Cars & Racing | 16 September 2015The Sesto Elemento: Electrifying Lust Share article facebook twitter google pinterest The Sesto Elemento, unveiled to the public at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, provided yet more evidence of Lamborghini’s ability to turn a whim into an object of electrifying lust. What began life as a concept car—or, in Audi-era Lamborghini parlance, “a unique technology demonstrator”—swiftly persuaded enough of the company’s wealthiest customers to vote with their wallets. At Frankfurt the following year, Lamborghini announced that a limited production run would become available in 2013, priced over $2 million; they were all sold before the first (of 20) was completed. We turned our attention (and our lust) to this baby, which is featured in Lamborghini Supercars 50 Years. Try not to salivate as you peruse the excerpt below. Its name riffs on the periodic table of the elements, the sixth of which is carbon. Extensive use of carbon fiber all through the car’s construction enabled Lamborghini to make it “extremely lightweight,” although when you’re talking about a car occupying this much real estate, and with a V-10 engine and all-wheel drive, these things are relative: it still tipped the scales at 2,202 pounds, just under 1,000 kilograms. Still, that’s under two-thirds the weight of a Chevrolet Corvette C7 (3,298 pounds), and much lighter than the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera (2,954 pounds) that donated the drivetrain. When you consider that the standard Gallardo, which is in the same dimensional ballpark as the Sesto Elemento, weighed 3,307 pounds, you’ll appreciate how rigorous the paring-down process must have been. This car represented a strategic shift to embrace ongoing changes in the automotive world, namely the need to increase efficiency—or to be seen to be doing so. It’s a troubling proposition for any supercar manufacturer, but especially one whose brand is predicated upon brutal, muscular performance. Thus, rather than downsizing its Automobili Lamborghini engines, Lamborghini targeted extreme weight loss. Lamborghini President and CEO Stephan Winkelmann was unequivocal: “The Sesto Elemento shows how the future of the super sports car can look—extreme lightweight engineering, combined with extreme performance, results in extreme driving fun. We put all of our technological competence into one stunning form to create the Sesto Elemento. It is our abilities in carbon fiber technology that have facilitated such a forward- thinking concept, and we of course also benefit from the undisputed lightweight expertise of Audi. Systematic lightweight engineering is crucial for future super sports cars: for the most dynamic performance, as well as for low emissions. We will apply this technological advantage right across our model range. Every future Lamborghini will be touched by the spirit of the Sesto Elemento.” Beyond the glitter of marketing hyperbole, how did Lamborghini do it? The secret lies in the detailing, which is exquisite and imaginative. Naturally the monocoque is carbon fiber, as per the Aventador (which was in the late stages of development when the Sesto Elemento was unveiled, and launched in 2011); the seat moldings also form part of the “tub,” dressed with ultra-thin padding. To adjust the driving position, the occupant has to move the pedals and steering column relative to the fixed seat. The front subframe, crash structures, and exterior panels are formed in carbon fiber-reinforced polymer, which Lamborghini claimed as a first, saying, “The super sports car brand from Sant’Agata Bolognese is the only vehicle manufacturer in the world to have mastered the complete CFRP process across a range of technologies, from 3D design through simulation, validation, production, and testing—all in a state-of-the-art industrial process that stands for the very highest quality standards.” The rear subframe, incorporating the engine mounts and rear suspension contacts, is aluminum, while the exterior construction gives a salutary nod toward the Miura. The bodyshell is actually two elaborate single-piece moldings (the roof is part of the monocoque) front and rear, which Lamborghini called “cofango covers” with the aerodynamic components bonded in. The doors are each made of just two separate moldings, bonded together, while the exhaust tailpipes are a glass-ceramic matrix composite called Pyrosic. Most of the suspension components are carbon fiber. Lamborghini’s expertise in composites is not just marketing bluster; the company holds a number of patents and has partnered with a number of others, including Boeing during development of the 787 Dreamliner, to create new molding technologies. In 2007 it founded the Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, partly funded by Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration. The Sesto Elemento was the first car to demonstrate what Lamborghini calls Forged Composite technology, which was developed in collaboration with Callaway, a golfing equipment manufacturer. Forged Composite is an incredibly dense carbon fiber-epoxy molding material, with around 500,000 intertwined turbostratic (a crystalline structure in which the basal planes are out of alignment) fibers per square inch. This can be hot-pressed into a mold, rather than the traditional composite technique of layering woven sheets of carbon fiber into a mold with resin, sealing it in a vacuum, and then “curing” it under pressure in an autoclave. The upshot: more complex shapes, and the material is just as strong in every direction. “The introduction of the Forged Composite technology allowed Lamborghini to realize the monocoque and the suspension arms of the Sesto Elemento with groundbreaking quality and costs levels,” said the company’s head of R&D, Maurizio Reggiani. “Our next challenge is to make this technology a standard for low-volume productions.” Speed of production remains a challenge for car manufacturers working with composites in the traditional way. McLaren’s F1 was the first supercar to feature a carbon fiber monocoque, but just that part of the car required 3,500 man hours to complete. Modern techniques have reduced that amount, but it remains an expense that’s ultimately passed on to the customer; hence the fact that carbon fiber construction remains the province of automotive exotica. Lamborghini also holds a number of patents for its “RTM Lambo” production process, with RTM standing for Resin Transfer Molding. This gives a number of advantages over the traditional carbon fiber lay-up process; it can be cured without using an autoclave, so the molds can be lighter, and it can be more highly automated, so it’s quicker. The disadvantage is that the cosmetic appearance is less optimal, so for exterior panels the conventional method is still preferred, because it can be left unpainted to show off the woven finish that customers associate with carbon fiber. On the Sesto Elemento, the body panels have a patented final coat in matte, with a layer of fine red crystals that give a shimmering red effect. The incredible power-to-weight ratio of the Sesto Elemento gave it extraordinary performance, though the race car-style suspension made it suitable for track use only, and it is not street legal. When a privileged few road testers had the opportunity to sample the demonstrator, they confirmed what everyone expected: the Sesto Elemento makes a glorious noise, but it isn’t a car to be trifled with, hitting the 0–62 miles per hour benchmark in a claimed 2.5 seconds. The anonymous racing driver known as “The Stig” on the BBC’s Top Gear TV show managed to spin it, damaging the undertray, during a recording session at Dunsfold, the former airfield in southern England that now doubles as a test track as well as a location for movies such as Casino Royale and World War Z. Appropriately, Sesto Elemento values are now spiraling like the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster: the highest reported price paid for one is $2.9 million. Sesto Elemento Chassis: Carbon fiber monocoque, aluminum rear frame Suspension: N/A Brakes: N/A Wheelbase: N/A Front/rear track: N/A Wheels/Tires: N/A Engine: Rear longitudinally mounted 90-degree V-10 Bore/Stroke: 84.5 mm/92.8 mm Cubic capacity: 5204 cc Compression ratio: 12.5:1 Maximum power: 570 bhp at 8000 rpm Valve gear: Dual overhead camshafts; electronically controlled variable valve timing Fuel/ignition system: Bosch MED 9 Lubrication: Dry sump Gearbox: Lamborghini 6-speed e-Gear Transmission: Permanent four-wheel drive Dry weight: 999 kg Top speed: N/A Lamborghini Supercars 50 Years: From the Groundbreaking Miura to Today’s Hypercars – Foreword by Fabio Lamborghini Photographer: James Mann Author: Stuart Codling Immerse yourself in this complete guide on Lamborghini’s ultimate performance cars. Nearly 50 years ago, upstart high-end sports car manufacturer Lamborghini set the performance car world on its ear with its stunning supercar, the Miura. Wrapped in a svelte Marcello Gandini-designed body and powered by a 350-horsepower V-12, the Miura instantly made every other car look antiquated. In 1974, Lamborghini again shocked the automotive world with the mad Countach (an Italian expression one might utter at the sight of a beautiful woman), another Gandini masterpiece. Wide, low, and menacing, the original Countach completely recalibrated the supercar template. The Diablo replaced the Countach in 1990 and was the last of the Lamborghini supercars under the auspices of the “original” company. Audi acquired the company in 1997 and would bring significant German efficiency to bear, turning out supercars to a new template: the Murielago in 2001, the Gallardo in 2003, the Reventon in 2008, the Aventador in 2011, and, most recently, the appropriately named Huracan. Each one is an ultimate car. Many were collector vehicles from the moment they rolled off the production line. Beneath their stunning bodywork lie chassis and powerplants bristling with the best technology of their respective eras. Lamborghini’s latest supercars zip from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 3 seconds and hit top speeds in excess of 220 miles per hour. Their prices are equally staggering. Lamborghini Supercars 50 Years is devoted exclusively to all of Lamborghini’s ultimate performance cars. No enthusiast of these world-class sports cars will want to miss it! Buy from an Online Retailer In North America: In The UK: Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.