Maybe it was the Lamborghini Veneno that did it, with those blades jutting everywhere like a 750 horsepower shaving instrument. Or maybe it was the Lamborghini Egoista that did it, looking more like a fighter jet than an actual car. But at some point, Lamborghini designers must have realized they had taken insane as far as it could go.
Probably since the Countach came into existence in the 1970s, "insane" is what we have come to expect from Lamborghini. We know their cars, both in concept and production, will push the boundaries of common sense and good taste into places we may not be comfortable going to.
It goes something like this: You want a car that's tasteful, restrained or classically beautiful? Go somewhere else. A Lamborghini is supposed to be ridiculous and offensive and in-your-face, a reminder to the world that you love money and speed and don't give a shit what anyone thinks.
At least, that's how Lamborghini has been lately. But the Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4 is different. It is tasteful, restrained and yeah, maybe even classically beautiful. It's something different for Lamborghini in a lot of ways, especially design. And that is a good thing for them.
Notice I said "different," not new. Lamborghini's cars weren't always violent, psychotic-looking speed-monsters. And the Asterion has quite a bit in common with some of the cars from Lamborghini's past.
All of Lamborghini's cars now are hardcore, mid-engined sports cars, but it actually took them a while to move into that segment (and when they did, they helped to pioneer it.) The earliest Lamborghinis were front-engined 2+2 grand tourers like the 400GT and Islero. Later came the Espada and Urraco, both of which bear more than a passing resemblance to the Asterion in my mind.
Both were impressive designs for their day, but neither was outrageous as what was to come. These weren't supercars, they were grand tourers. They had classy, sleek designs worthy of a gentleman driver (or a lady, of course.)
But even by the time those were out, Lamborghini was already making a supercar — the first modern supercar, by most accounts, and a true game-changer: the Miura. Its blistering performance was matched only by its curves and clean silhouette. It was an extreme car, but also a instant classic of a design.
The Asterion looks like it definitely took a few cues from the Miura. Check out the front and rear wheel arches, the shape of the door widows. The new hybrid hypercar definitely has a little Miura in there, and that's good.
By the mid-1970s we had the Countach, and then its successor the Diablo, both noisy, extreme, angry, sports cars whose designs defined the character of the brand. Most Lamborghinis have followed their path ever since.
I think we started to see a shift away from that with the new Huracan, which was considerably more dialed down than its predecessor the Gallardo. Somehow, though, the Huracan just manages to look a little bland to me. It's far more striking in person, but the Asterion exectues this newer, cleaner, simpler language much better.
The design of the Asterion succeeds on several levels. From the front, it's unmistakably a Lamborghini. But the gently sloping rear half recalls more subdued sports cars like the Lotus Evora, even while the huge rear haunches and intakes add some muscle. And the taillamps and rear diffuser make it look like the future-mobile it is.
I also like this car because, out of all the hybrid hypercars we've seen so far, this one looks the most like a "normal" car, if you can somehow describe the Asterion as normal. It doesn't have the gaudy race car looks of LaFerrari or the McLaren P1, nor the science experiment-ish appearance of the Porsche 918 Spyder (nor that car's tasteless, brand-building "E-HYBRID" badges plastered everywhere.)
For the Asterion, the fact that it's a hybrid is merely incidental to its design. We probably would have never guessed it has three electric motors just from the sheetmetal alone. For all we know from that alone, this could have easily been just another mid-engine Lamborghini.
I think that says something about the advancement of hybrid systems — rather than loudly broadcasting what they are, like a Prius or an Insight, they're stealthily making their way into all types of cars without much design fuss.
So the Asterion becomes the car that bridges Lamborghini's past to its future. As Maté wrote in his dispatch from the Paris Motor Show today, this is a car Lamborghini had to make. Even with the untold numbers of Volkswagen Golfs sold every year to cushion the blow, new European Union emissions laws and ever-more-stringent fuel economy rules meant a hybrid had to happen. Even Lamborghini can't keep on making their gas-guzzling, overpowered V10s and V12s forever.
But the Asterion makes me think that maybe, just maybe, that won't be a bad thing. You can't argue with the 910 horses this car has when its engine and electric motors work together, and you can't argue with its good looks, either.
If this is what the future looks like, then sign me up.