At the 2013 Geneva Auto Show, Ferrari unveiled its million-dollar LaFerrari hybrid gasoline-electric hypercar and McLaren unveiled its million-dollar P1 hybrid gasoline-electric hypercar. But Lamborghini showed up to the party with a crazy up-powered, bewinged, and bestraked limited edition $3 million version of their Aventador, powered by a brutal V-12. When we chatted with the impeccably dressed Lambo CEO Stephan Winkelmann that afternoon, he told us that Lamborghini was not interested in hybrids. Cynical, he said that they were just about moving emissions from one place—the tail pipe—to another: the smokestack of an electric power plant.
But this week at the 2014 Paris Auto Show, Lamborghini unveiled a gasoline-electric plug-in hypercar of their own: the Asterion LP 910-4. When we sat down with Mr. Winkelmann after the reveal we reminded him of his prior disinterest. “We’re still not interested,” he laughed, going on to describe the vehicle as “a technological demonstrator” meant to address legislative pressure to reduce carbon emissions as filtered through the emotional and passionate pillars of the Lamborghini brand.
Undergirded by a stretched version of the Aventador platform and powered by a 610 hp V-10 borrowed from the Huracán—as well as a trio of electric motors that produce an additional 300 horsepower—the Asterion takes its name from the proper moniker for the mythic human-animal hybrid that you might know as the Minotaur. And like that raging bull—and the rest of Lamborghini’s Taurean vehicles—the car will charge if provoked: 60 mph will arrive in under 3 seconds; top speed will be nearly 200 mph. But Winkelmann says he would not go head-to-head with the P1 or the LaFerrari with this car in its current form, due to the added 330-pound weight of the battery pack. “It’s not meant to go on the racetrack. The acceleration is good, and the top speed, but in handling it would be out-beaten by the others. It’s more a hyper-cruiser."
The styling reflects this, with a softer, sensual, and slightly more recumbent outline that, as Winkelmann says, draws from the complex heritage of the brand, particularly from front-engined grand tourers like the Espada and the original Lamborghini road car, the 350 GT. Adding a new strain to this mixed DNA, though it has permanent all-wheel-drive, we pointed out that the Asterion is capable of being driven, in pure electric mode, solely by the electric motors attached to the fore axles, making it the first-ever front-wheel-drive Lamborghini (except if you were to drive one of their post-WWII tractors in reverse).
As drawn as we are to this idea of a stately and immensely powerful hybrid capable of going 30 miles on battery power alone and cruising the Autostrade at top speeds, Winkelmann doesn’t see it happening. “I strongly believe that this is not a car that will be in production, and we will not do it,” he said. Though he did suggest that elements of the hybrid technology could find its way into Lamborghini’s potential third model, an SUV, where, as he said, it would be “easier in terms of packaging. The extra weight, percentage-wise, in a vehicle like that is less relevant than on a light car like the super sports cars.”
However, he doesn’t rule out the idea that some lucky (and very wealthy) customer might be able to convince the brand to produce a one-off version—albeit with a caveat. “If someone wants one, then we can do maybe one. But not with a hybrid solution, just with a normal engine. That would be the V-12 from the Aventador."
Winkelmann brightens at this idea of using the Asterion's gorgeous design to build something more like a traditional GT. “We’re a bit pissed, I have to say, because everyone is asking me [about the design], and I love it too. I would do it immediately. Without this system.”
Photos by Automobili Lamborghini