A fierce desert wind buffets our car as we roar down the front straight of the Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar. But the low-slung Lamborghini Huracán barely notices. The speedometer rapidly climbs to 260 kmh—about 160 mph—before we squeeze the brakes and dive into the first turn. The big engine screams almost deafeningly as we downshift to third. Nudging the 8,500-RPM redline, we charge the corner and let the tail of the Huracán LP 580-2 swing wide in a controlled drift.
Powered by a 5.2-liter V-10 that makes 571 horsepower, the Huracán is the rare exception to the Lamborghini rule, directing all that power through the rear axle, rather than all four wheels. That might leave some potential buyers shaking their heads. After all, all-wheel drive is one of the hot trends in the luxury market, and it lets you drive the Huracán LP 610-4 model pretty much all year. But, if there's a knock against the AWD model, it's that it's a little too tame.
Shifting to rear-wheel drive unleashes this beast. Under most driving conditions, you'd hardly notice the difference, thanks to the electronic nanny systems that keep the Huracán in line. But switch to "Sport" or "Track" mode and head for some fast corners. You'll quickly rediscover how much fun driving can be. Charging down the Losail circuit you enter a turn faster than you think possible. The back tires slide out, but you can comfortably control the drift, the nose always pointing precisely where you intend to go. There's a sense of balance and poise even as you start pushing the limits.
The LP 580-2 loses about 31 horsepower compared with its all-wheel drive sibling. But it's also about 72 pounds lighter, so if you're worried about the numbers you'll still hit 60 in about 3.3 seconds, and this Huracán can blow at a top speed of 199 mph.
Like all Lamborghinis, the Huracán is a definite eye-catcher. You seldom have to worry about sitting behind slower traffic. Other drivers feel a primeval urge to get out of the way when they see its angry, shark-like snout screaming up in the rearview mirror. The LP 580-2 shows a few small, but notable differences from the AWD model, including revised LED lighting and front vents that are designed to keep the nose absolutely glued to the pavement.
Inside, the Huracán is a blend of luxurious materials, details and spaceship-like controls—including the large virtual display cluster that can be customized to reflect tastes and driving style. The distinctive switches and controls might make you think you're piloting a jet or a personal spacecraft, if you're wont to stretch your imagination.
As for pricing, Lamborghini has always been one to play in the upper reaches of the exotic sports car market, even with earlier versions of the Huracán. The rear-drive model lets it move a wee bit down-market and, at $199,800 the Italian maker is confident it can reach out to a new group of aficionados.