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The Future of Lamborghini: More Carbon Fiber, Greater Efficiency, No Forced Induction—and No Manuals?

At the recent launch of the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera , we sat down with Maurizio Reggiani, the director of research and development at the extroverted supercar maker, to get a read on what to expect from Sant’Agata Bolognese over the next few years. First off, it’s worth noting that the company reorganized its priorities in 2007. Prior to that, they were design, top speed, acceleration, and handling—in that order.

But now, citing the fact that there’s really nowhere to explore its cars’ 200-mph-plus speeds, handling and top speed have switched places, so the order looks like this: 1. Design 2. Handling 3. Acceleration 4. Top Speed You’ll notice that fuel economy didn’t make the top four, but it will be a major focus for the company over the next five years (and probably longer). After all, 550-plus-hp cars and stricter fuel-efficiency regulations don’t tend to jibe very well. In Europe, Lamborghini has special dispensation as a small automaker to reduce its cars’ CO2 output by 35 percent between 2007 and 2015, rather than meet dramatically stricter regulations in place for larger manufacturers.

For the U.S., Reggiani tells us that’s it’s still up to the EPA to decide whether Lamborghini will have to meet fuel-economy hurdles as an individual company, or whether it will be held to one overall figure based on an average of all the VW Group brands sold here. Twenty percent of the total 35-percent reduction in CO2 mentioned has already been achieved, largely due to fitting direct injection to the Gallardo’s V-10 when the LP560-4 model was launched. But the next 15 percent is much harder, says Reggiani. Further gains will come from additional increases in engine efficiency, such as friction reduction, and plan on direct injection appearing on the company’s V-12 when the Murciélago replacement launches. (That should happen in the next 12 to 18 months.) Lamborghini is somewhat surprisingly working on far more mainstream technologies, too, such as stop/start capability to thrift fuel in urban settings, cylinder deactivation—so that both the V-10 and the V-12 can operate on half as many cylinders—E85 compatibility, and possibly even a mild-hybrid solution.

Against the pervasive trend in the industry, Reggiani says that there are no plans for forced induction at this point. Although that certainly is one way to reduce emissions, he says the company simply isn’t willing to sacrifice either engine’s fabulous linearity or their awe-inspiring wail. In short, the naturally aspirated V-10 and V-12 will continue. Weight-Loss Strategy to Include More Carbon Fiber Reggiani says Lambo is determined to offset any weight gains, particularly from a hybrid system, by reductions elsewhere in the car. Future cars “have to be lighter,” he says. To that end, he believes carbon fiber will be the major enabler of the weight-reduction goal, as witnessed by Lamborghini’s recent collaboration with the University of Washington and Boeing to create the ACSL, or Automobili Lamborghini Composite Structures Laboratory.

The purpose of the lab is to leverage the aerospace industry’s extensive carbon-fiber experience to find even more efficient ways to use it in automobiles. Reggiani cites studies predicting that the cost of carbon fiber will decline significantly by the 2012–2014 timeframe, at which point it’s predicted to be no more expensive than aluminum. By then, he wants to have come up with more creative ways of using the stuff, as its material properties, unlike those of aluminum, can be changed dramatically based on construction and shape. How about getting rid of all-wheel drive as a weight reducer? Not likely. “You have to put the power to the ground,” Reggiani says, “and when the tires are a-spinning all the time, you lose out on acceleration.” (See company priority No. 3). Certainly all-wheel drive is a major enabler of blistering standing-start acceleration, which is how the Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera is predicted to hurl to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds. Plus, Lamborghini prefers four-wheel traction for racetrack situations, too, where it certainly makes its cars more goof-proof and easier to safely exploit, although we generally prefer hairier rear-drivers on-track. Et Tu, Lamborghini? We pointed out that Lambo’s Italian neighbors, Ferrari, have basically abandoned the use of manual transmissions, and Reggiani concedes that Lamborghini likely will eventually follow suit; he says manual transmissions are fitted to less than five percent of the firm’s cars.

Although he’s still somewhat defensive about the common belief that dual-clutch automated manuals with seven speeds or more—such as Porsche’s PDK—are necessarily better than Lambo’s six-speed single-clutch unit. He says Lamborghini is opposed to unequal gear steps, such as Porsche’s thrifty and ultra-tall seventh ratio, and also makes note that the Porsche gearbox is roughly 50 pounds heavier than the Lambo six-speed. But we tend to side with Porsche on this one—use gears one through six for acceleration, and reserve seventh as purely for fuel economy. Lamborghinis with cylinder deactivation, the exclusive use of automatics, and stop/start functionality? If anything, this proves that the automotive future will be anything but business as usual. Related posts: Audi Says Car Prices Will Rise With Efficiency Mazda’s Efficiency Strategy to Include Stop/Start, Energy Regeneration, Diesel, and More – Car News Lamborghini Estoque Concept – Auto Shows

SOURCE : autoinfonews.org

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