The low-slung car shook as I sped down a gravel-strewn rutted trail through the California desert, the vicious sound of its 10-cylinder engine, just behind my head, blasting in my ears. I was driving a $380,000 Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato, and I couldn’t help laughing out loud.
I reached 40 miles an hour at most but, on a road like this, in a place like this, 40 felt like racing. I dodged tufts of vegetation reaching out from the sides of a trail usually traversed by pickup trucks. Lamborghini also makes an SUV, the Urus, in which all of this might have felt almost normal. This was absolutely not normal. Some of the larger bushes I passed were taller than the roof of the wedge-shaped car.
The Sterrato is about 1.75 inches higher off the ground than a typical Huracán supercar and about 1.3 inches wider with its big fender flares. (It’s slightly wider at the rear than at the wheels.) The underside of the car’s pointy nose is protected with aluminum shielding.
With all the dirt and sand its wheels kick up, the Huracán Sterrato – the name means “dirt road” – has an air intake up on top of the roof to bring clean air to the engine. Lamborghini worked with Bridgestone to create tires using rubber similar to that on Lamborghini’s other performance tires, but with an off-road tread.
Besides the engine, the loudest sound was gravel rattling continuously off the Lamborghini’s underside. Yes, I’ve driven expensive supercars on gravel roads a few times before, usually to get a car into position for a photo or video shot. But it’s always been a slow-going cringe-inducing operation, crawling along at single-digit speeds for fear a tiny stone kicked up by a tire might scratch the paint.
Not this time. Lamborghini had told me to take this lizard-green Huracán Sterrato anywhere I liked. So I did. And that led to me bombing down this rocky desert road, throwing up a thick cloud of white dust behind me without worrying, in the least, about damaging the car’s iridescent paint job.
It was the most fun I’d had in years.
I’d already driven this same car on on the track at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway about 15 miles away. There, I’d hit triple digit speeds on the twisting asphalt as I took the car through a snaking dirt course, sliding sideways through curves as the tires sprayed dark brown soil high in the air.
It just happened to be 60 years, almost to the day, since tractor-maker Ferruccio Lamborghini founded his own car company, hoping to show Ferrari how cars ought to be built. And here I was, listening for rattlesnakes while looking at a car unlike any his company had made before. But at the same time, it was the most Lamborghini thing I could ever imagine.
The idea for it emerged while Lamborghini engineers and designers were having beers after a day driving off-road in a prototype of the Urus SUV. That was a lot of fun, they thought, but wouldn’t driving one of our all-wheel-drive supercars off-road be even better?
So the engineers took an old Huracán and made a prototype, mostly just for kicks. But it was such a blast Lamborghini executives ultimately decided they just had to put it into production for those who could afford its $273,000 starting price. (The car I was driving had had nearly $110,000 in options, half of that cost body paint.)
There are already orders in place for all 1,499 Huracan Sterratos Lamborghini will build, but if someone backs out – I mean, I wouldn’t, but it happens – you could still have a shot.
It’s the sort of thing other car brands might have scoffed at as not fitting the proper image. Thankfully, Lamborghini realizes that, ultimately, it should always be about having fun. And few things bring a smile like throwing around dirt with a supercar.
This Sterrato is out around the same time as Porsche’s 911 Dakar, a similarly lifted sports car. Even though both brands are affiliated with the Volkswagen Group, Lamborghini insists this is a coincidence. Both are also at the extreme end of automakers of all sorts coming out with off-road everything, from Subaru’s knobby-tired Wilderness models to Honda’s Trailsport SUVs. For some reason, it seems, in the last few years, everyone decided they need to escape civilization.
As I drove the Sterrato through ochre-colored canyons, it occurred to me that if Wile E. Coyote really wanted to catch the Roadrunner, he should stop investing in useless Acme products and buy this. Perfect for the job, really. Fast, agile, goes just about wherever.
On asphalt, the Sterrarto drives nicely, smooth and quiet – except for that V10 engine sound, of course – and fast. The Sterrato has three driving modes selected by a stubby paddle on the steering wheel. Strada (Street) for normal driving, Sport and Rally, which adjusts the all-wheel-drive system for off-road use.
There’s no Corsa mode, the hyper-aggressive track mode other Lamborghini supercars have, because this car isn’t about that. The trade-off seems fine to me. I’ll take a little less track performance so I can blast down a dusty trail. Besides, the people who buy this car will, no doubt, have other Lamborghinis in the garage so, really, they’re giving up nothing.
Even those of us who can’t afford one should perhaps be glad the Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato exists. In an industry where every decision is pored over by accountants and brand image consultants, it’s a joy to have something that exists for no other reason than, really, just because it’s a blast.