Ferruccio Lamborghini never believed that racing improved the breed, with the cars his eponymous company built under his leadership all being designed more for street theater than circuit thrills. That ethos slowly changed over the years, yet Lamborghini’s first major motorsports victory came about only relatively recently. This may explain why the Italian brand’s 2021 Huracán STO is arriving conspicuously late to the street-legal, track-focused supercar party, joining the ranks of Porsche’s RS cars, long-tail McLarens, Black Series AMGs, and Ferrari’s Challenge/Scuderia/Pista/Speciale models.
Previous Lambos have proven to be blisteringly quick around many racing circuits. Think of the Huracán Performante and Aventador SVJ, both of which set lap records for production cars at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. But the Huracán STO—Super Trofeo Omologata—is the first Lamborghini designed around the specific demands of regular track use, existing essentially as a homologated version of the Huracán Super Trofeo Evo and GT3 Evo race cars.
We were briefly introduced to the STO last year when we drove a prototype at the Nardò test track in Italy. The car’s naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V-10 makes no more power and slightly less torque than the Performante—631 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, to be exact—but has been tuned for sharper responses. The car also comes only with rear-wheel drive, its body is almost entirely carbon fiber (including a one-piece front clamshell), and the cabin has been largely gutted. Lamborghini claims these modifications shave 95 pounds of mass over the 3429-pound Performante, despite the STO’s addition of a new rear-axle steering system.
Other key changes relate to the STO’s critically important relationships with the ground and air. The first is the fitment of model-specific Bridgestone Potenza tires in two track-oriented specifications, the more aggressive of which being little more than slicks with a few grooves cut in them. The other is the replacement of the regular Huracán’s active aerodynamics with a vast rear wing that can be manually adjusted between three positions. The most aggressive of these, working in conjunction with the front splitter and sizeable underfloor diffuser, produces a claimed 925 pounds of downforce at 174 mph.
To experience the full production STO in its natural environment, we headed to the Vallelunga Circuit near Rome, the same place we recently drove the track-only Aventador-based SCV12 Essenza. Air temperature was more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the track surface climbed above 140 during our time in the car. Yet even under hard use in brutal conditions, the STO refused to lose its cool, literally. Unlike many committed, track-focused cars, the STO retains its climate-control system. Still, beyond leather seats and a microfiber-trimmed dashboard, its interior is otherwise stripped of unnecessary items. There is no carpet, and the door panels have been replaced with naked carbon-fiber pieces with pull straps for door releases; the windshield glass is 20-percent thinner than in the regular Huracán. A central touchscreen interface remains and has been reconfigured to provide a variety of data options, including one that will automatically prompt gear selections when approaching corners on circuits catalogued in its memory.
We expect the rear-drive STO to be fractionally “slower” to 60 mph than the all-wheel-drive Performante—figure a mere 2.6 seconds to the Performante’s ballistic 2.2—but subjectively, it feels quicker. This is largely due to the increased savagery of its exhaust note, particularly in Trofeo mode above 4500 rpm when the flaps in its active exhaust open. This Lambo will pummel your eardrums even through a helmet. But the STO also features a far more direct throttle map that removes almost all of the top-end play that even the most potent street cars generally have for real-world driveability. The result in the STO is some minor driveline shudders but scintillating responses to prods of the accelerator. Fully unleashed, this Lambo devours the ratios of its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic at a rate that makes it genuinely hard for human hands to keep up with when using the paddle shifters.
Cornering is equally impressive. The STO’s steering is pinpoint accurate—if a bit short of low-speed feedback on Vallelunga’s super smooth asphalt—and grip levels from the Bridgestone rubber are huge. What’s more, the balance of grip between the car’s axles is excellent and can be finely metered with accelerator and steering inputs.
The STO is working plenty hard in the background to make all of this seem easy. In tighter turns, we could feel its limited-slip differential and rear-wheel steering working to combat understeer when early throttle openings nudged the car wide of our chosen line. The V-10 lacks the low-down torque of a modern turbocharged engine, but it also has a more linear power build, which helps when pushing the car to the edge of adhesion in longer corners. The Trofeo driving mode allows some oversteer even with the stability control switched on, but even this is more easily controlled than it probably should be in something with so much power and only two driven wheels.
Faster corners also reveal the contribution of the STO’s aerodynamic package, with faith in the atmospheric assistance growing more through experience than feedback. The car’s steering doesn’t grow noticeably heavier as cornering forces rise nor does the ride get much harsher. But Vallelunga’s first turn, the hugely fast Curva Grande that the STO was happy to take in fifth gear, felt much easier to navigate than we remember it being when we drove a McLaren 720S here back in 2017.
As you’d expect of a track car, braking performance is another high point. The STO gets near-competition-spec Brembo carbon-ceramic brake system—six-piston calipers grabbing 15.4-inch discs in front, four-pot on 14.2-inch discs in rear—which proved to be both massively powerful and seemingly tireless, even under severe use. Lamborghini designed a color-coded brake temperature display for the STO, and only at the end of Vallelunga’s longer straights would only briefly turn this readout from green to yellow.
Lamborghini admits that a majority of STO buyers likely won’t track their cars much, if at all. They will be drawn more by the sound, fury, and outrageous design of this 631-hp wedge with a giant wing and roof-mounted intake. In other words, its attraction lies with it being a Lambo, just a rather wild one. But we’re sure those who do choose to use the STO as intended are going to have a magical experience. This is a Lamborghini that truly is born for the racetrack.
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