Lamborghini goes hybrid with its 910-horsepower Asterion concept

Last week the 2014 Paris Motor Show, Lamborghini unveiled the Asterion LPI 910-4, the brand’s first-ever hybrid-powered “hyper cruiser.” And here you were thinking Lamborghini was going to stay out of the hybrid game. Shame on you.

Before we dig into what and why the Asterion is, let’s look at the important specs.

The Asterion is a plug-in hybrid. As such, it has three propulsion units: a 610-horsepower 5.2-liter V10 and three electric motors. All together, the hyper cruiser produces 910 hp, which is good for a 0 to 60 run in 3.0 seconds and a top speed of 198 mph.

As the “-4” indicates in the car’s codename, the Asterion is an all-wheel drive hyper cruiser. Up front in the front axel are two electric motors, with torque vectoring, powered by a lithium battery pack, which is located in the center tunnel of the car, where the transmission is normally located on modern Lamborghinis.

In the mid-rear, Lamborghini has placed the V10, which is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle. Sandwiched between the engine and gearbox is an integrated starter motor-generator (ISG).

Of course, the Asterion is a plug-in hybrid, so I’d be remiss not to mention its eco-friendly bona fides. Lamborghini estimates the Asterion to achieve 56 U.S. mpge and only 98 g/km of CO2, which is just over the European 2021 requirements. In all-electric mode, the hyper cruiser will go 31 miles on a single charge.

Fusion

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s inspect the more intriguing parts of the Asterion.

First off: the name. The Asterion is the proper name of Minotaur. Part man part bull, Lamborghini claims the name fuses intellect and instinct while keeping with its famous bull naming scheme.

At first glance, it’s clear the Asterion is a departure from modern Lamborghinis. And it is. But it’s also a callback to the past.

Although Lamborghini doesn’t directly admit it, I think the nose of the car, which is formed as a single component, closely resembles the Miura. What Lamborghini will admit, however, is that this car – together with the Blue Elektra glittered paint – displays the company’s new design language.

Staying up front, onlookers will notice double-layered air intakes, which is a first for Lamborghini. Flanking those new air grabbers are new headlights, which resemble, according to the Italian brand, “eyes with eyebrows.”

Lamborghini Asterion

Unlike Aventador upon which the Asterion’s carbon fiber monocoque chassis is based, the doors of the hyper hybrid open outward instead of skyward, which aids in the ease of entry and egress.

In the middle of the car, where the engine is mounted, we find an engine cover composed of three hexagonal glass pieces, which turn in accordance with the drive modes of the car: EV, hybrid, or “thermal” aka gas-only.

Keeping the car planted to the ground are 20- and 21-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli tires.

On the interior occupants will find a much roomier cabin than the Aventador. That’s because the roof, windshield, and seats all sit significantly higher than any other modern Lamborghini super sports car. This, the brand points out, is for more comfortable cruising than extreme performance and handling.

Cocooning the driver are ivory and brown leather seats. In front of him is a steering wheel inspired by that of the Miura. Unlike the Miura, however, the Asterion’s wheel has three distinctive buttons, which control drive modes: 0 for EV mode, I for “Ibrido,” Italian for hybrid, and T for “Tremico,” Italian for “thermal.”

At the center of the dash, drivers will find a portable tablet, which controls climate settings, navigation, and infotainment.

Why

All those details are the flavor of the Asterion story. They don’t, however, tell the whole tale. To get the whole report, I had to sit down with Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann.

Winkelmann admitted to me that, while every bit a Lamborghini, the Asterion would not exist if it weren’t for the coming 2021 European emissions standards, which set maximum CO2 emissions at 95 g/km. That’s because Winkelmann and Lamborghini don’t see hybrid technology as an ideal solution – at least for the brand’s super sports cars.

In short: hybrid components add weight. In the case of the Asterion, the hybrid components weigh 551 pounds. According to Winkelmann, this kind of additional weight forever tarnishes the handling characteristics that define a supercar.

Winkelmann added that Lamborghini could have decreased weight even further in the Asterion, counterbalancing the additional heft of the hybrid. That, however, would have put the car “out of market” in terms of price, as weight-saving research and development costs, as well as material costs, would have pushed the vehicle’s sticker price sky high.

Lamborghini Asterion Paris 6

As such, rather than build a plug-in hybrid supercar, Lamborghini decided it should be a hyper cruiser instead. This is why it raised the roof and the seating position.

Although the Asterion is a concept, according to Winkelmann, it shows what Lamborghini would do in terms of shape and content if, in a few years, it were to build such a hybrid. He admitted to me, however, ideally Lamborghini would meet the 2021 emissions standards not with hybridization but rather with turbocharging.

Summation

When it’s all said and done, the Asterion is a very interesting vehicle.

It shows that even a supercar maker is susceptible to government emissions regulation. More importantly, it shows that true unbridled performance and handling, like that of the Lamborghinis we’ve come to know and love, might well be under threat from coming emissions standards. That is, unless supercar makers and buyers alike are willing to come to terms with price tags exceeding the $1 million mark. And if this is what Lamborghini makes when it doesn’t really believe in hybridization, imagine what it could do if it were sold on the idea.

As both a motoring enthusiast and a global climate change believer, the issue is a mixed bag for me. However, as Winkelmann pointed out, how much environmental damage are the world’s 2,100 Lamborghinis sold each year really doing anyhow?

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