With a plethora of clever tech, the Lamborghini Huracan Evo has the potential to shine on any road. But is it actually too clever for its own good? Words by Adam Towler. Photography by Aston Parrot.
LAMBORGHINI HURACAN EVO
With its Performante engine and new chassis tech, the Evo impressed us on first exposure on track. But how will it fare on the road?
I lift the anodised red ‘safety’ flap and hover my finger over the start button. And pause. I so want to do this and yet I really, really don’t: it’s five-something in the morning and I need to get on my way, next stop Anglesey Circuit, but pressing that button feels as unneighbourly as setting up a concert PA system underneath the bedroom windows of every resident in the street and pressing ‘play’ on some particularly angry death metal. Cringing, slowly, I move my digit forward until it’s touching the black button, and with a final, wistful wince, push firmly. There’s a click, a churn of starter more industrial and slower than those from Lamborghini’s neighbours in Maranello, and then WUMPH! BRAAAARRR! This may just be the loudest car I’ve driven in years; on cold start it makes our Fast Fleet Mustang on its equivalent warm-up cycle seem positively effete, and that’s really saying something.
‘THE DRIVER MODES ISSUE THREATENS TO OVERSHADOW EVERYTHING GOOD ABOUT THIS CAR’
The Evo is Huracan 2.0. In simple terms it’s the familiar aluminium and part-carbonfibre structure of Lamborghini’s ‘junior’ mid-engined supercar, with a Performante-spec V10 dropped in there - good for 631bhp - and the kind of advanced chassis technology and corresponding electronics hitherto reserved for the firm’s most aggressive niche variants. That 5.2-litre naturally aspirated powerhouse, enshrined in the bay beneath a glass cover, benefits from titanium intake valves and a (very) free-breathing exhaust to exceed the 602bhp of the old car, making it 20bhp more powerful than the similar V10 found in the Audi R8 Performance. Its torque output of 442lb ft also exceeds that of its Ingolstadt relation (by 14lb ft), but these figures are still overshadowed by the Ferrari 488 GTB’s 661 bhp and 561lb ft. Moreover, with the GTB soon to be replaced by the F8 Tributo and its 710bhp Pista-spec motor, the Evo is clearly being left considerably behind in the power race. Given it weighs 1422kg ‘dry’, compared to 1370kg ‘dry’ for the 488 GTB, the raw numbers would suggest that the bull will be more ‘gasping to keep up’ than ‘raging’ out front.
'YOU CAN FORGIVE IT ALMOST ANYTHING WHEN YOU SPOT ITS DRAMATIC FORM’
But really, which intelligent Drive-My reader cares that much about the numbers? Since when have stats alone made a great driver’s car? We’re well into an era where many manufacturers believe that the epitome of a very-high-performance car is to have a power figure beginning with a 7, and as you’ve probably gathered from recent issues of Drive-My, we simply do not agree with that philosophy. A great evo car - an evo icon - should be as much about mass reduction, handling fluency and driver interaction as Top Trumps-winning power and torque figures. Maybe, just maybe, the Evo’s other attributes will make up for its power deficit, and then some.
Still, my early impressions of the Evo - anyone’s for miles around, in fact, I’ll guarantee that are all about the engine. To be perfectly honest with you, it could be mounted in the most gruesome glassfibre-and-space-frame monstrosity of a low-budget kit car and there’d still be much to commend overall. It really is that stellar.
The early running for our first on-road test of the Evo is done in Strada mode, one of three modes selectable via a switch at the base of the steering wheel. We’ll come to these in more detail later, but for now this leaves the exhaust in its quieter setting, and the baritone bark fades into the background. A determined prod of the throttle elicits a buzz-saw growl from the intakes in the rear haunches, and with the windows cracked ajar, there’s the breathy suck of air being ingested and the hiss of the throttle bodies. It feels more living entity than internal combustion engine, and it’s hard to imagine it’s related to the usually rather demure engine in the R8.
Naturally, with its seven-speed twin-clutch ’box and raft of modern tech, the Evo is perfectly capable of adapting to being a fine long-distance companion. It’s a considerable trek to Anglesey from the Home Counties, but the Evo does a decent job, and at least it gives me the chance to try to fathom the fancy new infotainment set-up, which has dragged the old car’s dated Audi interfaces right into the present. The Tron-style graphics on the touchscreen certainly look seriously cool, but even after a number of hours I’m still a bit puzzled about how you adjust the volume. Modern tech, huh? It’s the future.
Our rendezvous at the track isn’t to put the Evo through its paces, rather it’s to shoot it alongside some of the cars from this issue’s ‘Future Icons’ group for our newsstand cover. Nevertheless, it would be rude, wouldn’t it, to not take advantage of the opportunity, so with just a few minutes of track time left I venture out onto the circuit, flick past Sport mode and into Corsa, and let the V10 really sing.
‘IT MAKES OUR FAST FLEET MUSTANG ON ITS WARM-UP CYCLE SOUND POSITIVELY EFFETE’
It’s hardly a lengthy or conclusive track session, but it still speaks volumes about the Evo’s deportment. It explodes down the straights, ripping to 8000rpm in the lower gears, and brakes with all the conviction you might expect, and I’m soon pitching the Evo into Anglesey’s broad hairpins to see what happens when it begins to move around. The answer is nothing. As much as I try to deliberately unsettle the car-and with ESP off - the Evo wants to do one thing and one thing only: it will grip, and grip, and then it starts to push wide at the front. My first reaction is to be rougher with the car, to get it to break traction, but that’s a mistake: for all its bombast the Evo needs a much more delicate approach, and an acceptance of what it is and what it needs to get the best from it. It doesn’t feel a natural track car, but that’s not to say it can’t scythe around the lap in convincing fashion, and despite the feeling of heft there’s an almost hyper- real sense of agility.
This agility is born from some clever technology - something to ponder on as I say goodbye to the rest of the evo team and head east, to the hills and moorland of the Peaks, for a truer test of the Evo’s capabilities. The key component is something called LDVI. I won’t give you the full Italian on this one, save to say that it is an electronic brain that analyses everything via the usual raft of sensors, and then adapts all the dynamic elements of the car to suit. In fact, not only does it adapt, it uses predictive logic to know what you need before you know yourself. It includes the new rear-wheel-steer set-up that works in conjunction with the latest version of Lamborghini’s Dynamic Steering, the four-wheel-drive system, a new torque-vectoring facility and the adaptive damping. This gives the Evo tremendous potential to master any road in any conditions, perhaps beyond the abilities of even its more potent supercar rivals.
What’s troubling me is the realisation that the Evo doesn’t offer the amusingly termed Ego mode as seen in the Aventador S and SVJ, and also the Urus: in other words, an individual mode in which I can tailor the car to how I want it, when I want. I’m already wondering if this will be a real issue, because with so many fundamental elements of the car’s dynamics governed by LDVI - not just, for example, the ride quality - an inability to match car with road could have significant ramifications.
In Sport mode, the deep-chested growl of the V10 at cruising revs gets a little wearing after a while, boring, as it does, somewhere deep in your skull. More to the point, the damping is definitely on the firm side, particularly if the surface isn’t great, where you really notice the abrupt rebound by the way your body is jiggled around. Returning to Strada gives me the reasonably compliant damping, and the quiet exhaust, but it also gives me light and weirdly disconnected steering; it’s not bad once on lock, but the weighting away from the straight-ahead is very artificial, as is the self-centring (Sport and Corsa are more direct, with a better build-up of weight, but still offer no feel whatsoever). Furthermore, as the M56 starts to give way to more scenic, verdant A-roads, I miss the snappy gearshifts of Sport, having to make do with slurred, less definite changes instead.
Time to try Sport again, then. However, it soon becomes clear that it makes the exhaust note simply too loud to be used often. Yes, I feel like that’s an astonishingly un-evo thing to say, but this is a car where people can hear you coming from quite literally miles away, and this isn’t Sicily in the 1960s, with a swarthy chap wearing baggy slacks and a flat cap making wind-her-up motions with his arm by the roadside: this is the UK in 2019, and driving quickly, responsibly, albeit potentially not quite to the letter of the law, for fun, needs to be approached with a more sensitive mindset if it’s not inevitably to end in at the very least confrontation and open hostility. The ironic postscript to all of this is that with this exhaust, there’s no way the Evo is going to make it onto any trackday in the UK.
Once we’re in the Peaks, the roads become really tough. They’re often quite narrow, which immediately puts the Evo on the defensive, because it always feels a big, chunky device, more so than a 488. Here, the driver modes issue is really brought to the fore and threatens to overshadow everything that’s good about this car. With cyclists, ramblers and village residents around, I really don’t need the Armageddon of the unrestricted exhaust. Neither do I need the Sport damping, which is a little too firm for these demanding and poorly surfaced roads. (As for Corsa, it may enable the Evo to be astonishingly lively, and remove the annoying auto upshift near the red line found in the other modes, but the rigidity of its damping means there’s no way I’m even going to try it out here.)
But Strada just doesn’t cut it. It allows me to get into a rhythm, yet the dampers are slackened off to such an extent that they’ll use up almost all of their stroke before checking the car’s body. As soon as there’s an awkward bump, the Evo feels vulnerable, and a couple of times when there’s a blind compression there’s an agonising scrrch as the front of an expensive Italian supercar grinds itself into the Derbyshire asphalt.
The upshot is that I’m constantly flicking between Strada and Sport and finding neither really does the business, and that’s so frustrating because it gives the impression that the car has been set up for those who want something loud and stiff-riding on the King’s Road, rather than those who actually want to enjoy driving the car in an environment conducive to driver enjoyment.
The next morning I step out of our overnight accommodation and there’s a freshness to the breeze that betrays the overnight shower of rain. The Evo is in the corner of the car park, dozing under an overhanging lime tree, and a film of moisture clings seductively to the satin silver paint (it’s actually called Grigio Atlas, blit it looks like silver to me). The thing with the Evo is that, for all its faults, you can forgive it almost anything when you spot its dramatic form - that first glance is like a bolt of electricity up my spine.
It’s no different when you’re inside it, whether it’s the view out front with a sight line that points straight to the road right in front of the car, or the hungry, slashed air intakes protruding in the side mirrors. Yes, the seats are still less than perfect, even though these aren’t the infamous buckets, but it’s amazing how a bit of ache in the backside and thigh can be neutered by the extraordinary theatre of spending time with this car. It remains quintessential a Lamborghini, with an ability to attract attention like nothing else; favourable attention too, in the main. The styling revisions give it an even more crisp, businesslike presence, and Lamborghini says, rather vaguely, that the Evo provides 50 per cent more downforce and aero efficiency than the outgoing entry-level Huracan. What I really love is its square-cut, stocky stance, devoid of obvious aero devices and the sort of lashings of carbon you get on a Performante. In this colour, the Evo is almost classy - a more traditional Lamborghini aesthetic that makes me think of Miura and early Countach.
The occasions to really let rip in the Evo on the public road are few and far between, and when I do illicitly let it rev right out in, shall we say, ‘a gear’, not for the slightest second do I think, ‘Oh, this car is nearly 100bhp down on a Ferrari F8; That’s the thing about big horsepower: over a certain number, and with a reasonable power-to-weight ratio, it all starts to feel academic anyway. From conversations had previously with Lamborghini’s senior management, we know that they cherish the naturally aspirated V10 as a point of difference to their competitors, and they’re absolutely right to. More than ever, it is the key reason for desiring this car, and long may it continue - perhaps enabled by the adoption of hybrid tech in the medium term.
However, for now the Evo feels hamstrung by frustrating self-inflicted software obstacles. The LDVI set-up may well be clever, but if it can’t contribute in the appropriate way, it’s wasted. What I really want is a Huracan that looks like this one, but with superior driver modes and, if we’re really going to celebrate the analogue nature of that V10, perhaps two-wheel drive and a manual transmission as well. A sort of ‘Huracan Balboni’, if you will. Until then, the Evo will surely find fanatical favour with the YouTube Knightsbridge set, but it could - and deserves to - be so much more than that.
Above left and above: Huracan’s cabin remains a special place to spend time, and now benefits from a more modern infotainment set-up. Right: 5.2-litre V10’s 631bhp output sounds almost conservative by the latest supercar standards, but you never feel short-changed.