Apparently, the appropriate gift to give for the 45th anniversary of almost anything is a blue sapphire stone. I cannot imagine Autoblog readers craving a story about that, so I'm glad that Italdesign Giugiaro spared me that gig and instead created this truly interesting Parcour concept to mark its 45th anniversary.
Parcour is named after the generally urban activity of French origin (spelled "parkour"), of throwing one's (presumably) agile body off walls and railings in an anti-gravity freestyle momentum ballet. This sometimes ends up being broadcast on YouTube, particularly to show a parkour session gone horribly wrong, with the star taking a metal banister in the cojones or receiving a fetching bouquet of twisted fingers. Clearly design boss at Giugiaro, Fabrizio Giugiaro (son of legend Giorgetto), and his squad had more coordinated good parkour-ing in mind when they let me drive their cool creation on the island of Sardinia. (I live not far away, so it's a one-hour flight with the herds on a low-cost airline.)
It's been a while since a traditional Turin house created a million-dollar running prototype or showcar that it felt like entrusting to a journalist or two. Recent years have been distracting, to say the least, for the likes of Bertone, Pininfarina and Giugiaro, as the global crisis threatened to suck them under for good. Italdesign-Giugiaro did a very wise thing in May 2010 and allowed longtime partner Volkswagen Group to buy a majority stake, thus securing the future of Giorgetto Giugiaro's dream factory. But all of these dealings have put drives like this on hold for a bit while all t's were crossed and i's dotted.
Fabrizio Giugiaro was my passenger for this vacation island test drive in his latest vision, a car that stunned at March's Geneva Motor Show. Refreshingly, he spent the entire time telling me to put my foot into the Lamborghini powertrain and frankly not be such a wuss. The more I obeyed his command and trusted the Parcour, the more I saw that this was probably the best-driving showcar I've ever piloted.
I saw that this was probably the best-driving showcar I've ever piloted.
The working chassis supporting the carbon composite body panels is an adaptation of the aluminum space frame sled shared between the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Gallardo, while the engine is similarly borrowed from a generous Gallardo LP550-2 donor. That means in theory that I could stuff my right foot into this 543-horsepower, 5.2-liter V10 for 199 miles per hour and a 0-60-mph acceleration run of 3.7 seconds or so. But given that the drivetrain is actually a "-4" (i.e. all-wheel-drive), Giugiaro claims theoretical acceleration to 60 mph is possible in something approaching 3.3 seconds when wearing performance rubber and sitting in the chassis' lowered Track mode.
I ask Fabrizio how fast the Parcour has managed to go so far, and Fabrizio told me roughly 135 mph. This is impressive when you keep in mind the very showy thick-treaded 22-inch Vredestein tires wrapping the concept's flashy wheelset – 275/45 R22 front and 305/45 R22 rear. Those massive rubber bits (well, that and the seven-figure price tag of this show car) proved so intimidating to me that I reach a personal v-max of little more than 95 mph, and that was in a few isolated spurts far from other traffic.
I ask how fast the Parcour has managed to go so far, and Fabrizio told me roughly 135 mph.
The chief element in the "adaptation" part of this aluminum architecture under me is actually pretty significant. In Comfort, Track, and Ice modes of the adaptive chassis, each of the four corners rides on a single innovative pushrod coil-over damper created in-house by Giugiaro engineers. Enter Off-Road mode (represented by a cactus icon on the center console), and a second, much longer-travel damper is also engaged at each corner as the Parcour rises up 4.7 inches from its lowest Track height – 3.1 inches from the intermediate Comfort/Ice height – for total ground clearance of 13.0 inches.
This use of a pushrod configuration normally seen only on supercars and formula racers is somewhat of a first for an all-terrain performance vehicle. But whereas on a strict pushrod setup there is necessarily a rod connected to a wishbone pushing the spring through a rocker, on this Giugiaro design, all the actual rods have been replaced with these highly visible coilovers. In Off-Road, the rocker is decoupled from the primary dampers, thereby also engaging the second set of taller coilovers as your point of view rises. The result is a vastly more supple and longer-travel ride for dirty driving. On this prototype Parcour two-seater hardtop, the very active eight-dampered setup and the onboard display interface that monitors all the activity both did their best to show us their stuff, and when it all worked according to plan, the spectacle and drive was a real conversation piece. I felt ready for a Baja run with Robbie Gordon.
The Parcour thus potentially causes an interesting debate. Word now has it that the planned Lamborghini Urus high-performance SUV will be ready to take customer deliveries worldwide in 2017. I personally really like the Urus and firmly believe that it will easily double Lamborghini sales, if not more. But I sincerely enjoy a configuration like this Parcour more, and not just because Giugiaro has succeeded in keeping the gorgeous Lamborghini-like butterfly doors that work incredibly well at making ingress and egress a cinch.
I felt ready for a Baja run with Robbie Gordon.
On the Parcour, the exhaust exits up high in the rear, and the seating position feels far more Lambo-like than that promised in the Urus. Plus, and most importantly, the V10 is able to stay out back which, among other things, allows for the design in front to be far more interesting while leaving occupants with a ton of legroom. Something like the Parcour would probably not enhance Lamborghini sales numbers by much; one's impassioned preferences can sometimes be less practical than a company requires to reach a next level in sales. (I also love and adore the Ferrari FF, for example.)
The transmission here is a last-generation seven-speed Audi S-tronic unit and it works extremely well in this Parcour configuration. Shifting can afford to be an iota less rapid than in the newest iteration of S-tronic dual-clutch gearboxes (introduced last year on the updated R8 range). It just feels right with the slight added weight of this tall mud car.
Sitting in the cabin with masses of McLaren 12C-like front and side visibility is completely comfortable. Every detail inside the Parcour is Italian futuristic – we expect no less from Giugiaro. The pedal set is widely adjustable fore and aft and shoulder and hip room are gargantuan. Rear-view camera screens are everywhere, and it does take some training to remember to stop looking where the side-view mirrors aren't every time a big maneuver is planned. The two little cameras up high like bug eyes now cover the rearward side view.
Every detail inside the Parcour is Italian futuristic – we expect no less from Giugiaro.
Giugiaro the younger says that the Parcour has been designed by aerodynamics, which in this case means keeping the 200-mph tall car planted with just the right amount of downforce without turning the frontal area into the side of a barn. Yet the coefficient of drag is just over 0.40, which is not particularly good or surprising. At my modestly higher speeds, the small automatically deployed rear wing and the air-flow design of the diffusers and rear-pillar flying buttresses offered additional stability. It made me wonder what the Parcour would feel like at nearly 200 mph, though I don't want to be the one to explore that number with the car's current exaggerated tall corners.
More than likely, this Giugiaro Red Parcour "XGT" hardtop, along with the white roadster version and the silver competition trim that were all shown together in Geneva, will end up in storage or on permanent displays somewhere in the VW Group's facilities once they are done showing off. It's a shame, because together they are some of Fabrizio Giugiaro's best work – we at Autoblog even voted the trio as our Editor's Choice for best in show at Geneva.
Fabrizio tells me that between all the Middle Eastern and Russian clients who came to the company's show stand with cash ready to buy a Parcour, he could build a business case for production. But for the moment, he's just happy really that his 45th-anniversary gift was so well received.