DESERT CENTER, Calif. — Lamborghini knows something about its buyers: they love being able to appear and do ridiculous acts. Normally that meant scissor-hinged doors and messy performance on the pavement. On occasion, however, Lambo took its boundary-erasing spectacle off-road—and not just because the stability control failed spectacularly. The legendary LM002 was a luxury V12-powered pickup aimed largely at Emirati sheikhs for sliding sand dunes, while the brand’s best-selling Urus is more than capable of messing around in more places. casualties than Starbucks drive-thru.
And now, plowing sideways across a dirt road and into Lambo’s all-terrain vehicle pantheon, here comes the limited-edition, 601-hp, V10-powered, $273,000 2023 Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato. It is raised 44 mm or 1.73 inches for more ground clearance and better suspension travel. The track is widened by 30mm in the front and 34mm in the rear, enough to require bolt-on fender flares. Its ticklish underside is armored with aluminum skid plates. The body is safari-friendly with nostril-shaped running lights, roof bars to support a rack and a snorkel so he can breathe easier when scribing lines in the sand. It feels less like a supercar and more like the getaway vehicle of a pair of grave robbers, seeking to sneak out of Giza before the cultural police, and whatever curse the robbers may have unleashed.
Just a few weeks before driving the Sterrato – literally, through – the Southern California desert, I was behind the wheel of its slightly cheaper and alternatively missioned sibling, the Huracán Tecnica, on winding Italian mountain roads. With 30 extra horsepower, rear-wheel-drive, rear-steering, a tuned exhaust system, and Bridgestone Potenza Race tires, it was surprisingly fun and easy to drive quickly, even/especially through technical turns and explosive turns.
The Sterrato was a completely different bullfight, but remarkably similar in its ability to elevate my riding skills. It was so easy to drive well through the bouncing hairpins, arching sweepers and elevation-changing chicanes—typically used by dirt bike racers—that it was actually surprising. I’ve driven all kinds of trucks and SUVs in the sand, but never had this experience with a “safari’d” performance car.
The Sterrato is a revelation in this regard. Its “Rally” mode and torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system – mated to an optimized version of the Huracan’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and electronically locking rear differential – knew exactly what to do, no matter what. desert, again literallythrew on it.
“Imagine the wheels looking less like a regular wheel and more like the rudder of a boat,” my co-driver and factory Lamborghini racer told me. “The harder you turn, the harder they push on the sand and let the torque vectoring do its thing to find grip.”
I didn’t believe it at first – I was hesitant on my first laps. But once I allowed myself to give in to the intelligence of the Sterrato, it rewarded me with visceral joy. It’s rare that adding more steering and more power works on a track, but using this recipe in the dirt, the Sterrato knew exactly what to do in any circumstance I tried to bog it down. Alternately content with tail and nose, he reveled in finding grip and digging in. I don’t really understand the physics, but driving the Sterrato off-road turned out to be one of those experiences where using a bigger hammer somehow gives more accurate results.
The 1.73-inch lift is meager, but it provides enough confidence to traverse ruts, washboards, sand traps and small hillocks. Surprisingly, it even felt more capable on the road than any other mid-engined Lamborghini I’ve driven, as it’s more capable of attacking curb cuts and parking lot entrances without fear of dermabrading the underside of the clip front of the front clip. That kind of confidence alone is worth a $30,000 price increase over a normal Huracan. If I could even buy one – all 1,499 are apparently reserved.
Some credit must be given to the studs, 235/40/19 (front) and 285/40/19 Dueler AT002 run-flats, custom-designed by Bridgestone for the Sterrato’s combined needs for high output capability, loose surface grip and remote use in the desert. With significantly more sidewall than a typical Huracan, the car felt downright comfortable on the freeway and the crumbly asphalt that stretches the length of Joshua Tree National Park. And while the aggressive tread made it a bit louder (with help from the screaming V10), I found myself willing to compromise. Or wondering if Lamborghini, or everyone else, should just shod their exotic cars with smaller wheels and higher profile tires.
Lamborghinis, like all supercars, are for extroverts. Being watched is kind of the goal. But the Sterrato takes that eyeing to another level. Every moment of riding, I felt like a 50-pound bag of dried antelope thrown into the lion’s den. If I had a dune desert in my backyard, or an even greater need to be watched, I would want a Sterrato more than I already have. As it is, it’s an ideal cup of grace for the Huracan line, a thrilling end, in a car that, like the brand itself, exemplifies an affection for a ridiculous erasing of boundaries.