Lamborghini Huracán: So good, why spend more?

September 5, 2014: 7:15 AM ET
Introducing the entry-level Lamborghini
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Lamborghini's logo, in case you haven't noticed, is a snarling bull crouched forward, poised to charge.

It's been an apt symbol, too. Lamborghini cars have traditionally been powerful and wild. Harsh treatment -- mashing the pedals and wringing the steering heel -- brings out their best qualities. They're not pleasant cars for cruising.

That's precisely why the Lamborghini Huracán is something entirely new. At around $240,000, this is a Lamborghini you can live with. It's easy and docile in ordinary driving but it's still powerful, snarly and outrageously fast when you can do that sort of thing.

The secret, for the most part, is in the transmission. Recent Lamborghinis, the much more expensive Aventador and the Gallardo, were engineered with "automated manual" transmissions. These transmissions work just like manuals -- with a clutch that engages and disengages -- but are operated automatically. The trouble is, whoever programmed the computer brains for these transmissions forgot that most people's driveways don't empty out onto a race track.

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Real people, even really rich people, have to drive on the street at close-to-legal speeds most of the time. That was a headache in either of those Lamborghinis. Driven at normal speeds or, heaven forbid, slowly, the cars would slog and buck as the transmission changed gears at the wrong time. And each shift seemed painfully long and slow.

Not the Huracán. Its improved transmission, which uses two clutches for quicker, smoother work, handles the daily grind just fine. You could drive this car all day long just about anywhere without needing a single dose of Dramamine.

Of course, you're not getting a 602 horsepower Italian exotic car because you want to drive slowly but because you want to drive like you're exiting the parking lot of an exploding nuclear power plant. And, yes -- oh, by all the angels in heaven, yes -- the Huracán does go fast. Very, very fast.

I was loping along at about 55 on a California highway with a cameraman leaning out the window of a van in the next lane. The black van matched my speed as the cameraman's lens stared lovingly at the pearl white side of the wedge-shaped Lamborghini I was driving. At last, over the walkie-talkie, I heard the words I longed for.

"Punch it!"

The transmission shifted down two gears and the engine roared faster and louder and then faster and louder again. The speedometer spun up through increasingly illegal numbers as my head pushed back into the seat and a huge length of sunlit pavement rolled, in an instant, under my wheels.

Hard braking took the car back down to something like sanity. On the way down, the Huracán's engine had another aria to sing. As the transmission worked down through the gears, the engine snarled, popped and growled as it helped slow the car.

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But the Huracán is at its absolute best where the road bends. The steering feels close to perfect, requiring a reasonable amount of effort while returning just enough information about the road, the tires and the car. With its rear-mounted engine and its carbon fiber and aluminum body, the Huracán's weight feels perfectly centered around the driver's seat. Roaring through hills on a twisty road feels as close to flight as you could want from an automobile.

Perhaps it's even a bit too tame. I can see where some might complain that there's insufficient fear to be found in the driver's seat of this car. Perhaps too much refinement for a crazy exotic car? I don't think so.

Altogether, it feels like a more modern, more refined Lamborghini. In fact, I'd say it's better in most ways than the far pricier Lamborghini Aventador. Now, if Lamborghini can take the refinement from this car and use it to make a nicer Aventador, then we could have the ultimate Lamborghini, indeed. It would cost a whole bunch of money, but it'd be really good.

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