The Sixth Element

Looking like an F-117 stealth fighter plane as designed by Darth Vader, Lamborghini’s new Sesto Elemento concept car could easily be confused for a futuristic vehicle from some sci-fi movie.  Considering that the car’s name literally translates to Sixth Element, one could hardly be blamed for wondering if Bruce Willis or Milla Jovovich was at the wheel (for a follow-up to Luc Besson’s 1997 classic The Fifth Element) when the sleek two-seat exotic sports car debuted at the Paris Motor Show earlier this week.

As it turns out, the Sesto Elemento is so named for the 6th element of the periodic table, which is (as any self-respecting high school chemistry student knows) carbon.  As most automotive-inclined people by now are aware, carbon fiber is all the rage in today’s supercar segment; a weight reducing performance enhancer that is used in everything from structural body components to trivial interior decorations.  Just about every sports car manufacturer utilizes the material in some capacity or another, but Lamborghini in particular has predicated its design philosophy on the wholesale integration of carbon fiber into its vehicles.

With the official unveiling of the Sesto Elemento at the Paris Motor Show (vague teaser pics had circulated on the internet for weeks in advance), Lamborghini has actually gone so far to declare that it is the only manufacturer in the world to have mastered the complete carbon-fiber reinforced plastic process across a range of technologies.  This would seem a rather bold claim given the widespread use of carbon fiber throughout the industry, although there can be no doubt that Lambo’s models (which routinely feature superleggera – or super light – in their nomenclature) place an unusually high premium on weight reduction.

The Sesto blows that general superleggera paradigm out of the water, with such an overwhelming use of carbon fiber that one is left to wonder if there is any traditional metal remaining in the car at all.  The entire front frame, exterior panels, crash box, and major suspension components are all crafted from carbon fiber, as are the wheel rims and driveshaft.  With just a smidgeon of aluminum thrown in (thankfully, the more traditional material accounts for the rear subframe’s engine mounts, rear axle suspension points and the engine’s crankcase), the Sesto tips the scales at only 2,202 lbs.

Of course, light weight is only half the equation of breathtaking performance.  The other half, power, comes in the form of the transversely rear-mounted 5,204 cc V-10 engine that is already used in the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera.  Capable of developing 570 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, the V-10 reportedly launches the Sesto to 62 mph in an almost unfathomable 2.5 seconds with a top speed in excess of 186 mph.  Lamborghini enthusiasts will no doubt salivate at the thought of such astounding performance, as well as the Sesto’s trademark Lambo design, which continues to develop the notion of artful wedge originally posed by the Countach almost 40 years ago (though it’s not for everyone).  Despite some early reports from the motoring press that had this car pegged as a replacement for the Murcielago, the car’s modest size, and its use of a V-10 engine, would suggest that it would more appropriately succeed the Gallardo, if anything.  However, all statements emanating from the Sant’Agata Bolognese-based manufacturer indicate that the Sesto Elemento is a concept only, albeit one whose investigation of carbon fiber integration will inform Lamborghini models for decades to come.