Sterrato. It’s one of those wonderful, not quite translatable Italian words. Similar to countach, a Piedmontese expression that’s a cross between “holy cow” and something a bit bluer. Sterrato, then, in the broadest sense, means dirt road. But sterrato is more like an unplowed field. It’s untamed, unconquered. In English we might say the back 40. As you might know, Sant’Agata Bolognese, the rural town where Lamborghini’s HQ sits, is farm country. Ferruccio Lamborghini made his first fortune building tractors. Most of the roads around Sant’Agata are sterratos. What this has to do with a 630-horsepower Mars attack rover, I will leave up to you, dear reader. If nothing else, it’s a fun word to say. Sterrato.
As has now become something of a tradition, Lamborghini’s head of engineering, Maurizio Reggiani, flew yours truly and just three other journalists to southern Italy for less than 48 hours to sample his team’s latest prototype. The first time Reggiani convened this foursome, we drove the $2 million Centenario, then we drove the eventual Best Driver’s Car–winning Huracán Performante. Next came the quickest SUV MotorTrend’s ever tested, the Urus. And now this: a heavily modified off-road supercar that (as of this moment in time) may or may not go into production. I’m probably stating the obvious, but this last car is the craziest yet. Also, I sure hope I keep getting invites to test-drive top-secret Lambos! My 12-year-old self is plotzing.
What on earth is the Sterrato? When Reggiani’s team was developing the Urus, it spent a great deal of time off-roading. Having worked on nothing but “super sports cars,” as Lamborghini insists on calling its products in an odd callback to the Winkelmann era, driving on dirt was totally new to them. They fell in love. And then one of them asked, “What if?” What if they could jack up a Huracán—in this case, the new Huracán Evo—mount massive balloon tires underneath, reprogram the computers for off-road duty, and armor-plate it? I’ve long maintained that a proper SUV must look one of two ways: like something General Patton would use to invade Palermo or like a moon buggy. If we ever go to war on the moon, I know what the Third Army’s command vehicle will look like.
So again, what is it? A Huracán Evo, for sure. One that’s been raised nearly 2 inches (47mm) and had its track widened by over an inch (30mm). The Sterrato’s wheel arches are both wider and 3-D printed to accommodate the wider balloon tires—currently unnamed prototype off-road rubber by Pirelli (I suggested D Zero, for Dirt Zero)—235/45R20 front and 305/40R20 rear. The middle number on a standard Hurancán Evo is 30 front, 30 rear. Remember, that number is the aspect ratio, not an actual measurement, meaning the Sterrato’s front sidewall is 45 percent of the 235mm width, or approximately 4 inches of sidewall. Quite unusual these days. Especially on a supercar.
The front axle has been moved forward 3 inches to accommodate the larger tires, which necessitated not only new control arms but also longer front fenders. Aluminum armor plating has been added to the bottom of the Sterrato’s snout, its side sills, and under the rear fascia. That rear hunk of metal also acts as a diffuser, because Lamborghini. The approach angle is increased by just 1 degree, while the departure angle increases by 6.5 degrees. However, several engineers assured me that in all their testing, the only part of the nose that scrapes is the armor. There’s also shielding in front of the side intakes to keep rocks and debris out of the engine’s intake plenums. LED running lights, an LED light bar, and mud flaps complete the Mad Max supercar look. Expect to also see a ski/snowboard/surfboard rack if and when the Sterrato reaches production. Maybe some spikes, too. The interior is quite cool, with military drab green Alcantara covering the seats, set off by orange accents. The aluminum plates in place of floormats are a great touch. Personally, I’d ditch the harnesses, but I hate harnesses in street cars. Normally I’m against half cages, too (full cage or go home), but I think this one has the effect of greatly stiffening the Sterrato.
The final piece of the Sterrato puzzle is the reprogrammed LDVI. Launched with the Evo, the Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata (i.e., Lamborghini Dynamic Vehicle Integration) here on the Sterrato is geared (pun intended!) toward off-road fun. First, the entire system has been optimized for low-grip surfaces and situations. Not just the ESC, but the systems that dole out torque front and rear plus side to side have been Sterrato-tuned with dusty, gravelly roads in mind. As such, the Sterrato exhibits more rear-drive behavior than any other Lamborghini, even the RWD Huracán. I know, I know, but it’s true. When you’re entering a slide or even in a slide, torque is doled out in such a way as to maximize the slide. Why on earth not?
First up was the Nardo Handling Circuit, the best track you’ve never driven. It’s hard to stress just how wonderful its 16 turns are. Not surprisingly, here’s where the Sterrato’s Huracán bones emerged. The thing is a joy to drive on track. First of all, it leans. The suspension’s been softened considerably compared to a standard Evo, let alone a Performante. I’m not saying the Sterrato is floppy in corners—I hate that. Rather, it takes a set as you turn, which I love. Leaning into a turn gives you a better sense of what the car is doing. Is it the quickest way around a track? No, obviously not. However, because practically every other supercar on earth is engaged in a race with no end to churn out the quickest lap time, to me it’s big-time refreshing to pilot one that’s more interested in having a great time. Also, with the traction control off, the already rear-biased Sterrato starts twerking. Fine by me!
When I drove the Urus prototypes at the Nardo Center last year, we tested what would become the world’s quickest SUV on both the aforementioned track and a fast, winding dirt track—similar to a rally stage—called Strada Bianco, the White Road. With the Urus, I was pleased that an SUV did so well in the dirt, but I found myself shocked at how well the big gal handled herself on the track. The reverse is true and then some for the Sterrato. I was gobsmacked sideways by just how incredible this post-apocalyptic-looking buggy did in the dirt. I perhaps forgot that the Sterrato still has that incredible 5.2-liter V-10 and a quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission. There are two places on Strada Bianco where I was able to pull third gear, and I was shocked by not only the acceleration but also the velocity. Just ferocious. Strada Bianco is maybe two cars wide and lined with trees. Frightening at first, but then just stupid piles of fun.
As I got on the brakes—way too early at first, I must add—any steering input at all sent the rear of the car into a drift, exactly the way the LDVI was programmed to do. Why do you want the rear end to move? You ever watched a rally? Getting rotated before the turn is half the fun! Allow me to stress this: The Sterrato Swedish flicks beautifully. Think about this for a moment: The engineering brain trust at Lamborghini spent time making sure their dirt-first supercar can properly slide around an off-road track. Also, no hand brake needed. The car, based on what you’re doing with the wheel, sets the drift up for you. All you need do is keep the throttle matted and know what to do with your hands (admittedly the tricky part). I’m still a bit amazed. I’ve taken a number of Subaru WRXs and STIs on dirt trails, and there’s a familiar characteristic at play here, only the Sterrato is two or three times more potent. It’s brilliant.
Now comes the questions. Anything I didn’t like? For a machine that naturally hangs its butt out so beautifully, on pavement the all-wheel drive hurts the subsequent drift. Two things about that. I mentioned to Reggiani and his team that they ought to do a rear-drive Sterrato. They laughed at me. Second, I only ran the car in Corsa, the most track-focused of the three settings. (The other two settings are Strada (street) and Sport.) The way Lamborghini does it, Corsa actually sends more torque to the front wheels (20/80) than Sport (10/90) does. So perhaps drifts in Sport will be better. I didn’t get to test it (blame time—we had little), so I don’t know. I already mentioned that I hate harnesses. Other than that, Lamborghini, build it!
Here’s a couple reasons why Sant’Agata ought to put the Sterrato into production. You ever driven a supercar? The singular most annoying thing is scraping the nose on everything. Even if you have a front-end lift, you’re either holding up traffic waiting for it to raise (not cool) or you plum forget, and scrape. The Sterrato will never scrape. Besides, even if it does, you’d be scraping the aluminum nose guard, and scars would look cool on this particular car. Another thing, as time marches on, sports cars and supercars only get thinner tires, stiffer springs, and firmer dampers. Well, guess what? Fat sidewalls, soft springs, and relaxed dampers mean the Sterrato rides better than any supercar I can think of. Yes, even the much-vaunted McLaren Super Series cars with their fancy hydraulic suspension, which, for the record, do not ride like a Rolls-Royce, no matter how much the PR flacks keep repeating that claim. The Sterrato also doesn’t ride like a Roller. But for what it is, it rides super comfy. Who wouldn’t like that?
Yeah, but is there a business case? Judging by the way people on my Instagram reacted to the first batch of photos, Dubai won’t survive much longer without a Sterrato. And yes, I can see the Middle East being a place where Lambo’s space buggy would work. Same for Russia. Australia, too. And Scandinavia. Hey man, even California—imagine one of these with a set of skis and a snowboard strapped to the roof, heading up to Mammoth or Squaw Valley. Cool, no? Utah, Colorado, British Columbia, etc. But forget about using it the right way. I fear that overthinking things will kill the Sterrato as well as other 40-miles-past-left-field ideas like it. Why? In my mind it’s very difficult to predict precisely why a car will be successful. The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is quite literally designed to crawl up a rocky mountain in Austria called the Schöckl, yet Southern California is by far that wonderful anachronism’s largest market.
An even better example is the Ford Raptor. A flying truck makes no bean-counting sense, yet the wide-body pre-runners routinely sell for over sticker. Moreover, dealer supplies (how long a vehicle sits on the lot) are among the lowest in the industry. Now, are all the folks buying Raptors racing around Baja or jumping off dunes at Glamis? Obviously not. The Raptor—like the G-Wagen—is a vehicle people just happen to love. Remember, how the customers use a car doesn’t matter. You just want people to buy them in the first place. I predict (rich) people would plop down cash for a Sterrato.
After the drives, and after a nice debriefing with Reggiani’s team about what I’d change (tires could look tougher, the body cladding could be shaped different, needs missile launchers, etc.), I was handed a phone. Lamborghini’s CEO, Stefano Domenicali, was on the other end, and he wanted to know what I thought. My big points were that the Sterrato is too good not to build and that even though I have no details about what exactly will make up the LT version of the McLaren 720S, I almost know what it will be—all I need do is look at how the 650S evolved into the 675LT and how the 570S became the 600LT. I roughly know what the 992 Porsche GT3 will be like, just by sitting and thinking about it. But the Sterrato? A breath of fresh, much needed air in a crowded segment that’s not known for its sense of humor, sense of fun, let alone admitting that anything on planet earth matters besides shaving tenths of seconds off lap times. Porsche didn’t understand why people wanted a manual GT3 because it’s not as quick on a track as the PDK version. Because shifting yourself is more fun. Manuals now account for more than half of U.S. GT3 sales. Fun!
A generation ago Lamborghini shocked the world, first with the Countach and then the LM002. I for one think the time has come for the house that Ferruccio built to do it all over again. Long live wild-eyed ideas that accountants are genetically predisposed to hate. As such, long live the Huracán Sterrato!