Review: The Lamborghini Huracan STO feels like a proper race car

“If you don’t take yours on track, you’re missing the point of it.”
by TopGear.com | Aug 14, 2021
PHOTO: TopGear.com
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The Lamborghini Huracan STO is a Lamborghini Huracan turned up to… well, a good notch above the Performante. The new STO (Super Trofeo Omologata) claims to take the road-going Lambo experience a step closer to the Super Trofeo Evo one-make racer and GT3 Evo cars. Lamborghini claims it’s the first car they’ve developed where track ability takes precedence over road driving. Pushed further than the Aventador SVJ even, in a bid to tackle rivals such as McLaren’s 620R or 765LT, the AMG GT Black Series, and whatever Ferrari chooses to name the inevitable hardcore version of the 296GTB.

As far as numbers go, the STO’s engine struggles to hold its head up in that company. The 5.2-liter V10 is unmodified from the Performante, developing 631hp and 563Nm. But as ever, numbers tell little of the tale. The sheer ferocity and volume delivered by this 8,500rpm naturally aspirated motor make it feel even quicker than its claimed acceleration (0-100kph in 3sec, to 200kph in 9sec).

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What’s been changed then?

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The main mods over the Performante are the removal of the front driveshafts—the STO is purely rear-drive—the addition of rear-wheel steering, further weight saving and a lot of aero work. All told it’s 43kg lighter, which doesn’t sound that much. Apparently removing the front drive gubbins only saves 20kg, while 4WS adds 8kg back in. A thinner windscreen is 20% lighter, there are magnesium wheels and carbon body panels that contribute to a 1,339kg dry weight. Light, but a 765LT has a dry weight of 1,229kg…

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The aero, as you can see, has moved on more. And not subtly. Lambo says downforce is up 53% compared to the Performante, which—some background reading suggests—developed 350kg at 300kph. Interestingly, Lambo has abandoned the ALA technology that ingested air at the base of the rear spoiler’s pillars and blew it out along the trailing edge. This is a simpler strategy: a manually adjustable, three position rear wing.

But that’s not all, is it?

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Far from it. For starters, there are unusual fins down either side to help channel air toward it, plus the gaping roof duct which isn’t—as you’d assume—an intake for the engine. Instead, it simply ducts cooling air down into the bay. Look closely at that and it’s gimmicky.

Everywhere you look there are ducts, slats, vents, and channels. Underbonnet storage has shrunk to 38 liters (it’ll take a helmet) so radiator air can be expelled up the hood. That one-piece front panel (Cofango is Lambo’s name for it) is a pain to remove.

Elsewhere the tracks have been widened, there are stiffer suspension bushes, new anti-roll bars, and two-stage magnetic ride dampers. The brakes are Brembo’s CCM-R set up, claimed to give a 25% power increase. Sharp at the top of their travel, the 390mm front and 360mm rear discs are fantastically effective and fade-free. A big step on from previous Lambos with carbon brakes, which tend to be dead underfoot with little initial bite. These are easy to modulate, but like to be worked hard.

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How’s the rest of the driving experience?

Lambo isn’t wrong about this car’s track-first ethos. The last car I drove on-road that constantly bombarded me with every race car signal it could muster was the McLaren Senna. If you buy one of these and drive it on road, well, best of luck to you. There’s loads of road and tyre noise, the suspension is very stiff at low speeds and unsettled on roads that are only moderately uneven. It’s raucous and distracted, shows no willingness whatsoever to bow to your demands, doesn’t have the compliance and smoothness of our favourite Huracan, the Evo RWD.

However...?

It feels a more serious and circuit-capable bit of kit than any Lamborghini I can remember driving. It’s better balanced than the Aventador SVJ, purer than the Performante. It’s very communicative through the suspension and chassis and although the variable ratio steering doesn’t have bundles of natural feedback, there’s so little suspension movement that you feel directly connected to the crisp edge of the front tires.

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It’s very agile, responds sharply to every control, but the calibration of everything is, for the most part, very good indeed. The honest truth is that even though it’s not 4WD, it could probably cope with more power, but if that meant not having this engine any more, forget it. The response and soundtrack is just too special to overlook. It continues to be the highlight of this car. Even though it’s actually too loud. Yes, really. When the exhaust baffles open at 4,700rpm you wince, aware that a) everyone within a mile radius knows exactly what’s going on or b) you’re about to get kicked off your track day. Trumpeting magnificence, but also rather obnoxious. But then look at this thing—at least the soundtrack and bodywork back each other up. And is it just us, or do we detect some Sesto Elemento influence in the STO?

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Hmm, good point, although at least this one has made it into production.

And not in limited supply, either. Lambo will build as many as there is demand for. That usually makes it a tough sell to an audience wanting exclusivity—and it’s no bargain. The most expensive Huracan ever in fact, £100,000 more than the entry-level RWD at £268,012 (P18.7 million) including VAT. But then a 765LT is over £280,000 and the AMG GT Black Series is £335,000.

On the road

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This is a car without built-in plushness. The whole car jiggles at low speeds, and diligently follows road cambers. The upside of this is communication. It’s not doing anything it’s not telling you about.

Instead it constantly reminds you of its potential, makes you aware of how much more it can do and—crucially—makes you really want to exploit that. The STO encourages you, goads you to want to find out where exactly the limits are. It’s not a car that feels disgruntled and unhappy on the road, so much as one eager to prove it could be having an even better time if only you’d open the taps.

How is that engine?

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The stand out feature of the whole car. No, it doesn’t have the kidney punch mid-range torque and frankly scary top end of the 765LT, but it’s plenty potent enough and the way the revs climb through the mid-range and then howl across the final 4,000rpm of the dial makes you feel so connected.

The twin clutch gearbox is good enough (so much smoother and faster than the Aventador’s sequential) that you never really find yourself noticing it—it does the job cleanly and well. It’s the one element of the car that behaves itself immaculately at low speed, shuttling up the gears considerately and quietly.

Here’s something else that does its job very well—the mechanical differential. There’s a lot going on at the back axle what with the rear-steer as well, but the way the STO gets its power down is impressive. It’ll only squirm and fidget if the road is rough, but otherwise the suspension supports the traction very well.

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It helps if you’re going fast, though. The STO needs some speed before the suspension wakes up and is interested in helping out, it needs that level of downforce or movement to get some compression into the springs. Perhaps oddly, as far as public roads go the STO is probably most comfortable and at home on motorways.

Don’t be misled by the ride height. Relatively speaking there’s quite a lot of ground clearance. Doesn’t mean the suspension is forgiving. Or the tires. There are two options available: Bridgestone Potenza Sport or Race.

Are there driving modes?

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Three, controlled via the familiar button at the base of the steering wheel. New names, though: STO, Trofeo and Pioggia. Read: Road, Race, Rain. Five parameters fall under the control of each setting: engine response, Akrapovic exhaust, gearbox, MagneRide 2.0 suspension and ESC.

Trofeo does noticeably ramp things up—not just red dials, but a more instant and angry engine and vividly sharp ride. STO is more than enough for road use. But then it should be. We admire the fact that Lambo has pushed the STO this far and chosen to compromise its road manners. The result is a car that moves the story beyond Lambo’s usual language.

On the inside

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Conventional opening doors, but mind the uncarpeted carbon floor as you get in—very slippery. No fundamental changes in here, still a 12.3-inch dash screen and an 8.4-incher on the center console. More functionality contained within it if you choose: there’s the option of full onboard telemetry for £3,600 (P251,000).

Seats buck the usual Lambo trend by being very comfortable and easily adjusted—no height adjustment, but they tilt, which is actually far more useful. If only they’d covered the whole dash in flocking—the reflections are horrendous. The view out the back isn’t much better either, the STO’s central spine blocking visibility, while the side mirrors are dominated by the side fins and rear spoiler. To be fair, that is quite a captivating sight.

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As a position to experience the STO from, it’s spot on. You’re very, very low, with your feet thrust into the nose and a deep, deep windscreen. There’s not much sound deadening, so noises echo around and stones ping into the arches. It’s unfiltered, feels exotic and exciting. And well made. Audi’s influence means cabin quality is good, and the screen functionality is decent, too. Go to the effort of removing the engine cover (there’s a special triangular key down the driver’s footwell) and while the gold topped engine captures your attention initially, you soon notice that the rest of it is scruffier than you might expect.

And don’t even think about practicality. There are no cupholders inside, and the nose area is as awkward to access as the engine and—helmet aside—almost pointlessly small. You’ll put stuff on the narrow parcel shelf alongside the fire extinguisher which will cost you £540 (P38,000).

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Final thoughts

In due course Lamborghini will announce a Nurburgring lap time for the STO. For a while back in 2017, the Performante held the production car record at 6min 52sec. Since then the Porsche 911 GT2 RS and AMG GT Black Series have gone faster. Expect the STO to redress that situation—although as ever, take all times with a pinch of salt.

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But yes, the STO does fulfill Lambo’s ambitions for it. This is a Lamborghini that wants to be on track, that feels like a racer, just one with the heavy dose of charisma that makes a Lamborghini what it is. But don’t let that drama, stridency, and raucousness deceive you. Underneath, the STO really knows its way around a circuit. If you don’t take yours on track, you’re missing the point of it.

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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