visual revisions, with bigger front and rear bumper apertures, a raised wing and the new carbon fibre engine cover in place of the old glass hatch. Even in disguise it looks brilliant.
The first difference between Tecnica and STO is obvious well before reaching the end of Nardo’s dinky little pitlane. Both cars share the same base engine, but the Tecnica is much quieter at lower revs. Reggiani later confirms this is due in large part to the increasing stringency of noise regulations. Pushing harder, as I soon am, improves the soundtrack markedly, but even when pushed into its snarling top end the Tecnica doesn’t have the aural savagery of the STO. Throttle response also seems to have been softened, although reactions still feel instantaneous in a way that turbocharged rivals just aren’t. The naturally aspirated V10 will always need to be worked hard to give its best – power peak is at 8,000rpm, just 500rpm before the limiter. But it seems unlikely any owners will ever complain about the need to apply stick to experience that.
Switching between the three dynamic modes delivers big character changes, more so than in any previous Huracan. The softest, Stradale, is intended for road use, but coped well with track loadings. This doesn’t allow any significant slip angles to develop when the car is pushed to the limit of adhesion, but still allowed the prototype’s handling attitude to be easily adjusted through weight transfer on the throttle.
Selecting Sport pretty much pops a can of spinach. The prototype immediately felt firmer and keener to turn – although at least some of that was down to increased intervention from the rear-steering system and active diff. But it also slackens off the traction control threshold to an extent it pretty much qualifies as a drift mode: I certainly wasn’t expecting the radical yaw angle it allowed me to engender in the first tight corner. There is still a safety net behind this, which seems to work effectively, and the system becomes much less permissive as speeds rise. Selecting the punchiest Corsa setting imposes much more discipline and permits less slip – apparently its mission is to deliver the best possible lap times without showboating.
The fixed ratio steering definitely feels more natural than the variable set-up on other Huracans, although the assistance weighting is still lighter than the segment norm, and there isn’t a huge amount of feedback under lower intensity use. I also found it necessary to build faith in the way the LDVI system was working to get the car turned, with the rear steering making slight but noticeable inputs to help the car rotate on corner entry. There’s an oddness to the sensation of this happening which, in the prototype, had me adjusting my own steering and throttle inputs and making what turned into the equivalent of a feedback loop – me and the car trying to adapt to each other.
Talking to Reggiani after my first stint reveals that LDVI should be best with the car braked to an apex and the working with gradually reduced steering angle and a constant accelerator position. Don’t try and second guess it, in other words – something which did make the car feel happier on subsequent stints. It also felt much less noticeable in the Corsa mode which I reckon most drivers would likely choose for track sessions.
Even on a circuit it was obvious that the Tecnica will be more civilised than the STO under road use. My biggest grumble with packaging was another one that dates to the launch of the car – the lack of headroom. At Nardo this was more of an issue because of the need to wear a helmet, something that created the uncomfortable sensation of head meeting headlining over the bigger crests. The brakes impressed, though – with a heftier pedal than in other Huracans and constant retardation from the carbon-ceramics even under what must have been huge thermal loads. And although I couldn’t feel the increase in downforce as speeds rose, doubtless it was present and lending reassurance in the quicker bits, especially the monstrous turn one.
First impressions are that the finished Tecnica will feel more like an EVO RWD plus than an STO minus if that makes sense – a road car first and foremost rather than a track special. While that means it doesn’t get the show-stopping wingwork of the STO or quite the same bragging rights, it does mean it will almost certainly be a nicer car to live with. It’s also a reminder, as Lamborghini faces up to its hybridized future, that the Huracan has been one of the undoubted high points of the company’s history. The production version of the Tecnica may well be remembered as one of the very best.
Specification | Lamborghini Huracan Tecnica prototype
Engine: 5204cc V10
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch, rear wheel drive
Power (hp): 631bhp @ 8000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 417b-ft @ 6500rpm
Top speed: 202mph
Weight: 1379kg ‘dry’
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