Lamborghini did a commendable job of concealing the development for the 900-horsepower Asterion plug-in hybrid “technology demonstrator” over the past couple years, but the secret is now out, and it’s thinking of producing it.
“The discussions inside Lamborghini now are about the potential cost of the car and – because the car is heavier – the handling, comfort, high-speed behavior and acceleration,” said Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s head of research and development to the UK’s Autocar.
To keep things under wraps while Ferrari, Porsche, and McLaren were in the headlines with PHEVs of their own, Lamborghini discreetly shoehorned a plug-in powertrain into a standard-issue Aventador so engineers could discuss possibilities, and refine the formula.
Now nearly refined, Reggiani said the luxury performance coupe’s formula includes a 602-horsepower 5.2-liter V10, 296 bhp from twin motors on the front axle – plus a third system motor – for an estimated 898 bhp combined horsepower, with curb weight increased by 551 pounds (250 kg) for the hybridization effort.
This motive force is mated to a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and a lithium-ion battery – in the car with front and rear subframes likely borrowed from the Huracán – is stashed where the Huracán’s forward-driving propshaft would be, says Autocar.
The battery is big enough to provide all-electric drive up to an estimated 31 miles (50 km) at up to 78 mph.
“The rules from governments will become more and more severe for CO2,” said Reggiani. “We face new challenges. I think to maintain the DNA of a sports car will need naturally aspirated engines with a high number of cylinders. Maybe one day we will have to downsize and use turbochargers. But I think plug-in is the right solution.”
To also open a potential market for would-be Lamborgini buyers put off by its more extremely designed vehicles, the more livable daily driver will be a less hard-core, but still-fast car. It won’t be track-day oriented or as hard to get in and out of like the other exotic plug-ins, and Lamborghini’s own Aventador.
Estimated cost is a bargain basement $550,000 or somewhere in line with the $400,000 Aventador plus cost of extra hybrid equipment – well below similarly powered cars that could fetch seven figures by the competitors.
For this, Lamborghini still expects to deliver 0-60 in about three seconds, top speed of 199 mph, and all of this – as one might expect – in a carbon-fiber monocoque car carrying a sophisticated resume borrowed from the Aventador and Huracán.
Prior to Lamborghini rolling the street-oriented, more spacious, and relaxed-fit GT onto the stage prior to the Paris motor show, car watchers had heard only a potential hybrid was in the works.
Instead of a modified Aventador as some had speculated, the Asterion has surprised observers, and media and public response has been seen by Lamborghini as positive.
For this reason, and obvious emissions and mpg regulations putting pressure on makers of large-displacement 12-cylinder cars, the company appears closer to making it a reality.
Red Hot Green Cars
Lamborghini’s move comes as the green light has also come on for other European automakers discovering plug-in hybrids can be the perfect ringer to get through government test cycles.
Other plug-in hybrid makers include Mercedes, Audi, Porsche’s lower line cars, BMW, and more. Beyond Europeans, all automakers are actually realizing that test cycles aimed to hold conventional internal combustion engine vehicles to account can be passed with ease with the PHEV formula.
The way it really works is these cars use the electric motor to nurse the car through the test, so they can claim crazy good CO2 emissions, and ultra high mpg numbers.
That only works while the finite energy in the rechargeable battery lasts however. In reality, there is no free lunch, so the energy needed to produce 900 horsepower remains considerable – as does the fuel consumed by the Asterion’s 5.2-liter V10 with 602 horsepower and 413 pounds-feet torque when actually using all that power.
Lamborghini says for now batteries are too heavy to make it as a pure battery electric car. For its customers’ needs, the PHEV formula is also a practical one.
Up for grabs could be a cynical view or an optimistic one over this state of affairs. In contrast to companies like Tesla going pure EV, hybridization of otherwise monster engines is where things are for major carmakers.
Positively speaking, this could be a step in the right direction, and at very least, it is one step at a time.