Sometimes, putting a driving experience into words is not as easy as you think. A few excitable adjectives can’t capture what one has just been through. Such is the case when the car that you are controlling is a Lamborghini Huracan STO, a fire-breathing Italian Bull that chews up the tarmac. The STO stands for ‘Super Trofeo Omologato’ — a racing version of the Huracan supercar homologated for road use.
But it is like no other Huracan before, and little touches on it give that fact away — be it the ‘shark fin’ over the engine cover that streamlines the airflow; little vents and louvres all over the car that make it stick to the ground; or the supersize tyres: while it appears that a thin veneer of rubber has been painted onto the lightweight wheels, the tyres are wider than a couple of hatchback tyres put together. And then, the carbon brakes that can bring this car to standstill from speeds above 200 kmph in the space of a few metres.
So how is it to drive? Well, what do you expect me to say here? The answer is absolutely terrifying. The fourth turn on the Buddh International Circuit is an acute right hand turn, which comes after the back straight, where the car has achieved peak speed: here, I had hit almost 290 kmph. That is not a typo. Usually, while driving most other cars, not only are you not going that fast, you’d start braking a lot earlier. On the STO, you try to brake as late as you dare.
Unlike some of my friends who are defence reporters, I’ve not taken a ride on a fighter jet, but in the space of a hundred metres, the Huracan STO gives you a little idea of what sudden G-forces might be like.
First, the braking. When all your internal organs squish against your abdominal muscles, and yet you are able to take a sharp right turn at triple digit speeds — something, that by rights, or physics, should not be possible. But with the massive tyres sticking to the surface with a vice-like grip, while you bleed off just a little bit of speed, such things become doable. Now, I realise my limitations as a driver, and I know I can’t push the STO all the way. But I’ve never felt this way with any other car.
All this was over six months ago. And I’m bringing up this experience now because of a recent meeting with Sharad Agarwal, Head of Lamborghini India.
Lamborghini, the luxury
In Delhi to launch the latest variant of the Huracan supercar, the Huracan Tecnica, the second-to-last pure petrol iteration of this sleek machine, Agarwal was a happy man. In 2021, Lamborghini sold 69 cars in India. To put that into perspective, the Tecnica that was launched this past week has a list price of Rs 4.04 crore. Once you add in the insurance and registration, it will cost nearly 4.5 crore. That is the price of a three bedroom apartment in a decent locality of Delhi-NCR.
And this price is well before one considers that every Lamborghini buyer can customise his or her car. A custom paint job, for example, in case the bright orange or yellow doesn’t get you enough eyeballs, will set one back by another few lakhs. Monogrammed seat-covers, special seat-belts or even vegan leather seat covers and what not. The average Lamborghini, which is the Urus, where the ‘sports’ part of ‘sports utility vehicle’ comes to the fore, would set one back upwards of Rs 3 crore. That is not chump change. You do get a 1:18 exact replica scale model of the car you’re buying though, complete with the monogrammed seat covers if you’ve opted for those.
India is the only major market in the world where Lamborghini outsells their Italian supercar rival Ferrari and Agarwal is particularly proud of the community he has managed to build. Last year, over 50 Lamborghini’s sped down from Delhi to Wildflower Hall in Mashobra, speed tickets be damned, in a road trip organised by the company. “Nobody buys a car like this to keep in the garage, these have to be used,” says Agarwal.
But the question is: why have sales of such supremely expensive supercars more than doubled in India in the past couple of years? Pre-pandemic, Lamborghini sold around 40 cars a year in India, and other rivals barely had a presence in the country. A couple of days before Lamborghini launched the Huracan Tecnica, it was announced that McLaren, the supercar manufacturer born from the Formula 1 team of the same name, had appointed their first official dealership in India. Even the likes of Mercedes-Benz India have seen sales for their ‘AMG’ brand of performance-tuned cars double in the past year with some of the latest models of the AMG GT-R, which cost close to Rs 5 crore, being picked up by buyers in India. Did the pandemic change the top-end of the Indian car market? Or is there something about the Indian economy that we are all missing?
“I feel it is a bit of ‘You Only Live Once’ or YOLO syndrome after the pandemic. I think the pandemic taught people of the fragility of life, and buyers in India did not want to wait anymore to buy their dream cars,” Agarwal said. Well, that is true about the entire automotive market in India where people are having to wait over a year for their cars. But it is particularly true in this rarified atmosphere of supercars where the manufacturers just can’t seem to cope with rising Indian demand.
Sure, the demand for these cars in India, a country where urban roads are a potholed nightmare and where cows nonchalantly laze in the middle of high-speed expressways, is a head scratcher. A meme doing the rounds on social media recently showed a Lamborghini Huracan stuck behind a buffalo in what appeared to be Delhi.
But, it is impossible to not appreciate the engineering and the design behind these machines, and as we move inexorably towards electric cars, even electric supercars. It will be sad to see the IC engines go.
@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)