Italian supercar manufacturer, Lamborghini, is not unfamiliar with jagged and radical designs but Iain Robertson believes that it has exceeded itself, with its Sian Roadster that looks like a refugee from a Judge Dredd cinematic back lot.
Ever since industrialist and renowned tractor-maker, Ferruccio Lamborghini, commenced producing sportscars at St Agata, in 1963, his creations were destined to make headlines. Although some real beauties were launched, such as the technically remarkable Miura, with its transversely-mounted V12 engine, which became forever etched in car fans’ minds, following an orange example’s early destruction in ‘The Italian Job’ original film, many of the rarities were complete oddballs.
Yet, Mr Lambo’s notional battle with Ferrari’s ‘Il Commendatore’ (Enzo Ferrari) was relatively short-lived, the company passing through several monied but ill-managed hands on its way to Hutomo ‘Tommy’ Suharto, the son of former Indonesian President Suharto, who owned 60% of the business and had employed former Lotus boss, Mike Kimberley, to direct the company. Yet, with just 216 Diablo models produced in 1997, the company was sold lock, stock and barrel to the burgeoning Volkswagen Group the following year, for the sum of around $100m, in the process saving around 300 jobs at the factory located only 20kms south of Modena.
Inevitably, with fresh production standards introduced, along with access to German parts suppliers and higher quality demands, Lamborghini has been turned around spectacularly over the past 22 years. Yet, its avant-garde styling stance has even been exploited with its recent SUV introduction, the Urus, a car that is selling strongly, probably because it is not a svelte production of an Italian styling house, a factor that would have pleased Ferruccio immensely, had he survived to witness it.
The latest Sian roadster is a post-pandemic extravaganza, designed to shock and amaze in equal measure. It is a strictly limited edition, of just 19 open-top hybrid super sportscars, engineered around Lamborghini’s amazing V12 petrol engine, combined with elements of hybrid tech and blistering performance. Permanently open topped, it features the most powerful Lamborghini engine ever and shows a commitment to future electrification.
The company is now managed by former Ferrari F1 boss, Stefano Domenicali, and he describes the Sian as: “The expression of breathtaking design and extraordinary performance but, most importantly, it embodies important future technologies. The Sian’s innovative hybrid powertrain heralds the direction for Lamborghini super sports cars, and the open-top Sian Roadster affirms a desire for the ultimate lifestyle Lamborghini as we move towards a tomorrow demanding new solutions.” Well, he would, wouldn’t he?
It is possible to spot some original Countach design elements within the new roadster. However, strongly sculpted contours and edgy aero wings provide the sportscar with an unmistakably strident profile. The car’s exceptionally low front end, with integrated carbon-fibre splitter, houses typical Lamborghini Y-shaped headlight units. Airflow is directed through the front aerodynamic splitters and the bonnet, from where it continues through the side air intakes and outlets and over the rear spoiler, without a loss of aerodynamic efficiency from the roofless structure. Active cooling vanes at the rear use unique materials-science technology triggered by the reaction of smart-material elements to the temperature generated by the exhaust system, which causes them to rotate and provide an elegant and lightweight cooling response.
At the rear, epitomised by hexagonal thinking, six hexagonal taillights, inspired apparently by the Countach model, are topped by a rear wing that is integrated within the profile but extends outwards while driving to provide greater stability at speed. Talking of which, with a combined power rating of a phenomenal 819bhp (785bhp engine alone), in conjunction with a moderately low power to weight ratio of 2kg/hp, Sian’s 0-60mph blast is expected to take around 2.6s, before it tops out at around 220mph.
Although it does not look so impressive on paper, a 48V electric motor is incorporated within the transmission, which aids the get up and go but also provides energy for reversing and low-speed manoeuvres. However, an innovative supercapacitor application, a world-first, stores ten times the power of a lithium-ion battery and is located in the bulkhead between cockpit and engine.
Three times more powerful than a battery of the same weight and three times lighter than a battery producing the same power, the electric system with the supercapacitor and e-motor weighs only 34kg. Symmetric power flow ensures the same efficiency in both charging and discharging cycles; a most lightweight and efficient hybrid solution. The roadster also incorporates a sophisticated regenerative braking system, developed by Lamborghini. The supercapacitor fully charges the energy storage system every time the vehicle’s brakes are employed.
In the past, Lamborghini has been recognised for the rawness, even brutal raucousness of its power delivery. The supercapacitor and e-motor introduce a surprisingly quelling effect that is used to smooth gearshifts and support traction control. As a result, despite the sharp-edged appearance, the Sian is rapid but somehow quite docile. In local Bolognese dialect, the name ‘Sian’ means ‘flash’, or ‘lightening’.
If anything, Lamborghini has matured to a state from which it can compete squarely with its key rivals. It does so without looking like them and, in the process, is able to enhance its appeal to the driver seeking a truly alternative supercar. Yet, with only 19 examples of the Sian being produced, it can also join that exclusive ‘collectors’ club’, to which Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren subscribe, a factor that will explain its near £1.5m price tag.
Conclusion: The odds of seeing a Lamborghini Sian Roadster on roads near you are slim indeed. What it might foster in future is anybody’s guess but you can guarantee it will be electrified, or hybridised at very least.