Active Aero takes flight

Banned from motorsports half a century ago, variable aerodynamic devices were simply too effective to bury. Like practically every engineering advancement born of racing, manipulating air flow for improved performance was destined to trickle down to production cars.


In 1989, Porsche equipped its redesigned 911 Carrera 4 with a hinged air-inlet grille serving double duty as a rear spoiler. Above 50 mph (80.4 kph), an electric motor lifted the panel 30° into the air stream, returning it to a flush position below 10 mph (16 kph). This rising spoiler achieved three ends: Rear axle lift fell to zero, air flow to the engine was doubled and a large and unsightly grille opening was avoided.


Since that seminal 911 feature, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bugatti, Ferrari, Ford, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche have all bent the wind to their will with adjustable flaps, shutters, spoilers and wings. (See AE November 2015 cover story: http://magazine.sae.org/15autp11/). Two additional strides for the 2018 model year described below suggest that moveable aerodynamic surfaces could become core features in every new sports car’s design—and potentially in more mainstream vehicles as well.


Lamborghini’s innovative application of this science is part of a comprehensive upgrade of its Huracan V-10 supercar encompassing chassis improvements, the addition of 29 hp (22 kW), and a 90-lb (41-kg) mass reduction. Venturing off the standard path to higher performance, Lamborghini also improved its $274,390 Huracan Performante with an approach bearing the acronym ALA. While ala is Italian for wing, here it stands for Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva, or Lamborghini Active Aerodynamics. The key components are a front air splitter and a rear wing, both manipulated by a control computer to benefit acceleration, braking, cornering and top speed.

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