It’s tough to think of a car less likely to see action when the snow flies than the 2015 Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4. Permanent all-wheel drive and optional heated seats notwithstanding, you just don’t hear about many of these V10-powered super-sports cars doing ski chalet shuttle duty.
Yet there’s something noble about making the counterintuitive choice — selecting, if not the wrong tool for the job, then at least the less obvious one. So it’s fortunate that, when we returned to Arjeplog, Sweden recently, there was a small fleet of 2015 Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4s waiting for us. What a coincidence!
Unlike last year’s quest to a different frozen near-Arctic Swedish lake to test the Volkswagen Golf R, the weather was suboptimal this time around: Temps hovering just above freezing ensured that the super-slick lake surface was covered with ugly puddles of slush, creating a fairly reasonable facsimile of Detroit’s winter roads–though there were fewer potholes to contend with.
Lamborghini claimed it had no tricks up its sleeve. The Huracáns we were to test were retail-ready models, same as the ones produced at a rate of 12 per day at the company’s Sant’Agata Bolognese factory. (Traditional family values seem to prevail there: despite a lengthy wait list, workers take the weekend off.)
The testers came equipped with Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 tires, not the ultra-aggressive studded snows that are fun on ice but illegal on nearly all U.S. roads. Also production-spec was the alphabet soup of onboard safety and performance systems: LDS, ESC, 4WD, ABS, and something called the LPI — more on that in a moment. It’s all there to tame what might otherwise be an unwieldy beast, and give the 602-hp bull some of the sure-footed nimbleness of, say, a mountain goat.
The weather wasn’t great, with a layer of slush coating the icy lake surface.
Not that you’d ever know it from our first moments behind the wheel. Things got off to a slow, steady and slightly sideways start on the 1,000-foot circle track, until we tried driving with traction control off. We looped the car. We tried again. We looped again. It was more humiliating than anything else; there are few consequences to wiping out on an obstacle-free frozen lake.
But our lack of confidence was a killer. One of Lamborghini’s taglines for the Huracán is “instinctive technology,” and after some time in the car it actually seems like something more than a buzzy slogan: You get the impression that it can sense fear. Or more accurately in our case, embarrassment.
Test driver Marco Passerini, a roughly 20-year Lamborghini veteran, soothed us with his calm demeanor and sage advice, building back our confidence through a slalom course. Watching pro drivers spin out on the deteriorating track helped us loosen up, too. When you calm down and begin to enjoy yourself, the car seems to respond in kind and it becomes easy and rewarding to set up for effortless oversteer. Tap the brakes ahead of the corner, turn the wheel, wait for the predictable rotation — then firmly, confidently give it throttle, throttle and more throttle. The engine roars. It’s a good, organic sound. You’ll like it.
At these speeds — between, say, 25 mph and 55 mph — shifting isn’t much of a consideration; you’ll spend most of your time in second or third gear. You can lazily, or not-so-lazily, slide through corners sideways in “sport” mode, or switch to “corsa” if you’re gunning for maximum speed — this track-oriented drive mode sends more torque to the front wheels to help drag you out of corners. Switch ESC off if you desire, but leave the comfortable “strada” mode for highway driving; it’s not every day that you get to slide across a frozen lake.
Differences between modes, each selectable through the Huracán’s ANIMA system (that stands for “Adaptive Network Intelligent Management”), were readily apparent in these extreme low-traction conditions. Which is better is a matter of opinion. Passerini was said to prefer the feel of the rear-biased sport; Mario Fasanetto, another driver who began his Lamborghini career as a tech in the 1990s, leaned toward Corsa. That’s the joy of selectable drive modes. You can have it your way; both are Italian-test-driver-approved.
“I am very happy for you,” Passerini said sincerely (we think), shaking our hand after a fairly solid run on a 1.4-mile circuit. “This improvement was after a short time driving. Give it one, two more hours…” If only.
Your author getting semi-sideways. This is after a few embarrassing total losses of traction.
As we warmed up after the drive, we sat down with vehicle dynamics engineer Lorenzo Rinaldi. He’s been at Lamborghini for going on eight years — not bad for a first gig straight out of Polytechnic University of Turin’s automotive program. Dressed head to toe in Lamborghini gear, including a pair of 50th anniversary pants (surprisingly tasteful), he was proud of what his team accomplished with the Huracán and eager to tell us anything and everything we wanted to know about its guts in terms we could mostly understand.
Take the Lamborghini Piattaforma Inerziale, or inertial platform, a little aerospace-derived box containing a set of accelerometers and gyroscopes. The tech behind the LPI isn’t exactly an industry first; similar systems are used by engineers in the development phase of nearly every car on the road, and aftermarket systems are available to track day enthusiasts, explains Rinaldi. (Incidentally, Honda’s early-1980s Electro Gyrocator pre-GPS navigation system, which may or may not have been installed a couple of Accords, operated on the same principles.)
The key difference here is that Lamborghini decided to keep the inertial platform for production. It’s mounted at the Huracán’s center of gravity, tucked just behind the seats. Think of it as a sort of mechanical vestibular center tasked with measuring the Huracán’s yaw, pitch and roll in real time — then feeding that information to the aforementioned alphabet soup of onboard performance and safety systems.
Ideally, everything works in perfect harmony to deliver maximum performance, seamlessly and under any road and climatic conditions. It’s the kind of thing that you wouldn’t notice unless it was switched off, at which point the senses and reactions of the car’s many performance and safety systems would feel somewhat dulled.
Making it all play nicely together can be tricky. “Sometimes you control a movement of the body with the [incorrect] system,” Rinaldi says. “Maybe you try to control it with the damper, but it’s better to send torque to the front wheels — or to one wheel. It depends.” These potential conflicts are hashed out in the development process; on production cars, the complex ESC system tends to take precedence.
The Lamborghini’s eye-poppingly bright colors mean that if you do end up in a snow bank, snow patrol won’t have to struggle to find you.
Lamborghini likes to think all this added complexity is worth it. On a car like the Huracán, at least — don’t expect to find it on your next crossover. First, it costs too much for the vast majority of production cars. Second, according to Rinaldi, “You need a car that can react.” The Huracán’s carbon fiber/aluminum composite chassis is stiff enough — 50 percent stiffer than the Gallardo, in fact — to take full advantage of the roughly 10 millisecond input/response cycle achievable with the LPI.
Lamborghini’s engineers are “really satisfied” with the results of the Huracán program, Rinaldi tells us, and we’re inclined to echo the sentiment. “You’ve driven in these conditions, in which you cannot stand, cannot walk. And you can do it at 80 kph.” Indeed. You’ll have the time of your life doing it, too. That 600-plus hp could ever be controllable, much less enjoyable on ice is something we shouldn’t take for granted.
Yet there’s this nagging feeling that reliance on an always-active digital nervous system detracts from a sports car’s purity, however unquantifiable that factor might be. It feels philosophically wrong, somehow. Rinaldi seems to sympathize: “We talk about it a lot, because some of us, probably all of us, think that passive [systems] are more ‘pure.’” The reality is that Lamborghini dealerships sells cars to normal, if well-heeled, people — not just the one-in-a-million pro-level drivers skilled enough to drive them flat-out.
The challenge is to find some sort of balance that lets the average buyer enjoy 90 percent of what the car has to offer — and do it safely, whether on dry tarmac or icy pavement. The Huracán is, according to Rinaldi, “in the end, not so pure like a car from the 1980s. But it gives you the chance to be faster. We can stop everything and say we’d like to have everything passive, but the world is moving on — and when you make a mistake, the car can help you.”
Think you could fit a ski rack back there?
We’re part of the crowd that’d be lucky to get 90 percent out of a car like the Huracán. You’re very probably right there beside us, and if you think otherwise, well, we’re always thrilled to learn that there are professional drivers in our audience. Set machismo aside for a moment and recognize that, with its combination of excellent chassis design, naturally aspirated power and technological wizardry, the Huracán is almost certainly more capable than you are. Recognize that this fact enables you to do some truly ridiculous things with it.
That, more than anything else, is what we took away from the ice drive experience. Watching the small fleet of brightly colored cars kick up powder as they slipped sideways through icy corners, falling snow muffling screaming V10s in the early Scandinavian twilight — the whole scene was so incongruous that it somehow felt right.
If one in 100 Huracán owners takes his car to the track regularly, then perhaps one in 1,000 contemplates using it as a $250,000 winter beater. That, in our mind, makes it the ideal car for cold-weather driving. It’s certainly, if improbably, up to the task — provided you are. The roughly nine-month wait from when you place your order to when you take delivery should give you plenty of time to find a suitable ski rack.
When it’s winter near the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t stick around for too long.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $241,945
Drivetrain: 5.2-liter V10; all-wheel drive; seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Output: 602 hp @ 8,250 rpm; 412 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,135 lb
0-60 MPH: 3.2 seconds (0-62 mph)
Fuel Economy: 14/20/16(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)