The Italian supercar maker Lamborghini has abandoned any plans to use a plug-in hybrid powertrain in its sports cars in the near future.
But instead it’s doubling down on the technology, and looking to use it where it might be best appreciated by the market: in its upcoming Urus sport-utility vehicle.
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The Urus, a mid-size luxury SUV, expected to be a more exclusive alternative to the Porsche Cayenne and a far wilder pick than the Bentley Bentayga, from another corner of the VW Group, is expected to debut sometime around 2018. The plug-in would follow a year or two later.
“The first PHEV for Lamborghini will be the Urus, where packaging and weight will not be so fundamental for the dynamic behavior of the car,” said Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini's R&D chief, in an interview last month at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
No PHEV sports cars for Lambo
Reggiani said that at the moment, plug-in hybrid powertrains can’t be fitted to the brand’s super-sports cars, because the increase in weight and packaging constraints would be so extreme that it “would destroy the DNA of Lamborghini,” he said.
Lamborghini did try to go down that road—with the Asterion Concept from the 2014 Paris Motor Show. That model, a hybrid touring sports car, employed a V-10 gasoline engine, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and three electric motors (two in front, driving the front wheels, and one in back with the engine).
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Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4 concept, 2014 Paris Auto Show
“When we built Asterion—it was a technology demonstrator—we found if we want to make a plug-in that if you want to do more than 50 kilometers, you needed to add more than 200 kilograms [440 pounds] to the car,” said Reggiani. “Plus you have a problem of the packaging—where do you put the battery?”
Reggiani concluded that the car simply couldn’t deliver the lateral acceleration and handling performance that’s a hallmark of the brand.
“It can be a PHEV only where packaging and weight constraints are less important, and due to this, the first time, that will be only in the Urus,” he said.
Porsche’s doing it though...
Yet Lamborghini’s VW Group cousin, Porsche, also known for handling, is among other performance-car brands that appear to be embracing the technology. Porsche has been showcasing such tech in cars like the 918 Spyder, and in this Frankfurt show’s Mission E Concept, an all-electric four-door sports car.
In truth, part of it’s keeping a Lamborghini where the brand thinks it belongs. While Reggiani likes the concept, he said at Lamborghini you buy the engine, and the sound of that engine is very important—essential, he thinks, if you want to provide the emotion.
“At the moment for Lamborghini, it’s too far away from our objective,” he said.