Lamborghini: light makes might
Lamborghini: light makes might. Click image to enlarge

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Lamborghini’s new design philosophy

Article and photos by Paul Williams

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Lamborghini: Light makes might

Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy – According to Stephen Winkelmann, President and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, the defining features of a super sports car like the Lamborghini Gallardo are design and performance. That much is probably obvious to every supercar enthusiast, but when it comes to performance, Mr. Winkelmann points out that, things have changed.

“Just a few years ago the most important aspects [of performance] were top speed, acceleration and handling, in that order of priority,” he explained at a recent press introduction to the Lamborghini factory and museum in Sant’Agata.

“But,” he continued, “top speed is no longer as decisive, because all super sports cars can manage a speed of 300 km/h, a speed that can barely be attained even on racetracks, and that is out of the question on public roads.”

Lamborghini: light makes might
Lamborghini: light makes might
Lamborghini: light makes might
Lamborghini: light makes might. Click image to enlarge

Consequently, the focus on performance at Lamborghini now ranks handling first, followed by acceleration and then top speed. Toward that end, the attention of Lamborghini’s engineers is focused squarely on optimizing a vehicle’s power-to-weight ratio by placing more emphasis on decreasing weight rather than simply increasing power.

It is in this area that Lamborghini finds itself at the avant-garde of research and development into light weight design using carbon fibre. As a subsidiary of Audi, Lamborghini benefits from Audi’s expertise in light weight engineering and space frame construction which Lamborghini applies in the aluminum-framed Gallardo. But Lamborghini is also working closely with non-automotive partners like Boeing, Intel, Callaway and the University of Washington to develop new carbon fibre materials, techniques and processes for use in the automotive sector.

The company’s expertise in this area culminated in last year’s V10 powered carbon-fibre Sesto Elemento concept, capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 2.5 seconds. Experience building the Sesto Elemento surely contributed to the recently released, 700-horsepower, V12 Lamborghini Aventador, which features a new engine, new transmission and suspension, and a monocoque made entirely from carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) and fully developed by Lamborghini. The production Aventador can achieve 0-100 km/h in only 2.9 seconds and — somewhat belying Mr. Winkelmann’s reordering of performance priorities — reach a top speed of 350 km/h.

The Aventador monocoque (basically the body of the car to which the front and rear suspensions are attached using aluminum subframes) is one single physical component, and weighs just 147.5 kilograms.

It is perhaps unexpected that building such an advanced automotive component in a state-of-the art facility takes 120 hours, but with exotic materials comes painstaking work. Even with the automation, it’s a very labour-intensive process, and this is just to produce the carbon fibre tub upon which the mechanical, electrical, interior and exterior components will be attached. It is fair to say that the car is largely hand-built, and therein lies the appeal, cost and problem of using this technology in volume production.

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