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2020 Lamborghini Huracan Evo first drive: Technically technological

Agile. Neutral. Drifty. Not what I expected to write when describing the Lamborghini Huracan Evo, a midengine, all-wheel-drive supercar. In our world, words like that usually describe Mazda MX-5s, Lotus Elans or E30 BMW M3s. But I didn’t expect to dial in opposite lock exiting every tight corner of the Bahrain International Circuit either — that’s the 3.4-mile-long Formula 1 track in the Gulf, by the way, a place that features four straights, two of them quite considerable. And the one where Lamborghini parked a few Evos and left the keys inside, allowing me to learn, after catching two power slides by the time I exited turn 5, that this car comes with a new vehicle dynamics rulebook. Technology, what a thing.

Lamborghini stuffed the Evo full of it. The V10 supercar not only makes use of magneto rheological shocks (a special kind of adjustable shock absorber using electromagnets and special oil with tiny metal flakes to affect fluid viscosity), it has brake-based torque vectoring to all four wheels, a mechanically locking rear differential and rear-axle steering, which works like Porsche in that it can turn both with and opposite the front-steering system. The slick bit, however, is what ties them together: Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata, or LDVI. That translates to Lamborghini Dynamic Vehicle Integrated, a computer that acts like the conductor to the symphony of systems on the Evo. Not just the stuff mentioned above, but also the stability control and all the ancillary systems around it to give one cohesive reaction to whatever situation the Evo finds itself in.

LDVI works by closely monitoring driver inputs (steering, throttle, brake, gear), the speed at which they’re applied (did you calmly press the brake to precisely kiss an apex, or did you slam it to not hit your neighbor’s cat?), as well as data from a set of three gyroscopes and three accelerometers, which Lamborghini installed at the Evo’s center of gravity and named Lamborghini Piattaforma Inerziale, or LPI, which translates to Lamborghini Platform Inertial. LDVI takes in that information and, 20 milliseconds later, sends out commands to the aforementioned systems to ensure the Evo handles as Lamborghini engineers wish.

But, in the end, chief technical officer Maurizio Reggiani puts it best: “Software is still a slave of the hardware.” Ones and zeros can maximize the inherent abilities of a machine, but they cannot create performance from nothing. And while a passing glance at either the car or the specification sheet would make you think Lamborghini kept the hardware changes between the Huracan and the Evo minimal, they collectively alter the entire character of the car.

Lamborghini did retain the existing chassis for the Evo — not a bad thing as it is built from aluminum — except for the tunnel, rear firewall and some of the floor below the seat, which is carbon fiber. The body is new for the Evo, but also aluminum, other than the rear bonnet and spoiler and the front bumper, which are made from various composites. Lamborghini changed the front, adding an integrated splitter to the design. Almost invisible to the naked eye, the splitter is black against the body-colored signature y-shape, which forms paths to different areas where cool air is needed.

Lamborghini has updated the fantastic Huracan and added Evo to its name to prove it. Visually, the changes are evolutionary and, to many, subtle: Designers reshaped the front bumper and incorporated

In back, Lamborghini went for a “naked” look, which means a lot of hexagonal mesh instead of body panels, exposing the engine compartment and high-mounted twin tail pipes, which look like two Yeti coffee thermoses hanging out between a spoiler with a slot in it to look like a rear wing and a serious-looking, but mostly for show, rear diffuser. I say mostly because, unlike the Huracan before it, the Evo makes real downforce, 132 pounds of it at 174 mph, more of that pushing on the rear than the front. That’s not enough to go flat through Eau Rouge at Spa (racing nerd reference) but a hell of a lot more than zero, which is pretty darn cool.

Inside, the Evo is wrapped in plenty of synthetic suede and leather and features customizable ambient lighting. An obvious difference over the Huracan is the 8.4-inch touchscreen, located just above the fighter jet missile launch button-inspired engine stop/start button. On that screen you’ll find the usual array of features like Google Maps and Apple CarPlay (Android Auto isn’t included but is coming; Lamborghini will retrofit the Evo once it’s available).

This new system includes something called Gesture Motion Control, which means you can turn the volume up and down with two fingers on the screen and mute by pressing the screen with three fingers. Optional on the Evo is a telemetry system, which includes two cameras (one pointed at the road, the other at the driver) and data from the car, which is saved on an internal drive, so you can analyze lap times, for example. That’s clever. But my favorite bit is that a head-up display is not offered on the Evo because — get this — set at just a 27 degree angle, the windshield rake is too extreme for it to work. That’s like being too buff to put on a dress shirt or too attractive to be inconspicuous.

Despite its big presence, the Huracan Evo is not that big, or, mercifully, that heavy. At only 178 inches long, its length falls between a VW GTI (168 inches) and a Jetta (185 inches). The Evo is just 45.9 inches tall and one and two thirds as wide, at 76.1 inches, an impressive and attractive height to width ratio. Curb weight? 3378 pounds according to Lamborghini, with 43 percent resting on the front and 57 percent hanging over the rear.

Holding the chassis and body off the ground is an all-aluminum double control-arm suspension on both the front and rear axles with steel springs and those fancy BWI supplied magneto rheological shocks mentioned above. Vented and cross-drilled carbon ceramic brakes come standard as well — 6-piston calipers with 15.0-inch discs in front. 4-piston calipers with 14.0-inch discs in back. All of this makes the Pirelli P Zero (or optional P Zero Corsa) tires, 245/30 R20 in front riding 20 x 8.5-inch wheels and 305/30 R20 in back riding on 20 x 11.0-inch wheels seem rather pedestrian by comparison.

Powering all this is a 90-degree angled V10 running both port and direct fuel injection, with just a hair more than 5.2 liters of displacement, 5,204cc to be precise, and a 12.7:1 compression ratio (high for an old-school Otto-cycle engine). Both the intake and exhaust valves have adjustable timing, but the intake valves are now made from titanium; exhaust are standard steel. Switching to titanium allows the intake valves to open faster, which, in turn, allows the cylinder to suck in more air during the intake stroke of the combustion cycle. With the added air, add more fuel and the result is more power, which is more good. It’s the same tactic Lamborghini used on the Aventador SVJ to eke out more power from the 6.5-liter V12.

Topping if off with a new lightweight exhaust system for good measure, Lamborghini managed to bump engine output up to 631 hp at a nice and screamy 8,000 rpm. Torque is on the low side compared to most modern turbocharged engines, at 443 lb-ft at 6,5000 rpm.

That makes for a weight-to-power ratio of 5.4:1. And with the use of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and all-wheel drive with a mechanically locking rear differential, 62 mph is just 2.9 seconds away from rest; 124 mph goes by in nine seconds; and the top speed is, according to Lamborghini, more than 202 mph. Lamborghini also claims that the Huracan can stop from 62 mph in less than 105 feet.

The Evo is fast in a straight line, clearly, but the Huracan before was too. The similarity between the two cars ends there, at least theoretically. Lamborghini claims all the new tech makes the Evo ride better down the road and feel more luxurious — when the anima (which is what Lamborghini calls its drive mode selector and literally translates to soul) is in strada, or street, the LDVI instructs all the systems to keep calm. But Lamborghini only offered me drive time on the track, so I can’t confirm or dispute that.

Have you ever had a slice of Italian humble pie? Mine came after clocking 132 mph at the apex of turn 1 at the Vallelunga Circuit, 20 miles outside of Rome. Exiting out of the right-hand sweeper onto ..

On the track, I start in sport mode and the LDVI switches its focus from serene stability to draconian driftability. More torque heads to the rear axle, rear-wheel steering stays out of the way (as does stability control) and before you know it, you’re one stab of the gas away from mimicking Ken Block filming “Gymkhana 10.” Of course, all the electronics step in before you loop the thing. Executing a drift becomes easy, almost automatic.

But for me, the car comes alive in corsa, or race, mode. The first difference? Automatic shifting is no longer an option. It’s up to you to upshift with the right paddle and downshift with the left. No problem — for upshifts I just listened to engine pitch and was within 500 rpm of redline every time I checked, and manual downshifts are much better than automatic because despite all the electronics and sensors, the driver still knows more than the car.

It’s good, then, that here Lamborghini programed the LDVI to largely stay out of the way, leaving the driver free to chase a lap time. Chassis balance shifts closer to neutral, but the majority of the torque still goes to the rear, so power oversteer remains a regular occurrence. And, yes, if you want to go full hooligan, you can turn stability control off and LDVI still vectors torque and plays with the shocks and steering, but never intervenes with stability control.

One word of caution: Despite the brakes being carbon ceramic, when braking hard, I experienced brake fade. Nothing catastrophic, but deceleration did suffer, as did my nerves. Feel was spot-on, pedal modulation was progressive and easy to trail off. And I bet you would never feel it on more pedestrian tracks, but push hard enough and it’s there.

Regardless of driving mode, the Evo is playful — fast steering, responsive to all drive input and immensely quick (on Bahrain’s main straight, I reached 168 mph!). Whereas the Huracan could be coerced into sliding the rear, the Evo welcomes it, almost eager to make some smoke. It’s not despite the myriad “safety features” added to the car, but because of them.

More and more, the Sant’Agata Bolognese-based company seems focused on using technology for good instead of evil. By that, I mean Lamborghini continuously uses one word when describing its cars: emotion. And, clearly, the company is also walking the walk because, whether or not you like it, you feel something driving the Huracan Evo. All the tech doesn’t mitigate those sensations — it enhances them. And feel while driving is what we car nerds seek.

Some may want cutthroat performance, others may want pomp and circumstance, but Reggiani has it right when he says, “Emotion is for the majority.” Treat your ears to the wonderful sound of a screaming, naturally aspirated V10 and the linear buildup of power and acceleration that comes with it, and you’ll know exactly what that means.