Down And Dirty With The Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato
We head to Joshua Tree for a first drive of Lamborghini’s high-riding, off-roading and all-out bonkers final Huracan.
It’s fair to say that the Huracan Sterrato doesn’t look like an actual, official Lamborghini. With its chunky tyres, beefy guards, a set of bolt-on lights, it presents like the mad work of an after-market lunatic. Or a meme on wheels.
Indeed, you would expect the people at Lamborghini to have been offended when they looked at what someone had done to their beautiful car, but the fact is they did it themselves, after deciding that what the world really didn’t know it needed was the first-ever all-terrain supercar. Yes, half a million dollars worth of V10-powered mad machine designed to be driven on dirt and battered by gravel.
“Why?” was certainly the first question I wanted to ask someone when I attended its global launch in Palm Springs, California, where we would be invited to drive this thing on a specially created circuit that was half familiar race track and half specially carved-out dirt rally stage.
Apparently the Sterrato—it means “dirt road”—owes its existence to how much fun some Lamborghini engineers had when tuning the most recent and racy versions of the Urus SUV on dirt. You can imagine the conversation: “Si, this is pazzo fun, but wouldn’t it be cool if we could do this in a Huracan?” At any other car company that would be the end of the chat.
But at Lamborghini they went out to dinner, clearly drank a little too much, and then somehow convinced each other it could be done, and that, even more wildly, it should be done.
The next trick was the ‘how’—which involved lifting the ride height by 44 mm, softening the suspension and lengthening its travel to cope with off-road punishment and then blocking up the side air intakes, because they’d just choke on all the dirt, and replacing them with a functional, and very noticeable, roof scoop (the changes to the way the V10 breathes also meant it had to be detuned, slightly, to a still staggering 449 kW and 560 Nm).
Hilariously, the roof scoop has made the rear-vision mirror entirely pointless; you can’t see a thing out the back, but then when you drive it the way its makers intended, it’s all just rooster tails of dust back there anyway.
Lamborghini then went to Bridgestone and asked them to produce possibly the hardest-working tyre in history—one with a chunky enough surface to rip and tear through dirt, but which would then compact its tread together under hard track or road braking to provide grip too.
Bridgestone had made many all-terrain tyres before, but because they were for trucks, they never had to be speed rated to do much over 160 km/h—these ones have to cope with a top speed of 260 km/h. And because there’s no room for a spare, they had to be run-flats, too, capable of driving 80 km at 80 km/h to get you and your half-a-million-dollar dune buggy out of a jam.
Frankly, I wasn’t convinced that any tyres were going to save me from excruciating embarrassment once they put me in the Sterrato and pointed me at a dirt course.
I know how powerful Huracans are; I’ve seen them slide around at the rear on sealed roads in the dry, and aside from professional rally drivers and other people who are annoyingly adept at drifting, I couldn’t see how this story would end in anything but disaster.
Happily our day began with a road drive through the other-worldly Joshua Tree region outside Palm Springs, where the Sterrato delivered its first set of surprises. Logic would suggest that chunky tyres would make this Huracan noisier and rougher on the road, but the combination of the higher sidewall and the increased suspension travel somehow make it genuinely smoother to drive than the standard car, while there’s still incredible road holding at pace. The Sterrato is also just easier to drive around town, because the increased ride height means you don’t need to flinch at speed bumps.
At the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, we were shown an in-car video of someone attacking the special course Lamborghini had built for us, grading the inside of the track to create a lap that was 50 percent sealed road and 50 percent sand, gravel, dirt and danger. The video made me feel no better at all as I watched a pro driver hurling a Sterrato sideways like a champ.
And then something truly mind-boggling happened, because soon it was my turn, and my instructor was shouting at me to flick the car right before throwing it into a sharp left and giving it full throttle. I don’t recall breathing at this point, but somehow I did what he was telling me and we didn’t crash. And then I did it again and felt this ludicrous Lamborghini sliding, beautifully, wondrously sideways—responding perfectly to even my inept throttle inputs.
It’s hard to describe how much fun it was. Imagine having played golf all your life at a certain level and then suddenly going out one day and scoring a round of solely birdies and a few eagles too.
I had to know how all this was possible, so I cornered an engineer and asked him what had just happened. He said many technical things about weight transfer and so forth, but the crux of the miracle is that the Sterrato has some supremely intelligent software (Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata), which monitors every aspect of the car’s movement, and the flailing of my hands and right foot, and can then predict what is about to happen, milliseconds before it does, and send just the right amount of torque to the wheel where it needs to be to make me look, and feel, good.
Best of all, the system is so clever that you can’t feel it nudging you back into line, the way many intrusive traction set-ups do—it actually lets you believe you’re performing this driving magic yourself. The Lambo folks call it “the hero maker”, which is bang on.
The Sterrato is set to be the last variant of the venerable Huracan supercar (the V10 is about to be replaced by something with a V8 hybrid set-up), and it truly could be argued that it’s the best; more practical and comfortable in the real world, and yet capable of something no other supercar, from any brand, has ever even considered trying to do. I found it miraculous. Sadly, only 1,499 will be built, at $503,949, and all of them are sold already.
But you could always ask some after-market lunatic to build you a replica.
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