We chat to Lamborghini’s Chief Technical Officer Maurizio Reggiani about plug-in hybrid supercars and how combustion engines figure in Sant’Agata Bolognese’s future
Lamborghini Chief Technical Boss Maurizio Reggiani has been a car guy through and through his whole life. Straight out of college in Modena, the cradle of Italian sports cars, he began his career with Maserati fiddling with engines, before moving to Bugatti for the EB110 project.
Reggiani oversaw the Bugatti’s infamous quad-turbocharged 3.5-litre V12 engine and six-speed transmission driving all four wheels. The EB110 did zero to 100kph in less than four seconds and topped out at over 330kph.
This no doubt attracted the attention of the bunch in Sant’Agata Bolognese up the road from Modena. Reggiani was invited to move over and relaunch Lamborghini to the world, the new, more German Lamborghini just acquired by Audi. He was project leader for the all-wheel drive Murciélago, powered by the company’s V12 engine that could be traced back to Giotto Bizzarrini’s 3.5-litre masterpiece that premiered in the 1963 Lamborghini 350GT.
At Lamborghini Reggiani inherited a huge responsibility, following the likes of Bizzarrini, Gian Paolo Dallara, Bob Wallace and Paolo Stanzani. In charge of all development since 2006 Reggiani has been delivering, with production (currently just below 4,000 units a year) about to double annually thanks to the arrival of the latest model.
Reggiani has just rolled out his new cash cow, the wildly acclaimed and wildly polarising Urus SUV. The VW Group product comes atop the MLB platform also underpinning the Bentley Bentayga, Porsche Cayenne, and yes, the new Volkswagen Touareg.
With a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine rated at 650 horsepower and 850Nm of torque, which is distinctly Lambo-like. It’ll launch from zero to 100kph in 3.6 and go on to 305kph, and it’s also the first force-fed production Lambo in the company’s 55-year history.
Although Lamborghini has succumbed to the SUV craze sweeping the world (as has Rolls-Royce, finally), speaking to Motormouth Reggiani assures us Sant’Agata isn’t turning its back on tradition. The man who has advocated the benefits of natural aspiration and low weight his whole career now has a new responsibility – to live up to his word.
Motormouth: First, could you settle something for us once and for all – how do you pronounce Countach?
Maurizio Reggiani: Coon-touch.
M: It’s an interesting time for car enthusiasts: little kids, they aren’t growing up pasting posters of supercars on their walls these days…
MR: Yes, now they have all the pictures on their telephones.
M: What is the future of naturally aspirated engines at Lamborghini?
MR: The future is naturally aspirated engines…
M: How will you keep these high-revving V12s relevant in the face of changing technology?
MR: In the Urus, we chose a turbo engine because you need huge torque at low revs, if you are for example on a dune in Dubai, you need to have 80 percent of the torque at 1,500rpm already.
I think in the end, every engine must match the mission of the car – in a super sports car a naturally aspirated engine and as many cylinders as possible, is mandatory.
You cannot leave the dream and the emotion of driving to a computer.
M: Do your customers want electrified Lamborghinis at all?
MR: When we talk about electrification in the super sports car field, I can imagine that we’ll have the answer in PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), which means a car that is able to provide full electric mode and e-boost mode. At the moment there is a big enemy, of PHEV supercars, and that is weight. But I am sure and convinced that in a few years this will be solved.
M: Autonomy is a big trend – where does that come in at Lamborghini?
MR: It’s different with autonomous driving. I think, if you buy a super sports car you never, ever want to have autonomous driving. You buy a super sports car because you want to enjoy the emotions of using the car. You cannot leave the dream and the emotion of driving to a computer.
We can imagine in the future to have some kind of [AI] support in terms of the skill of driving, but real autonomous driving? No… The Urus will be the first plug-in hybrid from Lamborghini, and it’s also the car where we will start introducing some assisted driving. Not autonomous, but assisted…
M: How long have we got left with the V12s and the screaming naturally aspirated noise?
MR: We are still looking at what is possible to do to increase specific power, horsepower per litre of capacity. We look more and more into increasing the engine revs, and we have engineers that work hard only at trying to increase the limit of a naturally aspirated engine.
I remember in the 1980s, in Italy the catalytic converters arrived, and everybody said supercars are dead. If you look, the specific power only continues to increase. And it is not yet finished.