► Off-road spec Lambo driven
► Most extreme Huracan ever
► Georg is behind the wheel
In the darkest corner of the Emilia Romagna, out of sight of Wolfsburg's prying eyes, the Lamborghini chief designer Mitja Borkert and the senior engineer Rouven Mohr created a secret project codenamed Sterrato.
Based on the Huracan coupé, the most extreme concept prepared in the Sant´Agata skunkworks since the single-seater Egiosta taps the bloodline of the Paris-Dakar winning Porsche 959 and the Group B Audi S1. Described as a one-off trial by its creators who prefer to underplay their guerrilla projects under the tight-fisted regime of the Volkswagen group, the Sterrato (Italian for dirt road) has, in truth, already been pencilled in as a limited-edition model due in 2021.
What was Lambo smoking?!
Hot Wheels meets Tonka Toys meets Transformers is what comes to mind when you first see this caricature of a coveted yet barely recognizable high-performance Lamborghini...
The Sterrato looks and feels like a Huracan that has been gene-manipulated in the base camp of the Rallycross federation. It sits 47mm higher above the ground than the rest of the range, its track is 30mm wider front and rear, the front spoiler has a stiffer upper lip and a receding chin, the rear departure angle was increased for extra clearance, the tread pattern of the bespoke softer sidewall tyres looks like two-thirds race track and one third Mount Everest car park.
Climbing behind the wheel is easy thanks to the wide-opening scissor door and the elevated ride height. The hip multi-material bucket seats look as if they come straight out of Kanye West's Yeezy factory, the five-point harness scores nine out of ten points on the bondage chart for private parts, the driver environment looks familiar despite all the colourful new surface trim.
To compensate its weight, drag and suspension set-up handicaps, the stilted soft-roader is fitted with the 640bhp V10 of the no-holds-barred Performante. The normally-aspirated 5.2-litre engine works all four wheels through a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, not the stubborn sequential ISR box unique to the Aventador. The mighty direct-injection motor needs 6500rpm to tick off 600Nm of maximum torque. The peak performance of 640bhp equals 8000rpm, the rev limiter is set at 8500rpm. This is a wonderful powerplant for a car dedicated to inveterate late-brakers and notorious apex clippers, but does it also perform to expectation in this softer sprung stacked go-anywhere metamorphosis?
Well? Does it?
We do two laps in Corsa, then ESP comes off by order from the lead car, and sure enough from one instant to the next the orange stripe-mobile is beginning to catch insects with its side windows as the driver´s heartbeat quickens and the intercom squawks avanti!, forza! and bravissimo!
This is hard work. Over the brows, the special BBS alloys shod with hand-baked 255/45ZR20 and 305/45ZR20 Pirellis stretch the springs until the aluminium monocoque hurts. Through the dips, the softer dampers and the cushier tyres extend the compression effect all the way to the pit of the stomach. When the radius tightens, blossoming lift-off oversteer can be coaxed into creamy slides. Drifting this wild thing in fourth gear at 75mph certainly fixed another treasured commemorative medal to the brimming clipboard inside my head. The adrenalin floodgates would open regularly on the approach to a roller-coaster off-camber uphill corner and towards the end of the fastest right-hander where it´s all too easy to run out of road, ability or courage.
On the circuit, the most radical Lamborghini since the 2013 Veneno does not handle and perform on quite the same level as its positively ground-hugging stablemates, and yet it loses only two tenths in the 0-62mph session which is over and done within 3.1sec. The maximum speed is 188mph compared to 203mph for the more slippery donor model. It´s too early to talk fuel consumption, but when you exhaust the car´s potential to the full, anything better than 15mpg is a miracle.
Because of the provisional tyres, the speed limit on the straight was set at 155mph which felt fast enough in violent crosswind and in the turbulent slipstream of the pace car. Although the transmission wastes no time selecting the appropriate ratios with the drive mode in Corsa, manually overriding the black box is even more rewarding since it keeps up the flow by avoiding redundant downshifts. Third is a great all-purpose weapon, fourth is the gear of choice for the two double-apex corners and fifth is a test for high-speed cornering grip.
What about off road?
The fifth-generation Haldex four-wheel drive system has been carefully recalibrated for the Sterrato. On solid ground, it channels only slightly more torque to the rear wheels, but when it comes to pulling the car presto out of a second-gear kink, the front wheels are for three or four car lengths assigned a larger chunk of the traction work.
This explains why the fun-friendly Huracan is tail-happier on the track than the Performante yet every bit as competent as the Urus on sand and gravel. Having said that, the different tyre compound and the more compliant suspension set-up do add a yard or two to the stopping distance which is prone to increase in small increments as the rubber and the pads must absorb more heat. As a compensating measure which also helped to keep understeer at bay, the mechanics reduced the tyre pressure by 0.2bar during the first three pit stops. Like the Huracan Evo, the Sterrato features LDVI, short for Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrale. The reprogrammed system controls ABS, ASR and ESP along with AWD, torque vectoring, damper setting and steering action front and rear.
On the loose stuff, power-on equals snap-oversteer, one quick zig-zag pendulum manoeuvre sets the car up before it enters the bend, storming out of one radius and roaring towards the next shifts the momentum briefly but reliably to the front wheels - fantastic! Except that it takes a lot of confidence (or the encouragement of a seasoned co-driver) to keep the foot planted for that vital rear-to-front torque transfer which makes all the difference. It´s goose pimple stuff on lap two, makes you feel like a hero on lap three, chips a morsel off the left rear wheel spat on lap four, becomes totally addictive from lap five onwards.
Coated with mother earth´s finest powder, sprinkled with Puglia´s darkest soil and proudly displaying several gorse-inflicted battle scars, the Sterrato suddenly looks the business - like a motocross rider who just mastered the famous four-hour Erzberg Rodeo. Watching this unicorn Huracan gallop sideways through the green-and-beige Jurassic pleasure park is as unforgettable as zooming in as it steams out of the final second-gear turn on the handling track, trailing a whiff of blue tyre smoke while the two rows of LEDs stage a super-cool light show.
The only evident downsides concern the durability of those somewhat coarse add-on flaps and flares, the spiderweb roll cage and the armadillo rear window cover which mess up the view in the mirror, the jackhammer noise level no NHS would ever tolerate, and the puerile roof rack for snow- and surfboards which does little more than squeeze the lifestyle gland of easy to please influencers.
Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato: verdict
After driving it, they had to remove me from the hot seat with a blowtorch. The Sterrato is an intoxicatingly hilarious animal. It shaves third-gear brows like a buzzard on the final approach to his prey, it dives into dips like an angry rhino chasing the most hated gamekeeper, it corners with the frolic empathy of an antelope in the wake of early morning intercourse. It is even more playful than its brethren, and the mere prospect of enjoying a long cold winter in a hardcore sports car is bound to make quite a few Lambophiles reach for their chequebooks.
Am I getting carried away by the child inside? Perhaps so. But the Sterrato hits bullseye in more ways than one. If you don´t build this car, you need to see a doctor: do you hear me, Dr Diess?
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