Sand, gravel, snow: Latest sports cars can go off-roading too

It's too late to put in an order for a Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato.

October 29, 2023, 6:00 AM

It was an outlandish concept. Take a Lamborghini Huracan -- a low-slung, outrageously fast coupe -- and transform it into an "all-terrain super sports car."

Lamborghinis are built for racetracks, not gravel, sand and mud. The company's execs, however, had a hunch that enthusiasts would pay up for a limited-edition Huracan that could be driven 12 months a year -- including in snow and sleet -- without getting stuck, scrapped or towed.

Earlier this year, the Italian automaker started production of the Huracan Sterrato, a $279,000 sports car with serious attitude that can be slung around implausible locales. Every single unit -- all 1,499 -- is sold out.

"Before people would ask, 'Who needs an off-roading Huracan?'" Rouven Mohr, chief technical officer of Lamborghini, told ABC News. "I am not surprised by the demand. I was convinced people would love it."

The Sterrato clearly stands out from its Huracan siblings. It sits 1.7 inches higher compared to a Huracan EVO, has aluminum front underbody protection and comes with custom-engineered Bridgestone tires that are adapted for any road condition or surface. Plus, there's a rally mode for low-grip scenarios.

Of course, Lamborghini's definition of "off-roading" is different than Jeep's or Toyota's. Sadly, Sterrato drivers cannot crawl over boulders without adding some necessary upgrades. Dune bashing may be challenging, too. But the Sterrato can trample beaches, dominate dirt roads in Joshua Tree National Park and traverse slippery winter roads.

The air intakes on the rear hood and radiators make the Sterrato look as threatening as a modified Ford Bronco.

"There are limitations to the Sterrato," Andrea Baldi, Automobili Lamborghini Americas CEO, told ABC News. "Sterrato added a lot of practical use, though. Versatility is becoming more and more relevant for super sports cars."

PHOTO: The ground clearance on the Huracan Sterrato was raised 44 mm (or 1.7 inches) compared to the Huracan EVO.
The ground clearance on the Huracan Sterrato was raised 44 mm (or 1.7 inches) compared to the Huracan EVO.

Porsche, like Lamborghini, joined the red-hot off-roading space with the 911 Dakar. Built specifically for ice, deserts and challenging road conditions, the car's hydraulic lift system, suspension and Pirelli all-terrain tires raise it a maximum 7.52 inches off the ground -- identical to some SUVs.

"Porsche has a history of building rally cars. There is a precedent," Matt Farah, host of the popular podcast "The Smoking Tire," told ABC News. "It's been building rally cars since the 1970s."

He added, "Demand is strong for the Dakar. All special Porsches are hard to get."

PHOTO: The Porsche 911 Dakar can achieve a level of ride height and ramp-over angles similar to conventional SUVs.
The Porsche 911 Dakar can achieve a level of ride height and ramp-over angles similar to conventional SUVs.

Tony Quiroga, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver, said cars like the Sterrato and 911 Dakar give owners more flexibility and, more importantly, peace of mind.

"When you drive an exotic car, you're thinking, "Am I going to scrape it? Am I too close to the curb? It's heartbreaking when you hear that scrape," he told ABC News. "These worries are sort of gone by adding just a little bit of ground clearance."

He went on, "The 911 Dakar and Sterrato are an extension of wanting to drive a sports car year-round. A lot of people are not interested in setting lap times."

Added Farah: "People who buy expensive cars are worried about taking them to the track. The Sterrato and 911 Dakar can be driven on sand and dirt confidently."

Enthusiasts have been clamoring for off-roading sports cars. In 2021, German company Singer Vehicle Design transformed a 1990 911 into an off-roading savage that could easily shred pavement or win the Baja 1000. The car, designed in partnership with rally expert Richard Tuthill, was named "All-terrain Competition Study" and commissioned by a client.

Farah, who once converted a 1987 911 Safari into a rally car, got to test the 911 Dakar's capabilities in the Sahara Desert.

"We drove it on the sand dunes ... it was very fun to fling around and do big slides on," he said.

Now he's campaigning to get other sports car makers to take a leap of faith and follow in Lamborghini's and Porsche's tracks.

"I told the Corvette team they should do an off-roading sports car. They were curious about my ideas," Farah said. "This is a new genre that has a lot of promise."

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