Lamborghini Huracan VS McLaren 540C
- Soaring V10
- Seven-speed gearbox
- Even more fun than all-wheel-drive Huracan
- Lack of second screen makes dash a bit crowded
- Not much storage
- Can't see the engine
- Brilliant dynamics
- Impressive performance
- (Relatively) approachable price
- Tricky entry/egress
- Drinks a bit when pushed (don't we all)
- Practicality not a strong suit
Lamborghini's Huracan is the howling and fiery follow-up to Sant' Agata's best-selling model ever, the vicious, V10-powered Gallardo.
The first clean-sheet design since Audi's takeover of Lambo in the late 1990s, the new car has picked up where the Gallardo left off, selling like crazy. Since its launch a couple of years back, the new variants have come thick and fast, with the rear-wheel-drive 580-2 joining the LP610-4 as well as Spyder variants of both. Last month Lambo dropped the madcap and much waffled over Performante (or "totally bonkers" version).
Lamborghini's local arm made a canny decision to ensure we could kill two birds with one stone, letting us loose in a Huracan Spyder 580-2. Less power, less roof, fewer driven wheels, more weight. Does it mean less fun, though?
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Believe it or not, the McLaren 540C is an entry-level model. But you won't find anything remotely resembling rubber floor mats, steel wheels, or cloth seats here. This is a 'base' car like few others.
Revealed in 2015, it's actually the cornerstone of McLaren's three-tier supercar pyramid, being the most affordable member of the Sport Series, with the properly exotic Super Series (650S, 675LT and now 720S), and pretty much insane Ultimate Series (where the P1 hypercar briefly lived) rising above it.
Only a few years ago, McLaren meant nothing to anyone outside the octane-infused world of motorsport. But in 2017, it's right up there with aspirational sports car big guns like Ferrari and Porsche, both of which have been producing road cars for close to 70 years.
So, how has this British upstart managed to build a world-beating supercar brand so quickly?
Everything you need to know to answer that question resides inside the stunning McLaren 540C.
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The rear-wheel-drive Spyder couldn't be more fun if it put on a silly wig or sprouted a jet engine and wings.
Yes, it's heavier and slower than the Coupe but the Huracan loses almost none of its feel with the roof whipped off, plus you get all the fun and fresh air of a Spyder. The extra weight doesn't mean much on the road and the added bonus of the rear-wheel drive's more responsive steering and even sharper turn-in evens things out.
The V10 is the last of its type, with Ferrari and McLaren both employing forced induction V8s for their smaller sports cars - in McLaren's case, all of them. The Huracan Spyder is everything that's good about Lamborghini - nutty looks, crackpot engine, head-turning theatrics - with all of the bad stuff booted out by parent company Audi. The 580-2 loses none of the fun of the circus and with the roof off it's even louder music to your ears.
Are you roofless in intent or do your sports cars need a lid?
The 540C is desirable on so many levels. Its dynamic ability, blistering performance, and stunning design make the cost of entry a value-for-money ticket. And the refreshing thing is, choosing a McLaren, with its focus on function and pure engineering, sidesteps the wankery that so often goes with ownership of an 'established' exotic brand. We absolutely love it.
Do you think McLaren is a genuine competitor for the usual supercar suspects? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The roof is a fabric job and folds away in a tidy 15 seconds, more than quick enough to save you from a drenching in all but the most sudden of rain showers. It looks pretty good when up, doing a decent impression of the coupe's roofline, but roof down with the cool speedster-style humps, the Huracan looks epic.
It's not a shy and retiring car (no Lambo is), not by a long shot and if you enjoy the attention of the local constabulary, the bright yellow (Giallo Tenerife) is the colour for you. One particularly nice touch is the Huracan Spyder script engraved on the windscreen header rail.
Frustratingly, there's only a small cover to gain access to the oil filler - unlike the coupe you can't see the engine through the cover. The rear section of the Spyder is quite different, with a huge composite clamshell that lifts out of the way to allow the roof to stow itself. It's a necessary compromise but a shame as well.
The cabin is standard Huracan, with switchgear handed down from Audi and that brilliant red starter button cover that looks like it should have 'Bombs Away' written on it. There are a lot of fighter-jet influences, and it's a more convincing space than the more expensive Aventador.
In 2010 the recent rise (and rise) of McLaren Automotive really began, when its design director, the hugely respected Frank Stephenson, started to send things in a compelling direction.
He says McLarens are 'designed by air' and that intricately sculpted, wind-tunnel-driven approach to supercar beauty is clear in the 540C's shape.
A serious front spoiler and a mix of large intakes low in the nose create a delicate balance between downforce and corridors for cooling air.
Broad strakes down the side, standing proud of the main bodywork, are reminiscent of a formula one car's turbulence reducing barge boards, and giant intake ducts channel air through to the radiators in the cleanest, most efficient way possible.
And the look is suitably spectacular. You could hang the dramatically carved doors in a contemporary art museum.
There's a delicate lip spoiler on the trailing edge of the main deck, and a giant multi-channel diffuser proves air flow under the car is just as carefully managed as that going over it.
But the 540C doesn't lack traditional supercar drama. The dihedral design doors swinging up to their fully open position is a camera phone attracting, jaw dropping, traffic-stopper.
The interior is simple, striking and single-mindedly driver-focused. The chunky wheel is completely unadorned, the digital instruments are crystal clear, and the seats are the perfect combination of support and comfort.
The vertical 7.0-inch 'IRIS' touchscreen is cool to the point of minimalism, managing everything from audio and nav, to media streaming and air-con, with low-key efficiency.
Yes, well, the usual mumbling explanation about how you have to take into account what this car is for and that there isn't the room for everyday luxuries will have to suffice. You do get a cupholder that pops out of the passenger-side dash garnish and the front boot will hold 70 litres. There's not a lot else you can squeeze in, although you can probably slip slim items behind the front seat backs. You'll be golfing on your own.
It's a more comfortable interior than the Aventador, with more head and shoulder room and a better overall position for driver and passenger.
There are some cursory concessions to practicality… like a glovebox, a single cupholder under the dash at the leading edge of the centre console, a small bin between the seats, housing multiple USB outlets, and other storage options here and there.
The latter includes a shelf at the top of the bulkhead behind the seats, marked with a specific label saying (words to the effect of) 'don't put stuff here', but that's more about objects flying forward in a high-G deceleration, which in this car is more likely to be the result of hitting the brakes, rather than a crash.
But the 'big' surprise is the 144-litre boot in the nose, complete with light and 12 volt power outlet. It easily swallowed the CarsGuide medium sized, 68-litre hard shell suitcase.
In terms of getting in and out, make sure you've done you warm-ups because frankly it's an athletic challenge to maintain composure and get the job done either way. Despite best efforts, I hit my head a couple of times, and aside from the pain it's worth pointing out that being a follicularly-challenged person I'm forced to display abrasions in full public view.
Price and features
As always, value for money isn't one of your top priorities if you're looking for a high-end sports car dripping with standard features. The stereo has just four speakers but really, who's going to be listening to Kyle when you ears can reap the Huracan?
You also score dual-zone climate control, remote central locking (the flush fitted handles pop out endearingly as you draw closer), LED headlights, running lights and taillights, (very cool) digital dashboard, electric seats, sat nav, leather trim and a hydraulic lifter to help keep the front splitter pristine over kerbs.
Naturally the option list is long. Our car was specced by a restrained hand, with 20-inch black Giamo alloys ($9110), front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera ($5700 - ahem), black painted brake calipers ($1800) and $2400 worth of Lamborghini logos and stitching. Very nice stitching, obviously.
You can go completely mad if you want to, spending up to $20,000 on matte paint colours, $10,000 on bucket seats, carbon fibre bits can mount up and then of course you can commission stuff to suit your personal taste for even more cash. If you're prepared to drop well north of $400,000 on a car, what's a few more thousand, I guess.
As far as value goes, the Spyder is about right for its segment, coming in around the same price as an admittedly less focused Ferrari California and a bit more than the less-powerful R8 Spyder range.
Standard kit runs to climate control air con, an alarm system, cruise control, remote central locking, LED headlights, tail-lights and DRLs, keyless entry and drive, a limited-slip differential, leather steering wheel, power folding mirrors, four-speaker audio, and a multi-function trip computer.
'Our' car featured close to $30,000 worth of options; headline items being the 'Elite - McLaren Orange' paint finish ($3620), a 'Sport Exhaust' system ($8500), and the 'Security Pack' ($10,520) which includes front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, alarm upgrade and a vehicle lifter that raises the front of the car an extra 40mm at the push of a column stalk. Very handy.
And the signature orange shade follows through with orange brake calipers peeking out through the standard 'Club Cast' alloy rims, and similarly coloured seatbelts inside.
Engine & trans
As the name suggests, the 580-2 is 30 metric horsepower down on the 610-4. In our language, that means Automobili Lamborghini's 5.2-litre naturally-aspirated V10 (yes, like many parts, shared with the Audi R8) developing 426kW/540Nm. Those figures are down 23kW and 20Nm on the AWD car.
The official 0-100km/h figure is 3.6 seconds, although it's unlikely it's that slow(!), Lambo's figures are regularly bettered by other publications with little effort.
Aside from you and a passenger, the most important thing sitting between the 540C's axles is the 3.8-litre (M838TE) twin-turbo V8.
Developed in collaboration with British high-tech engineering specialist, Ricardo, McLaren's used it in various states of tune across different models, including the P1, and even in this 'entry-level' spec it produces enough power to light up a small town.
In 540C trim, the all-alloy unit delivers 397kW (540 metric horsepower, hence the model designation) at 7500rpm, and 540Nm from 3500-6500rpm. It uses race-derived dry sump lubrication, and a compact flat plane crank design, favoured by Ferrari and others in high-performance engines.
While vibration damping can be an issue with this configuration, it allows a much higher rev ceiling relative to the more common cross plane arrangement, and this engine screams up to 8500rpm, a stratospheric number for a road-going turbo.
The seven-speed 'Seamless-Shift' dual-clutch transmission sends drive exclusively to the rear wheels and comes from Italian gearbox gurus Oerlikon Graziano. It's been progressively refined and upgraded since its first appearance in the MP4-12C in 2011.
The amazing thing about this car is that despite being handed a regular thrashing, its fuel consumption is little worse than a large Toyota SUV's. When cruising along it will sip fuel, with cylinder deactivation helping further ease its thirst. The claimed combined cycle figure is a reasonable (and almost achievable) 11.9L/100km. I got a calculated 15.2L/100km and did not spare the rod, Nosirreebob. And nothing like the terrifying, guzzling consumption of the Aventador's V12.
McLaren claims 10.7L/100km for the combined (urban/extra urban) fuel economy cycle, emitting 249g/km of CO2 at the same time.
For the record, that's six per cent better than the Ferrari 488 GTB (11.4L/100km – 260g/km), and if you take it easy on a constant freeway cruise, you can lower it even further.
But most of the time, we, ahem, didn't do better than that, averaging 14.5L/100km via the trip computer in just over 300km of city, suburban and freeway running.
The Huracan's V10 is a glorious thing. It revs to the redline like a demon and does it all day every day. It feels utterly unburstable and delivers its power with such joy and abandon it gets under your skin.
With the roof off and Sport mode engaged on the Anime switch, the mix of induction and exhaust noise is utterly addictive. It's a theatrical machine, popping and banging and the metallic scream under power all combine to blow away the cobwebs in double quick time. Its sound is symphonic and pulling the gearshift instantly changes the note. It's breathtaking.
A big part of this particular car's charm is the switch to rear-wheel drive. The engineers didn't just forget to bolt in the propshafts and front-wheel-drive gear, but the steering had a going-over to compensate for the changes and to improve feel and responsiveness. It worked.
Where the all-wheel drive is prone to mild understeer, the front end of the dash-two is a little more planted. The Spyder might be heavier than the Coupe, but the rear-wheel-drive car feels that tiny bit more agile, with a lightning change of direction and a livelier rear-end. It's more delicate than -4 and doesn't feel appreciably slower.
One side note about the -4's understeer: it simply isn't a big deal. The internet will tell you it "understeers like a pig". The internet is completely wrong, but you already knew that; the internet loves cat videos. Nobody accuses the Ferrari California of the same vice, and yet it, too, understeers mildly in standard spec (as opposed to HS) - it's deliberate, safer and user-friendly. It is not, however, a pig.
Anyway. On with the show.
In an effort to lower the cost of the 580-2, it also comes with steel brakes - the expensive carbon ceramics are an option. On the road, you're not really going to notice too much difference apart from slightly different pedal feel. It probably renders the Huracan a less effective track car, but the reality is, not that many owners are going to care, particularly Spyder buyers.
I spent most of my time in Sport mode - it's where the most fun is to be found, with the electronics taking a more relaxed approach to the car's attitude. The drive-by-wire throttle is lovely and sharp, the steering a bit weightier and the seven-speed twin-clutch (or, as I prefer to say at every opportunity, doppio frizione). Corsa is certainly fast but it's far more interested in getting the car straight and slinging it out of the exit of a corner. Don't bother with Strada mode - it's far too soft, and deeply unappealing.
The best word to describe driving this McLaren is orchestration. The 540C's dynamic elements flow seamlessly together to transform its operator into a conductor guiding a well-honed mechanical orchestra through an energetic concerto.
And slipping (carefully) over the carpeted bulkhead into the driver's seat is like dropping into an ergonomic masterclass. It feels like you're putting the car on, rather than getting into it.
Like all other current McLarens, the 540C is constructed around a one-piece, carbon-fibre tub, which it calls MonoCell II. It's super stiff, and just as importantly, light.
McLaren quotes a dry weight (no fuel, lubricants, or coolant) for the 540C of 1311kg, with the kerb weight a stated 1525kg (including a 75kg passenger). Not featherweight, but with this kind of power sitting a few centimetres behind your head, it's not a lot.
A sophisticated launch control system means zero to licence loss is achieved in a flash (0-100km/h – 3.5sec), with jail time lurking if you ever decide to explore the 540C's 320km/h maximum velocity. And in case you're wondering, it'll blast from 0-200km/h, in just 10.5sec.
The engine sounds brilliantly guttural, with lots of exhaust roar managing to find a way past the turbos. Maximum torque is available across a flat plateau from 3500-6500rpm, and mid-range punch is strong. However, the 540C is anything but a one-trick pony, or is that 540 ponies?
The double wishbone suspension, complete with the adaptive 'Active Dynamics Control' system lets you channel all that forward thrust into huge cornering speed.
The switch from Normal, through Sport to Track progressively buttons everything down harder, and an ideal weight distribution (42f/58r) delivers fantastic agility.
Feel from the electro-hydraulic steering is amazing, the fat Pirelli P Zero rubber (225/35 x 19 front / 285/35 x 20 rear), developed specifically for this car, grips like a Mr T handshake, and the standard 'Brake Steer' torque vectoring system, which applies braking force to optimise drive and minimise understeer, is undetectable in the best possible way.
The steering wheel paddles come in the form of a genuine rocker, so you're able to change up and down ratios on either side of the wheel, or one-handed.
Hammer towards a quick corner and the reassuringly progressive steel rotor brakes bleed off speed with complete authority. Flick down a couple of gears, then turn in and the front end sweeps towards the apex without a hint of drama. Squeeze in the power and the fat rear rubber keeps the car planted, and perfectly neutral mid-corner. Then pin the throttle and the 540C rockets towards the next bend… which can't come quickly enough. Repeat, and enjoy.
But slotting everything into 'Normal' mode transforms this dramatic wedge into a compliant daily driver. Smooth throttle response, surprisingly good vision and excellent ride comfort make the McLaren a pleasure to steer around town.
You'll love catching a glimpse of the heat haze shimmering up off the engine in the rear-view mirror at the lights, and the (optional) nose-lift system makes traversing awkward driveways and speed bumps manageable.
The Huracan has four airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and brake force distribution. A super strong carbon fibre and aluminium spaceframe does the heavy lifting in a crash.
In terms of active safety, the car's dynamic ability is one giant safeguard against a collision, and that's backed up by tech features including ABS and brake assist (no AEB, though), as well as stability and traction controls.
But if a crunching-type incident is unavoidable, the carbon-composite chassis offers exceptional crash protection with dual front airbags in support (no side or curtain airbags).
Not a huge surprise that ANCAP (or Euro NCAP, for that matter) hasn't assessed this particular vehicle.
The Huracan is supplied with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Given the usual mileage of a car like this, that's ample. There's three-year roadside assist into the bargain and the option to extend the warranty - $6900 for one year and $13,400 for two, which seems okay given what can go wrong in such a sophisticated car.
Servicing intervals are an absurdly reasonable 15,000km although you're expected to visit the dealer once a year (mainly so you can order your next Lambo).
That's a lot of kays for a premium exotic like this, and some may not see 15,000km on the odometer… ever.