Lamborghini Centenario debuts in N.A., we drive it in Forza Horizon 3
In the world of supercars, Lamborghini stands alone. It’s the brand that invented the supercar with the elegant Miura. And its Countach, which still stands as one of the most iconic cars in existence, pretty much defined our childhoods.
But best of all, Lamborghini is a brand that fully embraces its wild side, almost as if it’s sole purpose is to appeal to 12-year-olds. Build a stealth fighter for the street? No problem – let’s call it the Reventon. Not wild enough for you? Let’s add some more fins, look to F-Zero for added inspiration and create the Veneno. Are you Cobra Commander? Then the Egoista is the right ride for you.
And Lamborghini shows no signs of mellowing out. To celebrate the 100th birthday of founder Ferruccio Lamborghini, the company recently unveiled its hyper-limited Centenario LP 770-4. This carbon-fibre ride is the company’s ultimate expression of design, performance and exclusivity – and it may very well be our favorite Lambo yet.
We were invited to the ultra-exclusive North American unveiling of the car at the newly redesigned Petersen Auto Museum. Here, surrounded by the BMW art cars, classic Alfas and a Viper-powered motorcycle, the Centenario clearly stole the show. The main purpose of this reveal was to announce the car’s involvement in the latest iteration of Forza Motorsport, with final details to be announced at the E3 gaming convention and streamed live on Xbox Live.
This carbon-fibre ride is the company’s ultimate expression of design, performance and exclusivity.
Let’s talk about the design first. As cliché as it sounds, this is a car that truly surprises and delights from every angle. Its shape is both aggressive and elegant, constructed completely from carbon fiber and exhibiting both gloss and matte finishes. Yes, it’s got more fins than Sea World, but each and every surface is designed to maximize aerodynamic performance. Each angle revealed something new and exciting, and we were still finding plenty of subtle details to get excited about even as security was escorting us out the door.
Those familiar with Lamborghini’s naming conventions can already guess that this thing is pushing 770 angry horses to the ground via an advanced all-wheel drive system. Here that power comes from a naturally aspirated V12 with a screaming 8,600 rpm readline, and it helps rocket the Centenario to 100 kilometres per hour in just 2.8 seconds. Top speed ranks at 350 km/h. This Lamborghini slows down in a hurry, too, its carbon ceramic brakes needing just about 30 metres to go from 100 km/h to 0.
Lamborghini outfitted the Centenario LP 770-4 with its first four-wheel steering system. Yes, we’ve seen similar systems on cars like the old GT-R and Honda Prelude, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less impressive. At lower speeds, the rear wheels turn in opposite to the front wheels, virtually “shortening” its wheelbase for improved low-speed maneuvering. In higher-speed situations, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels, virtually “lengthening” the wheelbase for better high-speed stability.
All of this performance, design and technology come at a price – an incredibly high one at that. With only 20 coupes and 20 roadsters slated for production, each Centenario has a starting price of just a hair under $3.18 million (converted from its $2.2M euro price at today's exchange rates). But it’s not like any of us can buy one anyway as they’re already pre-sold out. Thank God for video games.
Virtual Test Drive
After seeing the real-deal Centenario, the E3 gaming conference gave us the chance to actually log some time behind its digital wheel, by way of Forza Horizon 3. And though our time with the game was brief, we gotta say: it was a total rush.
Through it all, we found time to chat with Alan Hartman – studio head for Turn 10 Studios, the developer of the Forza series. Obviously excited for the game – and the Centenario – Hartman shared with us just how they got this one-of-a-kind ride into the game.
“Lamborghini has been in (Forza) for a long time,” Hartman begins. “I think it really started changing about six years ago when, not just Lamborghini, but manufacturers in general just started realizing that video games were the way to reach – not just kids – but their audience. You know, people were making car purchase decisions by playing the games.”
With the Forza series in general, it takes Turn 10 about six months to build a car in-game. Wherever possible, they use laser scans and manufacturer-supplied CAD data to build the foundation of these virtual cars. And in our years of talking with the programmers, they always get excited when they find new ways to push their physics models further – nowhere else will you find someone stoked to talk about the math of tire scrub. But as game systems, and cars, get ever more complex, so does Turn 10’s modeling.
“A car like [the Centenario] is actually forcing us to change our physics model."
As Hartman explains, “A car like [the Centenario] is actually forcing us to change our physics model, to continuously invest and change things so we can actually capture this car's dynamics properly. This car has technology unlike anything that was in Forza 3. If we put this car in Forza 3, it wouldn't behave right.
“Same thing happened in Forza 5 with the [McLaren] P1, you know, the first hybrid we put in the game. And you know, how do we actually model things like the electric motors and figure out the relationship between the gasoline engine and the electric motor – [we’re constantly] breaking down how that all works.”
As for the game itself, we had access to just the limited E3 demo. After crashing our Centenario while attempting to drive in the full virtual reality sled, we tried again with the standard Xbox One controller. Having grown up with a controller in-hand since the original NES days, it was by far the easier option.
We started off by tearing through the Australian countryside in our Centenario, taking in the beauty of the environment as we take in the heavily detailed cockpit. We crested hills, splashed through rivers, when before we know it, the game transitioned to a cutscene showing BJ Baldwin’s trophy truck jumping over our supercar convoy.
From there we were behind the wheel of Baldwin’s truck as we chased other desert runners through the Australian beaches, caves, and a flowing off-road course. From there we switched to an off-road buggy, this time tasked with racing a Jeep being carried through the forest by helicopter. It sounds insane, and it was, but only in the best possible way. The mixture of level design, music, and atmosphere make for a fun, engaging experience. Those looking for a deep, realistic sim, however, should look elsewhere.
Again, all 40 examples of the Centenario have been sold. If you’re really, really rich, maybe you can buy a used one – eventually – when it hits the auction block. For the rest of us, we can get inside this hyper-limited hypercar when Forza Horizon 3 hits Xbox One and Windows 10 systems, on September 27.