Auto blogFri, 14 Nov 2014
Would a Bentley be a Bentley if it weren't manufactured in Great Britain? Would a Lamborghini be a Lamborghini if it were built outside of Italy? It may be hard to say either way, but we might find out sooner than later, because the latest word coming in from Europe is that the Volkswagen Group is considering expanding production for both these upscale brands outside their traditional homes.
According to the Autovisie section of Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, the issue for both automakers comes down to their ambitious expansion programs. Both Bentley and Lamborghini plan to launch new SUVs - the former's being well under way, the latter's still awaiting approval - that would expand their annual production considerably: by 50 percent in Bentley's case, and by as much as 100 percent in Lamborghini's.
For now, both marques intend to handle the added production with additional assembly lines at their current facilities in Crewe and Sant'Agata Bolognese, respectively. But both could soon outgrow their relatively small plants - and with the Volkswagen Group operating countless factories across Europe and around the world, it wouldn't be hard to see these manufacturers shifting excess production outside of their home countries.
Wed, 05 Nov 2014
I found it to be a rare, genuinely rewarding educational experience.
Lamborghini is putting more effort into its North American motorsports efforts and promotion, so we recently attended its first-ever Intensivo driving school at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, spending a day behind the wheel of both its Huracán and Aventador supercars. Offered under the Squadra Corse banner, Experienza is designed to provide a taste of Lamborghini's cars on a circuit, Intensivo is designed to maximize track-time learning, and Accademia and Advancada - only in Europe for now - are focused on the driver and driver technique. Beyond those, Squadra Corse can also provide Super Trofeo instruction to get you fit for the Blancpain one-make series and GT3 racing, too.
Gene Ondrusek and his 1975 Lamborghini Urraco have a relationship forged in heartache. He bought the car on a whim in 1987 and had barely driven it when the timing belt snapped thanks to a bad previous engine rebuild. With the interior already a wreck, Ondrusek set off on a restoration that would take years to get the Lamborghini back together.
All of that time arm-deep in the car's mechanicals has turned Ondrusek into a pretty persnickety owner. Passengers have to remove their shoes before getting in, and he has a mat to protect the carpet on the driver's side. However, despite his fastidious temperament, this Urraco isn't a garage queen and gets driven often.
Ondrusek doesn't exactly make the Urraco sound like an unmitigated joy behind the wheel, either. The seating position forces the driver to sit at an angle, and with no power brakes or power steering, the wedge-shaped coupe is not exactly easy to handle at low speeds. Still, all that time fixing the car has clearly created a strong bond behind man and machine, and we think the wedgy, underappreciated mid-Seventies Marcello Gandini design has held up well. Get a feel for both the car and the owner's connection by watching this latest video from Petrolicious.
The stationary revving of high-horsepower, high-cylinder-count Italian engines may be an adolescent pleasure among the world's wealthy, but it's a mechanical display of machismo we're usually prepared to indulge simply because it sounds so great. And it's a spectacle made all the better when one's exhaust spits flames, right? Well, most of the time. Check out this Lamborghini driver, who gets a bit exuberant with his right foot only to have disaster strike.
The driver's Aventador has no problem shooting long flames, and apparently they're hot enough to catch portions of the supercar's body alight. However, the driver's reaction might be even more unbelievable. Watch the video to see what happens - his response certainly isn't how many people would react to their supercar being on fire, perhaps because he isn't completely comprehending what's going on.
One final note; while the video's title claims that the fire is the result of a design flaw, there's not really enough information here to know if that's actually the case. The Lambo could be running an unsuitably modified exhaust or ECU to help it shoot big flames, or the issue could be as simple as debris caught in the rear vents lighting up.
A cursory look at the top of the automobile market would suggest that the world's carmakers are gunning it full steam ahead into a new stratosphere of ultra-luxury and high-performance utility vehicles. After all, companies like Bentley and Maserati are preparing to launch their very first crossovers, while established players like Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover keep producing ever more expensive sport-utes of their own. But that's not the case across the board.
Rolls-Royce, for example, has yet to receive the green light to start working on its proposed CUV project. Though the dimensions of its sedans may already eclipse those of some crossovers, this would be the first time that Goodwood would produce a utility of its own. But while the British automaker's financial performance may have earned it a degree of autonomy, the final call may still come down to parent company BMW, which just might be waiting to see how Bentley fares with its upcoming crossover - and how much money it brings in to the Volkswagen Group - before deciding on whether or not it should proceed.
However, Rolls-Royce may not be alone in waiting for its German parent company to approve its high-priced ute. It's been two and a half years since we first laid eyes on the Lamborghini Urus (pictured), but the Italian automaker reportedly has not yet received approval from its parent company Audi and the greater Volkswagen Group to proceed with development and production. Envisioned to share its platform with the next Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and the production version of the Bentley EXP 9 F concept, the high-riding Lamborghini was originally set to reach production as the marque's third model line in 2017. But while Audi drags its feet - potentially waiting to see how the Bentley version pans out - the Urus' launch keeps getting pushed back, if it's ever to be made at all.
Boot-shaped shaped Italy has been molded as much by it's Hollywood-fueled history of organized crime, as it has by its footwear-aping borders. One of the more peaceful methods used by that famous mafia is, of course, bribery. While we doubt the Cosa Nostra has planted "made men" in Sant'Agata Bolognese, based on the recent actions of Lamborghini, we do think the company might be bucking for leniency on Italian speeding tickets.
The supercar manufacturer has announced that it will sponsor the Fiamme Oro, the Italian State Police's sports association. Lambo will supply the Italian fuzz's athletes with winter and summer tracksuits, polos, jackets, hats and bags. Collezione Automobili Lamborghini, the company's lifestyle arm, designed the kit, which will feature both the iconic raging bull logo as well as the State Police's logo.
Of course, we jest about Lambo's involvement with the Italian State Police, but this has been a long-running arrangement dating back to the first Gallardo police car, back in 2004. With this new arrangement, and the donation of a new Huracán police car, we feel confident that Lamborghini owners should enjoy free reign on the country's auto stradas.
With its razor-sharp wedge shape, high performance and minuscule ride height, the Lamborghini Countach has always been a supercar made to be gawked at and grab attention. Even the model's name supposedly comes from an Italian exclamation. But not all recognition is positive, as is the case with this Lamborghini illegally parked within sight of London's famed Tower Bridge.
According to The Telegraph, this white Countach was reportedly abandoned after running out of fuel, blocking a lane in the process. In that time, someone apparently attempted to scratch off part of its no-parking sticker. In the end, the supercar was hooked up and lifted onto a flatbed truck to be towed away, drawing a sizable crowd in the process. Those interviewed seemed pretty upset and mystified that someone would illegally park the car there.
According to The Telegraph, the owner was traced via license plate, whereupon it was discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest on harassment charges. He was subsequently arrested in London and later released on bail. Sadly, there's no word yet on whether the classic Lamborghini was released with its owner or if its angular self is sitting in an impound lockup somewhere.
The Volkswagen Group supports many racing programs among its various brands, but somewhat surprisingly, Lamborghini is not chief among them. Not by a long shot. But even Lambo is getting in on the action with the upcoming launch of the Huracán GT3 previewed in this latest video clip from testing at the Vallelunga circuit near Rome.
The new Huracán GT3 will be Lamborghini's first major in-house competitive racing project, building on the Huracán Super Trofeo spec racer and the previous Gallardo and Murciélago racers that were developed by Reiter Engineering (with varying levels of support from the factory).
Expect the Huracán GT3 to be based closely on the production version, but in order to comply with FIA GT3 class regulations, we can expect that it will have to shed a good few hundred pounds off its curb weight - even more if the Squadra Corse wants to keep the 5.2-liter V10 at the same 600-horsepower output it boasts in road-going trim.
The weirdest thing happened last night. During the annual Volkswagen Group Night festivities, everyone waited in anticipation for the Lamborghini section of the press conference. It's usually a treat for the senses - cool to look at, backed up by a ferocious sound that bellows throughout the venue. But not this time. There was no music, there were no laser lights, and most remarkably, there was no sound. The Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4 drove onto stage under fully silent electric power. Audibly, at least, it was perhaps the most anti-climactic Lambo introduction we've ever witnessed.
And that's the big story with this new Lamborghini concept: it's a plug-in hybrid. Of course, it's still a product of the storied Italian supercar maker, so that electric powertrain is mated to a 5.2-liter V10, and total system output is rated at a staggering 910 horsepower. It'll run up to 31 miles on pure electric power at speeds of up to 78 miles per hour, and its 0-62 time is estimated to be three seconds flat. Top speed? 199 mph. In other words, it may be capable of silence, but it still carries a stick, and it's still very much a Lambo.
So will the company actually build something like this? Right now, it doesn't look likely. Back in August at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, Autoblog spoke with Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann about the then-off-the-record Asterion concept, who told us that if the automaker should choose to expand its model range, the bigger priority right now would be the Urus crossover. This is merely just a way to show how Lamborghini might present a gasoline-electric vehicle. And after scoping it out in person here at the Paris Motor Show, we have to say, it's cool. The styling is a bit softer and understated compared to the audacious Aventador or angular Huracán. But it still has quite a presence and it's still very much a Raging Bull.
There are automakers that roll out concept cars regularly as a matter of course, and there are those that rarely do. Lamborghini falls squarely in the latter category, which makes the vehicle you see here - revealed just a day before the Paris Motor Show - such a rare treat.
It's called the Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4, and if you're familiar with Sant'Agata nomenclature, you're probably already picking apart its specs based on those letters and numbers: LP for longitudinal posterior, telling you this is, like all other contemporary Raging Bulls, a mid-engined supercar. 910 tells you how much metric horsepower it packs. The 4 tells you it's all-wheel drive. But along with the name Asterion, borrowed from a mythical minotaur (a hybrid man-bull, for those unschooled in Greek mythology), it's the letter I - standing for "Ibrido" - which speaks of the novelty of this concept.
That's right, you're looking at the first gasoline-electric hybrid Lamborghini. A plug-in hybrid, in fact, that can travel 31 miles on electricity alone. The powertrain combines the 5.2-liter V10 and seven-speed DSG from the Huracán (good for 610 metric horsepower) to a trio of electric motors (good for another 300) to bring total output up to a claimed 910 - equivalent to 897 hp by our standards - assuming all four motors are running at peak output at the same time. That makes it the most powerful Lamborghini we've ever seen, and puts it in league with the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari. The result is a 0-62 time quoted at three seconds flat and a top speed of 199 miles per hour, or up to 78 mph in pure electric mode.