Bull Ring: Lamborghini Aventador & Huracan at BIC

Words: Aniruddha Rangnekar

Photography: Vikrant Date

Like it or not, there has long been a stigma that surrounds Lamborghinis. People assume they aren’t serious cars, that they aren’t built to for race tracks or that they aren’t as well engineered as a Porsche or Ferrari. They’re cars for show-offs, not cars for people who drive. Also, they’re uncomfortable, unreliable, and a pain to be in. While that may be true for some old Lambos, it’s definitely not true for the current cars coming out of Sant Agata. The Aventador and more recently the Huracan have proven to be as fast and as involving, as the best supercars – heck they’ve even gone racing with the Huracan.

The Aventador, if you haven’t already deduced from the photographs, is the most extreme car to roll out of Lamborghini’s historic factory – and it distils everything learnt over the past 52 years. Lamborghini has been redefining the supercar genre since the covers were first pulled off the fabulous Miura way back in the sixties. In fact, it was the Miura that inspired the word ‘supercar’ and the Aventador continues to subscribe to the old-school formula. It’s massively wide (over two metres!) and impossibly low – perfectly in sync with its mid-mounted monster of an engine.

As the LP700-4 nameplate denotes, directly behind the driver’s head sits a 691bhp (700PS) naturally aspirated V12, longitudinally mounted, and capable of blasting from 0-100kmph in 2.9 seconds. It needs all-wheel drive to harness all that power. Top speed is listed as ‘more than 350kmph’. It’s a bespoke unit developed in-house for the Aventador, and despite its huge 6.5-litre displacement and extraordinary power output at 8250rpm the engine tips the scales at just 235 kilograms. It’s the same story when it comes to the transmission. Lamborghini decided against a dual-clutch unit for the Aventador (which is used extensively across sister brands under the Volkswagen Group) due to weight, size and actual shift feel. Instead, the Aventador uses a quick-shifting ISR (independent shifting rods) gearbox that is claimed to shift cogs in around 50 milliseconds in its most extreme driving mode. Lamborghini also makes its own carbonfibre monocoque – that’s the entire occupant cell, roof and tub. It’s all one unit, made entirely in-house. Then there’s the suspension. It’s a race-inspired, ultra-exotic push-rod system that’s fixed directly to the cell itself and typically found only on formula racing cars.

If you ever do get a chance to put a Lamborghini through its paces, make sure you’re on the right kind of road – a race track, the Buddh International Circuit in our case, would be ideal to get close to knowing the potential that the raging bulls poses as part of the Lamborghini esperienza. Pulling out of the pits at the home (former home?) of the Indian Grand Prix, I mashed the throttle, which in turn mashed my guts all the way to my spine as the Aventador worked out how much power to route to the already lit up rear wheels, sling-shotting the car in what can only be described as organ-rupturing acceleration. Up to 60 per cent of the torque can be sent to the front wheels, by the way, something I was thinking about when trying to negotiate the fast approaching and tricky C3, which leads on to the back straight. Late apex and respecting the brutality of the V12, I gradually go full on the gas as I tail the quad pipes of the instructor’s car.

Acceleration is brutal, and comes in three stages. From 1000 to 4000rpm, you get the feeling that this might be something special. From 4000 to 6000rpm, your brain decides this is the fastest car on earth. Above 6000rpm, most of your senses begin to misfire, leaving you just scanning the track for danger approaching at speeds above 280kmph. Is it scary? Yes! Even for someone like me who’s used to triple digit speeds while going sideways on dirt between trees during rallies.

Lamborghini claims the Aventador will hit 200kmph in about 9 seconds and pull 1.3 g when braking from 100-0 kmph. Scrubbing off the velocity is mighty impressive, since I could shave over 150 clicks off this 1.5 tonne machine in a matter of seconds before approaching C4. The pedal felt rock solid, moving barely an inch before bringing things to a halt with the garbage can lid-sized brake discs. Grip is superb by all earthly standards, whether during acceleration, braking or turning. When I thought I was about to overcook things, the Aventador just pointed and went around as I stayed on the gas. The steering is perfectly weighted and it feels suitably responsive and easy to manage even in a moment of oversteer that I happened to catch coming out of the last corner. But make no mistake, this is an intimidating car.

On lap 2, is when I put the Aventador in Corsa or track mode, which tightens up the steering significantly, buttons down the F1-inspired pushrod suspension and quickens the transmission to 50-millisecond shifts. At full bore the Aventador kicks into the next gear hard, sometimes upsetting your weight balance in a turn. And that’s a scary place to be, knowing you need to upshift as you come out of a corner like the parabola at BIC, but having to prepare for the kick, which could potentially send you off the track. It happens less in Corsa than in other modes (which drops more torque during gear changes). Mid-range thrust is simply off the charts in any gear and full-throttle upshifts are punishing, irrespective of which mode you are driving in. The exhaust note, too, is something else – at full scream you’ll think you’re driving a GT race car.

The problem is, three hot laps with an Aventador simply isn’t long enough – it’s like a theme park ride that you can’t get enough of. Whether you’re flat out on a closed road or just sitting in traffic, driving a V12 Lamborghini always feels like a special event. Thankfully, this Italian carmaker still does one thing better than any other sports car manufacturer in the world – it fearlessly takes the supercar to the extreme. Case and point in this would be the latest baby Lambo, the Huracan, which is what we got on our hands on next.

Lamborghinis of old could be hell in real world conditions. Their gearboxes, manual or single clutch auto, have been known to be laborious. Acceleration would be jerky and braking would be far from smooth. You’d be constantly concerned about it overheating. Not so with the Huracan, and this must be the Audi influence coming through. It’s perfectly content sitting in rush hour traffic and stop and go isn’t a head-jerking affair. Instead it just does what you ask of it, something we were pleasantly surprised to discover when we road tested the car a few months back.

No pictures on earth can do justice to or prepare your eyes for the visual delight of Lamborghini’s ‘entry-level’ supercar. The angular design is severe yet elegant; the stealth fighter–like cockpit is as luxurious as it is intense. Nestled behind the cockpit is a 5.2-litre V10 with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive; it produces 602 horses. Yes, in pictures, the Huracan doesn’t look as dramatic or crazy as the Gallardo it replaces. But when you see it in the flesh, it’s low, wide, lean, and impossibly pretty. The Huracan is one of the sexiest cars you can buy in the country today, even though it doesn’t have scissor doors.

The Huracan is the first car in the VW Group to use Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’ gauge cluster, though it doesn’t use the same processing power as an Audi. The Huracan is a driver’s car, so everything is right in front of the driver. So what if the passenger can’t easily change the radio station? That doesn’t matter once you fire up the V10.
This was my first time driving the Huracan on track and I found the car to be surprisingly timid … for a Lambo. C3 remains the most intimidating corner as the track rises sharply and approaches one of the slowest turns that also happens to be blind. But the Huracan remained poised, as it exited the corner with a nice, clean line before shooting down the long back straight in a flash, while going through the gears on the silky smooth twin clutch ‘box. Before I knew it, I had to stomp on the brakes to get the car in line for the next turn. The biggest and most noticeable difference from the Aventador seemed to be how easy it was to point and shoot in the direction of the corner, without upsetting the tail and then staying flat on the gas to work the chicanes. After attacking the corner hard, you get the confidence to get on the brakes late and hard, knowing the car will respond.

The downhill run leading to the deceptive last corner, which goes on to the start finish straight demands a clean exit and if you get that right, your lap is a lot more satisfying. Run wide (almost into the pit lane), late apex, and rocket down the straight. While following the leader, I actually learnt how to use the width of the track to my advantage and that helped me exit corners so much faster than I did in the past, while also proving, just how off the line I actually was originally.

A lap after getting a feel for the Huracan, it was time to move the Anima button into the more brutal Corsa mode. The difference was immediately apparent, as the car stiffened up and throttle response was even better. There isn’t really anything to prepare you for how quick this car actually is. Even light acceleration will see you doing triple digit speeds in no time. It wants to go fast, and it begs you to go fast. Unlike Lamborghinis of the past, the Huracan takes just a few minutes to get used to and then after a few corners you’re driving it like it’s a super powerful hatchback. It’s not easy to see out of the rearview mirror, but the side mirrors work well so you get a good enough feel of your surroundings. You can’t see the front corners, but you get used to them after minutes of being in the car. The gearbox is easy to work, the Audi-sourced MMI controller is a breeze, and it all feels normal nearly instantly. The brakes too stayed strong through all our sessions, and these cars were getting hammered lap after lap by some inexperienced drivers. We were surprised, but in retrospect, we shouldn’t have been, this what you should get when you drop over Rs 3 crore on a thoroughly modern all-wheel drive Italian supercar.

There’s something about a naturally aspirated V10 – not smooth like a V12 or booming like a V8, but it is totally fierce and the crescendo at higher revs is anger in mechanical form. It’s pretty much perfect. You might think that a 600 horsepower Italian rocket ship would be boring on the road unless you were going flat out around a race track. You’d be wrong. Somehow, at speeds that aren’t the speed limit but also aren’t going to get you sent to jail, the Huracan feels alive. It speaks to the sensory experience that Lamborghini has been able to include in the Huracan. And even with all-wheel drive, it feels wild and untamed while still being controllable. It’s a triumph, a brilliant car.

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