While developing the SUV, the firm’s engineers thrashed a development car around a sterrato (Italian for dirt road) at the Nardò test track, had a great time, then decamped for a team dinner and wondered how much fun a Huracán could be in the same circumstances.
A tired durability prototype was resuscitated and given raised suspension, and everyone who drove it, initially sceptic or otherwise, was a convert. So here we are.
Of the Huracáns still to be built before the car goes out of production at the end of next year, a third – 1499 – will be Sterratos.
The basis is a regular 4WD Huracán coupé, raised by 44mm and given 25% softer springs and an additional 35% (front) and 25% (rear) suspension travel. The track is 30mm (front) and 34mm (rear) wider and the wheelbase is 9mm longer.
Then there's what chief technical officer Rouven Mohr describes as good honest chassis tuning, including tweaking the 4WD system’s distribution, the torque-vectoring via braking and the rear limited-slip differential’s operation, and only after that allowing calibration of the stability control.
The Sterrato is finished with rugged plastic cladding, rally-spec lights, Bridgestone Dueller run-flat tyres and a £232,820 price tag. A few are still up for grabs, but they won’t be for long.
Mohr says that Huracáns – or any other super-sports Lamborghinis – are usually developed with measurable performance parameters in mind. Some are applied here, but there was also an emphasis on the subjective. Unless you can put measurable KPIs on smiles.
Lamborghini is one of the more flamboyant sports car companies, so you settle into a lively Huracán-spec interior, whose only notable nods to being a Sterrato are the switch for the spotlights, some instrumentation changes (inclinometer, compass, steering angle indicator) and a new Rally calibration on the driving-mode selector. Those aside, the naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 – Lamborghini’s last – fires with a noisy bark to a loud idle.
This, like track-focused Huracáns, isn't the subtlest car in the world. It's a slight surprise, then, to discover just how docile the Sterrato is as a road car. On its 235/40 R19 front and 285/40 R19 tyres, it has a relaxed, easy and absorbent gait to its ride that’s slightly at odds with the sharpness of the 602bhp engine and quick seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
On British roads, it borders on tender. So velvety is the steering response that the point at which the car stops moving in a straight line and begins to arc into a change of heading isn’t something of which you're ever particularly conscious.
It all means that when you have defanged the powertrain in Strada mode (short-shifting gearbox, exhaust valves closed, longest effective throttle), the Sterrato is confoundingly easy company when just getting from A to B. And that’s when you forget what you’re driving.
Our drive demonstrated just how immaculately the Sterrato rides. Were it not for the visibility-wrecking snorkel that feeds the V10, this would be the Huracán to drive daily, no question. Even isolation isn’t half bad. With uncarpeted floors and unupholstered door cards, you would think road roar would be an issue on the motorway, but this unhinged Huracán feels about on par with a Porsche 911. Possibly better.
Suspension? Not that exciting, as it happens. The Sterrato uses an adapted version of the regular car’s BWI damper (no Reiger beauties here). That, controlling a longer spring, is it.
The car also uses ceramic brake discs, rather than the cast-iron ones favoured by rally cars right up to those in the WRC. Lamborghini says the surface has been treated to better dispel grit. The gearbox and electronically controlled limited-slip differential in the back are also carried over from the Evo, as is the Haldex coupling that engages the front axle.
On looser surfaces, the Sterrato feels amazingly natural. So natural that once you have had only a mile or so to acclimatise to the blunted braking response and the need to use the throttle every bit as much as the Alcantara-clad steering wheel to rotate the car, it’s ESC off, foot down.
Throwing this car about on dirt and gravel is, frankly, intoxicating. The wailing mortar just behind you is accompanied by the percussive roar of gravel flung into the underside of the car’s aluminium-carbon chassis. Flares of mud and dust are flung up into your peripheral vision as the front Bridgestones hunt for traction. There’s also the mad juxtaposition of bearing down on grass-lined chutes while staring through a classic Huracán letterbox view forward that normally depicts glass-smooth roads or rumble strips.
And that’s just the audiovisual thrill. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Sport or Rally mode: once the electronics are off, the Sterrato wants to throw shapes. It’s an indulgent, composed and expressive handler on gravel, and there’s never any danger of spinning out, it seems. The precision of the powertrain is as useful and rewarding on dirt as it is on the road.
And on the highway, the Sterrato does show those kinds of tendencies. If it wasn’t quite so loud, didn’t have quite such a focused and cramped interior and a rear-view mirror that was rendered helpless by a roof-mounted air scoop, it would make a very pleasing grand tourer.
It has sweet steering, too: modestly weighted, very accurate and communicative.
It reminds us of an Ariel Nomad, mixed with a pinch of Alpine A110, which Mohr previously cited to Autocar as an inspiration: a light car with a chilled, relaxed gait and one that’s keen to turn off-throttle.
It’s hugely entertaining. It goes sideways, it makes a great noise and it’s easily controllable. And the nice thing about it is that, for all of the giggles that are virtually inevitable with an engine like this and a softly sprung off-road chassis, there’s real depth of ability to the dynamics too.
This blend of surreal softness and suspension travel with modern control means the Sterrato is possibly the most exploitable supercar to leave Sant’Agata. At least, it is once you've learned its style, which involves getting greedy with the throttle and using weight transfer to kill the front tyres’ habit of shuffling. You don’t tiptoe to the limit of grip.
It’s an unexpected joy to drive. Compared with its Evo sibling, what you lose in grainy steering feedback and telepathically instant responses, you gain in a lucid awareness of how the mass of the car is moving.
The importance of this can’t be overstated. Along with the diminished contact patch and the V10, the result is a supercar that wants to play, not just show off its raw ability.
The Sterrato changes course with the elastic swagger of a mogul skier, taking slithers of angle as you like. Yes, you can do this in a Huracán STO, but only on a near-perfect surface, with sky-high confidence. Even then, is it quite as fun?
The Sterrato shows that the A110 approach is scalable from 248bhp to 602bhp and 1600kg. And is a soft chassis with a scalpel-sharp, atmo motor not just a little bit McLaren F1? It feels like there’s a lesson in the Sterrato, if anyone’s listening.
Is the Sterrato a fitting finale for the Huracán? Intended to go off-road but accidentally glorious on it, it is. Lambo’s junior supercar is a congenital entertainer, never more so than in this form.