Forget the supercapacitor – Lambo's latest special is looking backwards, not forwards
By Mike Duff / Friday, March 5, 2021 / Loading comments
While some supercar makers are rushing towards our collective future of charging ports and silent urban progress, others are taking a more cautious approach. The Lamborghini Sián's supercapacitor system is a clever bit of tech that has won plenty of attention since the car was first shown in 2019, but in truth it is less electric than a 2003 Toyota Prius.
For its target audience, those able to fork out €2.5m before taxes and with the clout to get themselves one of the 63 production slots that sold out before the car's debut, that is very unlikely to matter. The 774hp 6.5-litre V12 – the most powerful engine ever fitted to a road-going Lamborghini – is always going to be a much bigger part of the appeal than the 33hp e-motor that lends an occasional hand. For buyers, it will be more than electric enough.
Yet the Sián is definitely more about the past than the future, especially when compared to much more technically complex, and much cheaper, alternatives like the Ferrari SF-90 Stradale and forthcoming McLaren Artura. This is a special based on the Aventador, a car introduced as long ago as 2011 and set to be replaced by a considerably more ambitious hybridized V12 next year. (Even its full name is looking backwards: this is officially the Sián FKP 37, paying tribute to Ferdinand Piech and his year of birth; the Volkswagen boss who brought Lambo into the corporate fold dying just before it was unveiled.)
What the Sián has an unarguable abundance of is presence; even by Lamborghini's high standards this is the showiest pony. In the flesh it looks like a motor show concept, or a video game one-off brought to life. It's not a classical beauty – and much of the basic form is obviously related to the Aventador that sits beneath (the two cars sharing the same carbon core structure) – but the Sián's visuals are on another level. Seen up close it's almost impossible to stop staring.
The Sián's front is special enough – with Countach-inspired trapezoidal bonnet and huge Y-shaped DRLs similar to those of the Terzo Millennio EV concept. But the view from the other end is even more jaw slackening thanks to the huge width of the 335-profile back tyres, the upright aero elements above these and the six hexagonal taillight elements that seem to hang in space. The rear deck has active cooling flaps that rotate to open as underbody temperatures rise, plus a pop-up rear wing that deploys when the car starts moving at speed.
The cabin is less original, and feels less changed over the Aventador than it probably should do given what is basically a ten-fold increase in price. The Sián gets a greater abundance of plusher materials and also a very nice looking portrait orientated touchscreen in place of the older car's obsolescent Audi-based infotainment. Neat details include 3D printed air vents and an electrochromic glass panel in the roof that can be dimmed electrically. But packaging is no better than the Aventador, with the combination of a fixed back bucket seat and a low roofline limiting headroom to the extent I'm glad I don't need to wear a helmet to drive it.
This being the point where some of the glamour falls off the experience. Lamborghini says the original plan was to give a small group of journos the chance to experience the Sián in a suitably exotic Italian location. But COVID travel restrictions have stymied that one and reversed the equation: the car coming to the hacks. In my case that means the chance to experience it at the Millbrook Proving Ground on a wet Wednesday in February.
The supercapacitor is certainly clever. This is a 48 Volt system that uses the combination of a compact powerpack mounted to the rear bulkhead – one claimed to have three times the capacity of a battery of the same weight – which adds assistance through a motor integrated into the gearbox. It isn't potent enough to move the car under pure electric propulsion, but the system adds just 34kg of weight and its instant urge makes a big difference when the engine is running at low revs, the Sián's in-gear acceleration numbers claimed to be to 10 percent better than in the Aventador SVJ.
More usefully, the system can bring some much-needed civility to the lunge-prone seven-speed single clutch automated transmission, adding torque to smooth out low speed maneuvering and calm the frenetic upshifts. A peak 600 Amp flow in both directions means the system can discharge and recharge very quickly; during my time in the car I rarely see the dashboard capacity display reporting anything less than 100 per cent.
But the naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12 remains the star attraction, one that completely dominates the driving experience. It is nosier and angrier in the Sián than in any of its other applications, raucous at idle and filling the cabin with buzzing harmonics at low speeds. Pushing harder turns it louder, but also helps to harmonize the combination of exhaust note and mechanical thrash in an utterly compelling fashion, especially in close proximity to the 8,500rpm redline. The transmission does seem to change with less brutality than before, but there's still more wallop than with a dual-clutcher. Repeated acceleration runs on the Millbrook's high speed bowl prove the Sián feels unsurprisingly fast, but it lacks the swelling low-down torque of turbocharged alternatives when not being worked hard. Not a criticism, just a comment.
Millbrook's Hill Route does a decent impression of the real world – it could be a small, sodden Alpine pass – but it is still not a particularly natural environment for the Sián to find itself in. The Lambo felt big and wide on the twisty course and mostly tight corners, its 2.1-metre width being substantial even by hypercar standards and with poor visibility making it hard to get a sense of where the extremities lie; the louvred slat engine cover also gives the view from the interior mirror a prisonish vibe. Lamborghini claims a 1,600kg 'dry' weight – so around 1,750kg when carrying oil, coolant, fuel and driver – and in slower bends the mass is obvious. Even reaction-sharpening rear steering can't stop the very unhypercar sensation of the front P-Zeros running short on grip in the slower bends, something only exacerbated by increased throttle.
The limited opportunities for higher speed suits the Sián far better, as this is definitely a car that prefers sweepers to hairpins. The light steering gains more weight and resistance as loadings build up, and although the suspension never felt less than punishingly firm, regardless of which dynamic mode the car was in, body control stayed total over Millbrook's more sizeable crests (including the one where Daniel Craig's James Bond lunched his Aston DBS in Casino Royale.) It's a tough environment for any supercar to shine in, and although I didn't have an Aventador SVJ to hand I'd be surprised – on the basis of previous track experience – if the cheaper car doesn't feel considerably more athletic back-to-back.
How much does the Sián's ultimate dynamism matter? For anyone who has managed to get their name on the list, likely not much – it's not as if they are going to be short of other cars to drive, and a significant percentage will also have an SVJ. And when it comes to the other side of Lamborghini ownership – road-legal street theatre – the new car has everything beaten. Of the company's limited run specials capable of wearing number plates only the razor bladey Veneno gets close to the visual shock-and-awe of the Sián. A Reventon or a Centenario would look positively discreet next to it. That alone should make it peak Lamborghini, with the possible exception of its limited-to-19 roadster sister.
SPECIFICATION | LAMBORGHINI SIAN COUPE
Engine: 6,498cc V12
Transmission: seven speed automated single clutch, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 774@8,500rpm+33hp electrical
Torque (lb ft): 531@6,750rpm+26lb-ft electrical
0-62mph: 2.8 seconds
Top speed: 217mph
Weight: 1,600kg 'dry'
Price: €2,500,000 (before taxes)
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