Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2015 Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 ice drive


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.
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.

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.

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.