Driven: Lamborghini's sharp new Huracan

Distilled to their essence, supercars are fundamentally about emotion. 

As an outsider looking into a rarefied world of millionaire playthings, it's easy to reduce exotic machines to a set of numbers - prices, power figures, acceleration statistics and lap times; objective statistics by which a car can be measured.

But it is impossible to rationalise the purchase of a half-million dollar supercar through numbers alone. How a car makes you feel, and the experiences it may provide, are much more important. 

On that basis, the new Lamborghini Huracan should have rivals worried. 

A successor to the brand's ageing Gallardo, the Huracan LP 610-4 is the first in a family of supercars set to take on machines such as the Ferrari 458 Italia and McLaren 650S

Like the Gallardo and all modern Lamborghinis, the Huracan is named after a Spanish fighting bull, and symbolises the company's hopes for this hurricane to take the world by storm.

Unlike the larger Aventador, which presents as an angry arrangement of angles, ducts and fighter-jet creases, the Huracan offers a cohesive, monolithic form defined by a single arc that extends from front to rear. 

It's special on the inside too, with beautiful materials, digital instruments and a lovely new steering wheel that presents a significant departure from previous models. Lamborghini followed Ferrari's form by moving key controls for lighting, windscreen wipers, indicators and more to the car's flat-bottomed steering wheel. 


The Huracan also pays tribute to Ferrari's multi-mode Mannetino switch with a wheel-mounted, three-position 'Anima' toggle offering a choice of Strada, Sport and Corsa modes which fine-tune the car's steering, suspension, throttle response and transmission. 

The cabin is finished in well-trimmed leather and Alcantara, with supportive seats that offer a broad range of adjustment that complements the steering wheel's wide tilt and reach settings. An Audi-sourced infotainment package adds to its appeal, while a completely digital dash can switch between navigation, infotainment, communication and conventional read-outs at the flick of a switch.

Visibility is a key drawback, though it's not the only supercar to limit outward vision. A steeply raked windscreen will have some drivers craning for a view, while the central rear vision mirror offers little more than a furtive glimpse through thick slats that cover that power plant.

The steering wheel on our test example is linked to an optional variable-ratio steering system that makes it rare for drivers to use more than half a turn of lock regardless of the speed they are travelling. It's a feature that makes for easy progress at low speed, possibly at the cost of steering feel that can be filtered out by such systems. But without driving the two models back-to-back, it's impossible to say which is the better bet. 

Australian examples of the Huracan feature a new magnetically-controlled variable suspension system as standard, allowing drivers to choose between soft, sporty and race-ready settings as appropriate to their mood or environment.

The new car also features a hybrid aluminium and carbon-fibre chassis home to a 5.2 litre V10 engine that drives all four wheels through a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. 

That gearbox represents a crucial change, replacing a robotised manual transmission in the Gallardo that was a full generation behind what rivals offered. Lamborghini's ties to Audi and the Volkswagen Group reaped dividends here, as German know-how from dual-clutch equipped cars such as the Audi R8 and Bugatti Veyron gave the Italian marque a helping hand. Docile around town in its self-shifting Strada mode, the transmission is ferociously sharp when dialled up to Corsa's maximum attack, snapping through its ratios with impressive vigour and allowing excellent access to what the engine has to offer. 

The car feels natural in Sport mode, with a progressive throttle response that is much easier to manage than the viciously sharp Corsa setting. 

Its all-wheel-drive system also has more of a playful rear bias in Sport as opposed to Corsa which makes the most of the front axle at a potential cost to driver enjoyment. 

The Anima's Sport setting was the pick around Taiwan's technical Penbay International Circuit, offering a more progressive, analogue feel than the hardcore Corsa that was quicker to shift power between the front and rear wheels.

Lamborghini's 10-cylinder tribute to the internal combustion engine has been on the road for more than a decade, improving with each iteration. Like its predecessor, the new car sings baritone with a dash of vibrato, a slightly nasal and deep-chested song with more saxophone than string section. It cannot be mistaken for anything less than a purebred exotic.

This variant uses a blend of conventional and direct injection to ensure optimum fuel delivery in all circumstances, resulting in a progressive delivery that builds power smoothly to a 448kW peak at 8250rpm. 

If anything it may be a little too linear, with a maximum torque output of 560Nm that arrives quite late in the rev range, lacking the sledgehammer hit of forced-induction alternatives such as the Nissan GT-R or Porsche 911 Turbo. 

Even spinning away at 8000rpm, the motor feels as though it has more in reserve and that its rev limiter cuts in a little too soon - right before you expect a natural peak to arrive. Some cars taper off before running out of breath, but this one smashes headlong into its limiter, encouraging drivers to anticipate the perfect moment to pluck a gear and continue their charge. 

Get it right, and the Huracan will accelerate to 100kmh in just 3.2 seconds, on to a claimed top speed of more than 325kmh. 

That sort of pace calls for serious stopping power, an element Lamborghini accounts for with oversized carbon ceramic brakes now fitted as standard.

Slowing in the new car is an event, with every lift of the throttle accompanied by a rippling volley of unburnt fuel that crackles in protest against the pause in acceleration.

As expected, there is much more to the Huracan than its straight-line performance. 

Firm suspension helps the car sit flat when cornering, generating immense mechanical grip from four fat Pirellis developed specifically for this platform. 

The Huracan is a friendly supercar, one that works in concert with the driver, flattering inexperienced pilots by forgiving occasional ill-timed inputs. That's the product of sky-high limits rather than an campaign to sanitise the car.

With immense grip and superb balance, it's like a super-sized Porsche Cayman, an ally that shrinks around you, willing you on at every turn. This bull runs with you, rather than toward you. 

Red-blooded enthusiasts might prefer something with a keener edge, a jet-fighter of a car with a razor-sharp performance envelope accessible only by drivers with a greater than usual portion of talent, bravery, or both. 

That will come in the form of hardcore Superleggera and Super Trofeo Strada versions that are likely to follow, bringing rock-hard suspension, semi-slick tyres, and wings to rival a Super Hornet. 

This regular Huracan is likely to offer nine-tenths of what those cars do with the benefit of suspension that does not necessitate a weekly slot at the chiropractor's office, tyres that work in all weather, and cohesive styling as opposed to the spoilers, stickers and six-point harnesses of the boy-racer variants. 

Even so, this first Huracan is a machine that encourages you to dig deeper, sharpen up and find a level within your driving worthy of its talents.

That's the story of the hurricane.

Meet the Lamborghini there - even for a moment - and the hard-punching coupe will make the meekest driver confident they could have been the champion of the world.

Lamborghini Huracan pricing and specifications:

Price: From $428,000 plus on-road costs

Engine: 5.2-litre V10

Power: 448kW at 8250rpm

Torque: 560Nm at 6500rpm

Transmission: 7-sp dual clutch auto, all-wheel-drive

Fuel use: 12.5L/100km.