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Lamborghini Asterion Concept First Look

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/1/2014 Scott Evans
© Automobili Lamborghini

Lamborghini is used to attention. Even near the headquarters locals will drop what they're doing to check out the latest fighter-jet-inspired supercar. The Asterion concept, though, will be grabbing more attention than any recent Lamborghini, and debuts at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

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Some will gawk at the new shape, which has far more in common with the brand's GT cars of the 1970s than anything it's done since. The upright windshield, low hood, and long, sloping deck offer hints of the Jarama, Espada, Urraco, and even Miura.

Many, though, will be far more interested in what's under that hexagonal rear glass. As you might've guessed, there's a 602-hp 5.2-liter V-10 producing 413 lb-ft of torque under there, but that's just the beginning. Between the V-10 and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is an electric motor that serves as power booster, starter, and generator. Ahead of the engine is not a driveshaft for the front axle, as in a traditional Lamborghini, but a lithium-ion battery pack. That doesn't mean the front wheels are unpowered, however. Up front are two electric motors, each driving a wheel. Together, Lamborghini says the electric bits produce 295 hp. Altogether, the Italians say the Asterion produces 897 hp and will hit 62 mph from a stop in 3.0 seconds flat (which is probably conservative) on its way to a 199 mph top speed.

It's more than just a nuclear-grade powerplant, though. Like the very similarly designed Porsche 918 Spyder, the Asterion uses powerful computers to vector torque at all four wheels through both the front electric motors and rear hybrid powertrain. On top of that, it can drive up to 31 miles on pure electric power and cruise at up to 78 mph without using the gasoline engine. In Zero mode (EV), only the front electric motors drive the car. Switch to I (for Ibrido, hybrid in Italian) and the V-10 roars to life and teams up with the electric motors for maximum performance. If you prefer to save the battery, though, you can jump up to Termico (Thermal in Italian) mode and run on straight, naturally aspirated, ten-cylinder power.

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The hexagonal glass panels above the engine are closed in electric-only mode. Otherwise, they open to vent heat from the V-10.

Of course, those electric motors and batteries add weight to the tune of 551 lbs. That's offset, in part, by the use of a full carbon-fiber monocoque for the passenger cell, to which front and rear sub-frames attach. This appears to foreshadow the next evolution of the Huracan, on which the Asterion is presumably based. Currently, the Huracan's passenger cell is about half carbon-fiber, half aluminum. Its big brother, the Aventador, uses a full carbon-fiber cell, but it also retails for significantly more money. Lamborghini's forged carbon-fiber technology is present throughout the car, notably in the engine window frame, helping to further reduce weight.

Though it has the makings of an incredible hybrid supercar, that's not quite how Lamborghini is positioning the Asterion. The company notes that the upright windshield has raised the roof and allowed the seats to be installed higher than in its other models, the point being to make the car more comfortable for everyday driving and long trips. It even has boring, everyday doors rather than Lamborghini's signature scissor doors, though they do open slightly upward like on Aston Martins. Inside, many of the controls have been divorced from the dashboard and incorporated into a portable tablet, including the audio system, navigation, and even the climate controls. A small luggage area behind the seats returns some of the stowage capacity lost under the front hood, where the traditional front trunk has been downsized to make room for the electric motors. Rather than an all-out supercar, Lamborghini says the Asterion is a "hyper cruiser."

As if a plug-in hybrid that doesn't look like a doorstop wasn't enough of a deviation from modern Lamborghini dogma, the Asterion doesn't take its name from a fighting bull, either. Rather, Asterion is the proper name of the half-man, half-bull beast known colloquially as the Minotaur in ancient Greek mythology. Lamborghini says the name was chosen in keeping with its tradition of naming its cars after bulls, but with an added twist symbolic of the plug-in hybrid powertrain. As the company puts it, "the strength of a bull delivered by the naturally aspirated engine is combined with the human rationale delivered by the hybrid technology." Unfortunately, Lamborghini seems to be confusing the Minotaur, which had the body of a man and the head of a bull, with the Centaur, which had the body of a horse and torso and head of a man.

Lamborghini sources tell us the Asterion isn't for sale, though we suspect if it's well-received, it will be. Lamborghini says the technology is available today and would put a serious dent in the company's fuel economy and emissions problems, which aren't going away as governments worldwide tighten their regulations. Given the availability of the technology in the vast Volkswagen Auto Group parts bin, Lamborghini would likely be able to put the car into production relatively quickly. If that happens, we expect a price tag well above the Huracan's almost $240,000 starting point, and it could even eclipse the Aventador's nearly $400,000 launching pad. The mechanically similar Porsche 918 Spyder, in case you're wondering, starts at nearly $850,000.

© Automobili Lamborghini

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