Because turbos cause “a reduction of emotion.”
Italian supercar marque Lamborghini have tried to stave off the death of the naturally-aspirated, large-displacement petrol engine. And for the most part they’ve succeeded, with every new iteration of 2-door Lamborghini being billed as ‘the last naturally-aspirated V10’ or ‘last N/A V12’ depending on the flavour of the day (except for the Urus of course, which to a purist, is the physical manifestation of the word ‘blasphemous’).
The brand’s technical boss Maurizio Reggiani is one of the many members of the Lamborghini team that abhor forced-induction.
“For me, turbo engines have a reduction of emotion.” – Maurizio Reggiani, Chief Technical Officer, Lamborghini
So what are they to do, as the emissions regulations noose tightens? Lamborghini’s already prepared with an answer: Electrification.
While you gasp in shock, we urge you to consider the options. Turbocharging is the route Ferrari’s gone, and while they’ve gone to great lengths to retain the engine characteristics that all Ferrari’s should have, there are still key differentiators between atmo and turbo models (like among others, the lack of top-end wail). A petrol-electric hybrid Lamborghini V12 for example would be able to retain that deep roar that the flagship cars from Sant’Agata have always offered, while also being able to benefit from improved fuel efficiency at low speeds (and critically, lower CO2 emissions).
The replacement for the long-running Lamborghini Aventador will be the first series-production Lambo to feature this setup, but it won’t be the first Lamborghini outright. That accolade will go to a car that’s referred to internally as the LB48H, a limited-run hypercar that’s already been shown to prospective buyers, due to arrive in 2019 with an eye-watering £2-million price tag ($3.52-million at time of writing).
There’s talk about just how electrified an electrified Lamborghini will have to be, and Reggiani explained to Autocar that that question will be answered by legislation.
“The law will determine what level of pure-electric driving you need. There are several ongoing discussions. Some say 20km [zero-emissions range], some [countries] say 30km, and China is suggesting 50km – and normally we only develop one car for the world.” – Maurizio Reggiani, Chief Technical Officer, Lamborghini
While electrification will (theoretically) allow the V12 to breathe easy for a little while longer, there is a penalty to be paid, and that’s in weight. Even the lightest hybrid systems will add as much as 200kg to the weight of the car, and while that doesn’t seem like a lot in the grander scheme of things, it’s a lot for a Lamborghini.
“I always say that I’d prefer to have 10kg less weight rather than 1hp more, even if the power-to-weight ratio remains the same. But I imagine the starting point of the [new] car will be heavier, no doubt. What will be the end game? We don’t know. Improvements will happen.” – Maurizio Reggiani, Chief Technical Officer, Lamborghini
There are unique challenges with integrating electric drive though. Electric drives lose efficiency & effectivity the faster you go, and ‘blending’ the electric motor & ICE (the way Honda’s done with the NSX) would increase complexity & weight. As such, they’ll probably put an electric motor in the nose for the front wheels, with a transmission linking that to the big petrol mill in the rear.
“My personal idea is that [splitting the electric motor & combustion engine] is the best concept, to give the best control and management of the chassis. It would be easy to have full torque vectoring at the front, to compensate the increase in weight with more agility. [And] yes, you could have a gearbox in the front. Much more manageable to have an electric motor in the front because you don’t need any kind of propeller shaft. I think it can be the best solution.” — Maurizio Reggiani, Chief Technical Officer, Lamborghini
So there you have it, rock-solid indication that the naturally-aspirated puritan V12 is not long for this world. At the very least, we’re happy to see that the soul of the V12 will not be tarnished as electric augmentation is applied. It’s clear to us that this is a careful consideration from Lamborghini as not to dilute its brand any further (as the Urus was a necessary evil). In the meantime, let’s go back to the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ and all of its gloriousness.