Two things strike you immediately. Firstly, as you can see, the Asterion is a world away from the wilfully mad conceptual eye candy – step forward the Egoista, Sesto Elemento and Veneno – that Lamborghini has thrilled us with in the past. Secondly, it’s a plug-in hybrid. This is either sacrilege or the only way forward, depending on your view.
“We all know what we have to do. Down the road we see turbocharging and plug-in hybrids. There is no way out – assuming the legislation doesn’t change,” Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann tells TopGear.com.
“Even if we might be granted an exemption – as a small manufacturer – there is also the issue of social acceptance. Things are changing. People are more aware, more sensitive… Many of our customers are entrepreneurs. These people don’t just have passions, they have sharp minds and they know what is going on in the world.
“There are perception issues, like it or not, and when you are perceived as an outlaw you no longer fit into the big picture. So we need to adjust, while remaining consistent to the brand.”
If the Asterion has packed away its six-shooter, it’s still delivering a full-blooded rebel yell. A mid-engine two-seater coupe measuring 4.7m (15.4ft) long, it uses an adapted Aventador carbon fibre monocoque, mostly in the lower section, with a different roof structure, and its wheelbase has been stretched to create more interior space. It borrows the Huracán’s stunning 607bhp 5.2-litre V10 engine, which is hooked up to a blistering dual-clutch seven-speed rear transaxle auto ’box.
But it’s also a parallel hybrid, with an electric motor bolted onto the transaxle that incorporates a starter motor and generator. Two other electric motors are located on the front axle. Between them, they contribute an additional chunk of energy worth 220kW, equivalent to almost 300bhp.
Like the Porsche 918 Spyder, the Asterion uses the motors on the front axle to deliver four-wheel drive, as well as torque vectoring. There’s no mechanical connection between the front and rear axles.
The batteries live in the central tunnel where you’d normally find a propshaft. This benefits both safety and the car’s centre of gravity, Lamborghini claims. Electric power can also be used to fill in gaps in the engine’s torque curve. What’s not to love?
Well, the usual. All this techy cleverness results in an unavoidable porkiness. In all, the electrification process adds 280kg (617lbs) to the Asterion’s overall weight. That’s a lot of battery cells, cooling gubbins and control electronics, not to mention something of a philosophical about-turn compared to last year’s ultra-skinny carbo fibre-fest, the Sesto Elemento. This is what car industry realpolitik looks like.
But this glass is also defiantly half-full. The Asterion’s total power output is a thumping 907bhp. It’ll do 185mph all-out, and accelerate to 62mph in just over three seconds, while coughing out 98g/km of CO2s. A real-world range of 30 miles on pure electric power is a hell of a party trick. Finally, a claimed overall combined average of 282mpg sounds like silly talk.
“You can imagine the discussions we had,” Lamborghini’s R&D boss Maurizio Reggiani tells TG.com. “We are Lamborghini, we must be the best in terms of performance and handling. In the end, we decided this concept was the right solution for a technological demonstrator. This is a car you can drive in cities in pure-electric mode, but also a car whose thermodynamic engine delivers the same emotion as a pure Lamborghini.
“At 1,800kg, we are at the upper end of the range of what we feel is acceptable [in terms of weight]. But we have worked, and are continuing to work, very hard to create a true Lamborghini feeling. Believe me, this car does not feel like a Prius.”
After so many barnstorming concepts, the Asterion posed a different challenge for Lamborghini’s Centro Stile design department.
“The best suit for this car was the tailored elegance of a Gran Turismo. It’s not all about power,” design boss Felippo Perini says. “I don't like creating concepts that aren’t ready for production. The Asterion proposes a real future Lamborghini, not a fake one. A meaningless concept is also a way of wasting money, and I hate wasting money. We are too small a team to be able to squander our time or effort. We’re not telling lies with this car. It will be drivable.”
He agrees, however, that it’s a slightly softer looking Lamborghini.
“Historically, Lamborghinis don’t have a ‘face’,” he continues. “There are no obvious influences, so I prefer to talk about it more in terms of a ‘flavour’. Otherwise it could end up being retro. What I can say is that the design language is completely different to the Aventador’s and Huracán’s.”
The cabin is lovely, too. The Asterion features ivory leather, for a more luxurious atmosphere, as well as aluminium, forged carbon and titanium.
There’s also more storage space, a rather dull consideration unless you’ve ever tried to find somewhere to put your mobile in an Aventador or Huracán, then watched as your untethered handset bounces around the cabin.
Three drive modes – zero (for full electric), I (for Ibrido), and T (for Térmico) – are available via buttons on the steering wheel. The main dash binnacle has little leather straps on the side.
“We’re using materials in a transgressive way. It's a more human car, more useable,” Alessandro Salvagnin, who oversaw the Asterion’s interior, says. A detachable tablet handles the Asterion’s infotainment, climate control and GPS functions.
Different times require a different sort of Lamborghini. TG approves. Do you?
A version of this story originally appeared on TopGear.com.
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