Driving instructors

Lamborghini’s Esperienza program has taken our driving to the next level – Robb Report

A car from Automobili Lamborghini means different things to different people, whether it’s a lifelong dream come true, a worthy rival to the House of Maranello, a wedge-shaped status symbol or a bold expression of one’s own self-confidence. But tearing up the uphill, off-camber first corner of Sonoma Raceway at around 145 mph in a Lamborghini Huracán STO provides conclusive definition. Lamborghini’s origins may date back to making tractors, but today this Italian-born German brand seems determined to produce some of the most exciting vehicles on the planet.

Allowing enthusiasts to experience just how exciting the mission of a growing menu of Lamborghini Esperienza programs is, which seeks to bring everyone, from collectors to future owners, into the Raging Bull’s distinctive ring. The idea is simple and increasingly common among luxury automakers looking to appeal to consumers who present themselves with an increasing array of choices: buy a car and embrace a lifestyle.

Lamborghini’s Esperienza offerings let customers sample the prowess of model lines like the Huracán and Aventador.

Drew Phillips, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini SpA

“We want to feel connected to our customers, there can be no distance between us,” says Andrea Baldi, CEO of Lamborghini North America, who is on hand for this Esperienza session.

Baldi says Lamborghini customers are, on average, younger “than our competitors”, who, although the name is never mentioned, are assumed to be Ferrari. Specifically, Lambo buyers are between the ages of 35 and 45 and are typically successful CEOs or entrepreneurs, according to Baldi. Esperienza programs offer these guests the opportunity to sample the prowess of model lines like the Huracán and Aventador, as well as the Urus SUV, in a variety of settings around the world.

When it comes to the Huracán and Aventador, that usually means playing on the track or on snow and ice, while the Urus’ antics take place in tough off-road locations from Iceland to Transylvania. Prices vary depending on location and length of program, which in some cases can last several days and include ancillary adventures such as, in the case of the recent Sonoma outing, wine tours and plane flights. hot air balloon.

A hot air balloon ride in Sonoma, California.

A hot air balloon ride increases downtime during Esperienza in Sonoma.

Drew Phillips, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini SpA

The Urus has been particularly critical for Lamborghini’s resurgence; 70% of Urus buyers are new to the brand. But Lamborghini says all current inventory, across all model lines, is sold out and the wait to receive a vehicle can be more than a year. Some Esperienza guests are, in fact, brand new Lamborghini owners eager to get a feel for the outer limits of their next purchase.

“For many, they only know their car on the [car configurator] computer screen,” says Baldi. “Here they can push the real thing to the limit while waiting for their cars.”

Esperienza’s programs include Neve (“snow” in Italian), which takes drivers to the Italian Alps to learn the art of drifting Huracán STOs on ice, followed by treatments at the Lac Salin Spa and Mountain Resort in Livigno. Accademia Corsa is for those who wish to enter the world of amateur racing. And Giro allows Lamborghini owners to experience lavish, organized trips – in their own vehicles – across multiple continents.

The Esperienza Avventura option is for those looking to test the limits of the Lambo models in formidable off-road terrain. Last year, customers across Europe and the Middle East took the Urus through rugged gauntlets comprising hundreds of miles. The only trip to Iceland saw the Urus tackle places such as the Geldingadalir Valley, Kvernufoss Waterfall and Katla Glacier.

Lamborghini supercars at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.

The growing menu of Lamborghini Esperienza events welcomes newcomers to the Raging Bull’s distinctive ring.

Drew Phillips, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini SpA

Finally, there’s Esperienza Dinamica, which gives access to a full range of Lamborghini models on and off the track, and, in the version set in Italy, can include an exclusive trip to both the factory and the legendary circuit. from Imola.

Robb Report was recently invited to an abbreviated version of the Dinamica program on a gloriously sunny afternoon in Sonoma, California, just north of San Francisco. The activity kicked off with 90 minutes of Urus siege time in the hills above the racetrack. A team of seven instructors were on hand to advise and guide, including Lamborghini’s multiple Super Trofeo series winner Richard Antinucci.

Most of the ride was meant to showcase the SUV’s versatility, from crouched speed demon to comfortable all-terrain mountain goat. At an 18% grade, the Urus quietly and deftly climbed to the top at a steady 15 mph, then calmly descended the other side in downhill mode without me having to touch the pedals.

The 641 hp Lamborghini Urus in off-road driving.

The 641 hp Urus SUV demonstrates its keen off-road sense.

Drew Phillips, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini SpA

A little more difficult was a slalom on a dusty dirt road. Given that the SUV’s 641bhp twin-turbo V8 can rocket the Urus to 60mph in 3.1 seconds, it takes some getting used to when dragging it through the cones. In the end, it’s an enriching experience that awakens my child’s soul, a bit like sledding down a snowy slope.

But then the real fun comes. Antinucci and his fellow instructors are paired with guests for personalized follow-up sessions on a track notorious for its elevation changes. For the first set of laps, instructors drive the Huracán STO while participants pilot the Huracán Evos.

On paper, the two cars look similar, packing the same 5.2-liter V-10. But the STO, which costs almost a third more, is the Evo on race revs. A combination of active aerodynamics and acres of carbon fiber means the STO is a scalpel for the Evo’s steak knife.

Automotive journalist Marco della Cava during a Lamborghini Esperienza program at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.

All smiles after a high-performance game of following the Lamborghini-style leader.

Drew Phillips, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini SpA

My Evo is set to full auto mode and makes me feel like a champ. Shifting to seven gears on its own, the Evo allows the driver to fully concentrate, in this case on the fact that the wide tires follow Antinucci’s line as closely as possible. It is also essential to brake precisely where the pro does. Do both with reasonable skill and you’ll feel like an ace.

But the game changes when the cars are swapped. I’m looped into shark-like STO when a hand reaches out and flips a steering wheel-mounted switch from STO mode to Trofeo mode, effectively telling the car that it really is track time.

What I don’t know is that Trofeo mode puts the car in manual all the time, which means that in addition to the racing line, peaks and braking points, I now have to worry about the Red line. For a number of laps, I hit that 9,000 rpm point, repeatedly. My eyes are glued to the blurry track, so the sound is all I have to dial in my palette changes.

Finally, I understand and the STO really comes to life. A rhythm is slowly established on uphill sweeps, downhill dives and quick shifts from fifth gear to second before a series of twisty S-curves. As a level of comfort sets in, it’s time to put the helmet and balaclava back on in exchange for a welcome high-five from Antinucci.

A dinner at the Donum Estate winery, part of the Lamborghini Esperienza program in Sonoma, California.

A dinner at the Donum Estate winery caps off a day of work on the track.

Drew Phillips, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini SpA

I certainly learned my own limits, and even pushed them a little. But the real gift of the Esperienza program is experiencing it all in the company of people for whom buying a Lamborghini means more than just getting the keys to a new car.

“We’re automakers, not retailers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share the passion we have and become friends with our customers,” Baldi says. “And when you’re at high speed, the barriers fall.”