- We get behind the wheel of Lamborghini's new ... off-road sports car?
- That can't be right.
- Huh. Not only is that right, but it's awesome.
Driven: 2023 Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato Is Real, Ridiculous and Fun
They actually built it
As model lines come to a close, it's not unusual for a manufacturer to release a special-edition variant with extra equipment and a tacky badge to commemorate the end of a line. To celebrate the impending retirement of the very successful and very special Huracan, Lamborghini decided to take things a little further. In 2019, Lamborghini teased an off-road version of a Huracan that, while cool, could be easily dismissed as the engineers having a bit of fun as the curtain closes. But since the Huracan had already cemented its legacy as one of the most competent and comfortable supercars, why would they risk throwing that away for what looked like a laugh? Unbeknownst to us, the Sterrato was already greenlit for production and under serious real-world development.
What could best be described as a cross between a Huracan and the Lambo Urus SUV, the 2023 Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato is a dystopian-looking supercar, complete with black fender cladding, all-terrain tires, high-powered rally lights and an optional titanium roll cage. At first glance, the Sterrato looks to come out of nowhere with no hope for production. But if we've learned anything from Lamborghini, it's that it will do what it wants. And it wanted to build rallycross-inspired super sports car.
What did they do to the Huracan?
Most of the major changes made to produce the Sterrato are pretty obvious, and most have practical reasons — nose-mounted rallycross light pods excepted. The Sterrato sits 44 mm (1.73 inches) higher than a standard Huracan. The obvious benefit is additional ground clearance, but it also allowed the retuned adaptive suspension to have more travel for soaking up bigger bumps. Speaking of travel, the Sterrato enjoys an increase of 25% more travel in the front and 35% at the rear.
The Sterrato's fender flares are not for show. Compared to the EVO 4WD model, the track — that's the distance between the left- and right-side wheels — has been increased by 30 mm (1.2 inches) up front and 34 mm (1.3 inches) in the rear. Not only does that make this Huracan look cool, but that wider stance gives the Sterrato just a touch more stability, which is much appreciated given the taller ride height. Another change, even though it's a minor difference, is the 9-mm (about 0.4-inch) increase in wheelbase.
Front and rear bumpers have been restyled and reinforced, as have the side skirts, for the inevitable contact with the Earth. While it looks like it only scores style points, the roof-mounted air scoop was found to be very necessary in delivering the cleanest air to the engine during the prototype testing phase of the Sterrato.
Of course, the Sterrato gets a number of styling changes as well, most notably in the way of those aforementioned light pods. But the interior comes with specific upholstery, non-slip aluminum floor mats and an optional titanium rollbar. If you're worried about having your Sterrato looking too much like one of the other 1,498 versions, Lamborghini touts an almost infinite number of paint, wheel and upholstery choices for maximum exclusivity.
We need to talk about the tires
The Sterrato would be nothing more than a misguided styling exercise if it didn't have the proper rubber at all four corners. So Lamborghini reached out to Bridgestone to see if it was up to the task of designing a very special tire. The result of the tiremaker's R&D is the Bridgestone Dueler All-Terrain AT002, which is exclusive to the Sterrato. Essentially a high-speed all-terrain tire, it combines aggressive shoulder tread for low-grip surfaces but a main tread design that can withstand high-speed on-road driving without literally falling to pieces.
Driving the Sterrato on asphalt, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that these are indeed all-terrain tires. They're quieter than many "off-road" tires you get on a soft-roader SUV but still deliver ample grip and very predictable responses during aggressive driving. They do not offer anywhere near the outright grip of the tires you can get on the standard Huracan, but even with its lower on-road limits, the Sterrato is arguably a bit more fun and playful than its more serious stablemates. It's shockingly easy, and so much fun, to induce a slide.
Another impressive feature of these tires is their run-flat construction. Anybody who has driven off-road knows just how easy it is to pick up a puncture and have your day ruined. Considering there's no room for a spare tire, and that the Sterrato runs a staggered setup (235/40 R19 for the front and 285/40 R19 for the rear), you'll be grateful for any extended range the run-flat capability gives you. Those who live in winter climates will be pleased to know that Bridgestone's Blizzak snow tire will also be available for the Sterrato.
Sideways. Lots of sideways
We'll skip any detailed on-road driving impressions and go straight to hurtling toward the dirt on the outside of a third gear left-hander at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway near Palm Springs, California. A quick flip of the drive selector from Sport to Rally mode, even at 100 mph, lets you go from fear of running out of real estate to simply using more of it. And you can do a lot more than you think.
Within seconds, the Sterrato feels completely at home ripping over hard-packed dirt and soft gravel in the middle of the desert. Like any good rallycross car, the Sterrato can be turned just as easily, if not more so, with the throttle as it can with the front wheels. Buried in the car's Rally mode are bespoke stability and traction control programs that allow for eye-opening levels of oversteer, both into and out of a corner. Lifting the throttle as you gently turn the steering wheel gets the rear end to start its predictable rotation and allows you to attack the middle and exit of the corner almost immediately.
The Sterrato's all-wheel-drive system is very rear-wheel-biased, so you can absolutely hang the tail out for as long as you dare, but the front wheels still do good work helping pull the coupe back to a more sensible forward trajectory. Even if you have limited experience charging over desert landscapes, the Sterrato can make you feel like you know what you're doing. A lot of that credit goes to the sophisticated Rally drive mode. You can switch it off, but it would be wise to make sure you either have a lot of room to play, or know what you're doing, or both. This is still a Lamborghini, after all.
Of course, once you get the Sterrato pointed in a straight line, you can unleash what has arguably been one of the best parts about any Huracan: the 5.2-liter V10 engine. When you mat the throttle, you won't notice, nor should you care, that the Sterrato uses a milder 601-horsepower tune (other Huracans offer as much as 630 hp) as the engine winds its way up to an 8,500 rpm redline. The bumpy terrain amplifies the frenetic nature of the engine and the howl that the Sterrato emits over an otherwise silent desert is equal parts cool and menacing.
Scrubbing speed off is done by standard ceramic brakes — the same ones we've experienced in more widely available Huracan models. Relatively noise-free and easy to modulate around town, they can summon tremendous stopping power even when the wheels are otherwise filled with dirt and sand.
While the approximately 2.5-mile-long rallycross course wasn't peppered with jumps, we were very impressed with the suspension's ability to soak up — or just shrug off — sizable divots, some washboard sections and the occasional rock. The near instantaneous adaptability of the MagneRide shocks and tough sidewalls of the Bridgestones meant that you could essentially forget that you were piloting a Lamborghini at the top end of third gear across the desert. Heady stuff. Silly, yes, but absolutely addicting.
It's hard to decide what has us more shocked: the fact that Lamborghini built and sells the Sterrato or that it's just so much fun. Seriously, we can't remember any car in the past however many years that's defied convention so perfectly yet still makes sense. With an asking price north of $273K, it's unlikely most people would even be able to afford one, but Lamborghini has told us that the Sterrato's run of 1,499 cars is already sold out. Of course there's the surprisingly rally capable Urus Performante, but no other Lamborghini can hold a candle to the audacity and sheer fun on offer from the Huracan Sterrato.