It may be slower than its four-wheel-drive brother, but is the rear-drive Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2 the purer option, and a more satisfying drive for it?

by Dan prosser

Get it understeering a touch on turn-in. That’s the key, because it means the car is poised and carrying just the right amount of speed. Then you open the throttle. In this car it needs to be a sharp, precisely measured input. The next step is to throw the corrective lock in. Strangely, you can’t just allow the wheel to slip through your fingers; you really have to chuck it around. That should follow immediately after the throttle input, almost in tandem but just about distinct, like the two thuds of a heartbeat. Then you’re sliding…

I suppose the rear-wheel-drive configuration is the purest of all because it does less of the work for you. It’s the most demanding. And while a front-wheel-drive car can corrupt its steering under power and a four-wheel-drive car can do all sorts of unusual things as it shuffles drive fore and aft, a rear-drive car will only ever do one thing when you stand on the power mid-corner: try to spin. It’s up to you what happens beyond that point.

The Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2 is an interesting case study in the discussion around drivetrain configurations because we can compare it directly to the four-wheel-drive version. It shares the LP610-4’s aluminium and carbonfibre structure, of course, as well as the screaming normally aspirated 5.2-litre V10. The engine has been detuned a touch for the two-wheel-drive car, though, so it develops 572bhp rather than the full 602bhp, but some of that deficit is offset by the 33kg weight saving that comes with binning a propshaft and a pair of driveshafts. There is therefore little in it between the power-to-weight ratios: 418bhp per ton for the rear-wheel-drive car, 430bhp per ton for the LP610-4.

The LP580-2’s 0-62mph time is quoted as 3.4 seconds, two-tenths off the pace of the four-wheel-drive car, and its top speed is 199mph, compared with 202mph, which is a bit annoying. At £155,400, though, it undercuts the LP610-4 by a useful £30,000.

The transmission is a seven-speed twin-clutch unit with a limited-slip differential, and this particular car also has carbon-ceramic brakes and MagneRide adaptive dampers, but no Dynamic Steering. I happen to quite like a Lamborghini in bold red – it feels provocative, like a two-finger salute in the direction of Maranello – and in the metal the Huracán looks superb. There’s a front three-quarter angle that makes it looks impossibly low and wide, too, more fighter jet than road car.

We first sampled the LP580-2 on the international launch late last year (evo 218). Having driven it for a limited number of laps at the Losail circuit in Qatar, Jethro Bovingdon found a great deal to love, not least its wild drivetrain and exploitable chassis, but he concluded that we needed more time in it, especially some road miles, to deliver a full verdict. This is our opportunity.

The Huracán’s cabin is an evocative place to find yourself because the view through the windscreen is pure supercar. The optional bucket seats are mounted a touch too high and they’re as luxuriously padded as a monk’s naughty step, but with the steering wheel offered right out to your chest, the seating position is pretty good overall. The layout of the cabin is dramatic, too, with acres of dashboard real estate between you and the base of the windscreen. For my tastes the interior is over stylised, though, like it’s trying a little bit too hard to be the slightly off-the-wall cousin to the more restrained Audi R8 with which it shares its underpinnings. The quality of the plastics used for some of the minor controls actually falls short of the much cheaper Audi’s, too.

Heading out onto Northamptonshire’s back roads it quickly becomes clear that, in wet conditions, the four-wheel-drive car would be better in just about every respect because you can still hustle it, whereas in the rear-driven car you’re more inclined to flick it into Strada mode – which puts everything from the exhaust note to the stability control into its least interesting setting – and turn the radio up. If you do press on, though, you’ll find that the LP580-2’s traction is actually pretty good in the wet, which makes sense given that the weight distribution is heavily rear biased and the V10 is not a torque monster, but that does mean that when traction does finally give in, it does so at very high engine speeds. If you’ve deactivated the stability control system, you’ll soon be needing new trousers.

But what if it’s dry? The four-wheel-drive car remains the more approachable and it would be the easier one to extract performance from. But there are occasions when the rear-driven car is ever so slightly more exciting away from a corner.

The electrically assisted steering is overly light and rather vague, but that aside the LP580-2 really is tremendously entertaining on the road, with the taut body control, flat-bodied responses and masses of performance. You don’t really find yourself dealing with the car’s in-built understeer on the road because you’re generally within the limits of grip; you’d have to be taking some enormous liberties to find the front axle short of turn-in bite.

This lower-powered V10 delivers its peak output at 8000rpm, rather than the full 8250rpm, so it doesn’t quite have the same ear-splitting fireworks as the 602bhp version, but it remains a very special engine indeed. The dual-clutch transmission is rapid, too, although I’m sure the R8’s is more immediate still, despite the hardware being identical.

In Strada mode the dampers feel quite relaxed and imperfections in the road surface are well isolated from the cabin. Flick the ANIMA (Adaptive Network Intelligent Management) switch on the steering wheel through Sport and Corsa and the dampers tense up and some pliancy is lost, but in all modes the quality of damping as the car lands into a compression really is superb. The LP580‑2’s front end feels lighter than the AWD car’s, too, which gives an impression of heightened immediacy and response. The LP610-4 is probably the more complete road car overall, but the LP580-2 delivers greater highs.

A damp Bedford Autodrome is probably not the best setting in which to further explore the virtues of two driven wheels over four, but thankfully the warm ambient temperature and occasional flashes of sunshine steadily clear away the moisture.

Let’s not concern ourselves with Strada mode here. According to Lamborghini, Sport is the fun mode, while Corsa is all about performance and brings a more neutral, less oversteery balance. In reality the differences feel quite subtle, and your own driving style has a much more profound effect on the car’s behaviour.

There are two main surprises relating to the LP580-2’s dynamic characteristics on circuit. The first is that, regardless of the ANIMA mode, there’s a fair amount of body movement, as though the springs have half an inch of marshmallow at the top of their travel. The Huracán doesn’t lurch and roll like a saloon car by any means, but looking at the thing you’d expect it to have the rock solid body control of a competition car. It isn’t a huge problem, but it does mean that the car can trip itself up a little when you really load it up through a corner; a sudden body movement or a small bump at the mid-corner point can cause the chassis to collapse into oversteer just when you think you’ve got it keyed into the track surface.

The second surprise is the understeer window. I’m not going to claim the LP580‑2 pushes like an overloaded oil tanker, but there is a definite understeer phase on the way into a corner. You’re aware that the front end isn’t quite holding the line you had anticipated and it’s not unusual to sail wide of the clipping point. Soon enough you learn to trail brake and check entry speeds to keep the front axle on a line, but this Huracán would be a more entertaining car on circuit if that push could be dialled out.

It’s there for a particular reason, though. Lamborghini has designs on being a leading player in the global supercar game, and it has concluded that to achieve its sales targets its cars must be accessible to all drivers. The Sant’Agata marque has a reputation for building fearsome, intimidating supercars, which is all well and good until you’re trying to persuade a retired dentist from Florida that the Huracán isn’t going to launch him into the clubhouse lobby at the first tickle of the throttle pedal. Hence the understeer. It feels safer. It is safer. And the rear-driven car has a slightly broader window of understeer built in than the AWD model because it will naturally be spikier at the limit.

Ultimately, there is enough grip front and rear that you can carry good speed and there’s colossal straight-line performance, too, so the LP580‑2 is hugely quick on track and it is very entertaining. But there’s so much untapped potential. A more focused version with grippier tyres – the new Pirelli P Zero Corsa, perhaps – tauter body control and a more neutral chassis balance would be nothing short of spectacular on circuit.

Thankfully, there’s a great deal more to a corner than the entry phase alone. The two-wheel-drive car really starts to make sense from the apex onwards, because it’s just that much more engaging than the four-wheel-drive model. Naturally, the LP610-4 would be faster away from a corner because it has much better traction. However, the need to measure throttle inputs and respond to any yaw moments with the steering wheel makes the rear-driven car much more of a challenge – and therefore more rewarding – than the AWD car, in which you simply mash the accelerator away from a corner and leave the systems to do their thing.

And then there’s the small matter of powersliding. It will never be big or clever, but neither will it ever cease to be really, really good fun. The four-wheel-drive Huracán will do it, in a sense. Approach a corner too fast, brake heavily on the way in to unsettle the rear end, let the car rotate, then stand on the power. You might need to dial in a small amount of corrective steering lock, but the four-wheel-drive system will do most of the work. That is still fun, but it’s a very prescriptive sort of oversteer that doesn’t actually require a great deal of skill. The car does the work. It’s not very pure.

It’s a different matter in the LP580-2. As I’ve said, the key is to get the car understeering slightly on the way into the corner, because that sets your approach speed and means the car is balanced. If you go in too slow or too fast you’ll either not turn the car around enough or it’ll simply be impossible to control when you open the throttle.

So you’ve got the car pushing. The initial throttle input has to be so precisely measured because the Huracán is a square sort of car, all short wheelbase and wide tracks. Too little throttle and you won’t unstick the rear; too much and you’ll spin violently. The margin between the two is a hair’s breadth.

The moment the rear tyres begin to over-rotate and the mechanical locking diff starts to tighten, you have to throw in the corrective lock. Normally, the caster effect spins the steering wheel automatically in your fingers, but if you wait for the Huracán to do the work, you’ll drop it. You really have to kick the steering around if you’re to collect the slide, which is an unusual sensation.

'I happen to quite like a Lamborghini in bold red – it feels provocative, like a two-finger salute in the direction of Maranello...'

Now that the car is sliding and the diff’s hooked up, feeding in the throttle with absolute precision is essential – too much and you’ll power through the diff’s sweet spot, too little and both rear tyres will find traction and hook up with all your hard work gone to waste. Now adjust the steering angle again and ride out a sweet, perfectly poised powerslide as the torque is shuffled between the Pirellis as the diff opens and closes to the commands of your right foot. It’s at this point that you’re prepared to sacrifice the turn-in understeer generated by the car’s LSD for the greater control and precision it offers on the way out of a corner when you want to enjoy every last drop of power available to you.

This is a fiendishly difficult car to slide neatly because its oversteer operating window is so narrow. It’s just so easy to get it wrong, as I do. A lot. It’s like walking a tightrope, but when you get it right there’s no sensation to beat it. And that’s why, for my money, the LP580-2 is more entertaining on circuit than the LP610-4.

When we consider the anatomy of a drivers’ car, we can be misty-eyed idealists. That means we can discard breadth of ability and all-weather performance and all that stuff, instead focusing on pure driving thrills in perfect conditions. Rear-wheel drive isn’t always the best solution, but when everything falls into place it is, categorically, the most entertaining and rewarding means of deploying power to the road.

Huracán LP580-2

Engine V10, 5204cc
CO2 278g/km
Power 572bhp @ 8000rpm
Torque 397lb ft @ 6500rpm
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive, LSD
Front suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, adaptive dampers (option), anti-roll bar
Rear suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, adaptive dampers (option), anti-roll bar
Brakes Ventilated carbon-ceramic discs (option), 365mm front, 356mm rear, ABS, EBD
Wheels 8.5 x 19in front, 11 x 19in rear
Tyres 245/35 R19 front, 305/30 R19 rear
Weight (dry) 1389kg
Power-to-weight (dry) 418bhp/ton
0-62mph 3.4sec (claimed)
Top speed 199mph (claimed)
Price £155,400
On sale Now

‘If you’ve deactivated the stability control system, you’ll soon be needing new trousers’

'In reality the differences feel quite subtle, and your own driving style has a much more profound effect on the car’s behaviour.'

‘It’s like walking a tightrope, but when you get it right there’s no sensation to beat it’