Driven (fast): Lamborghini's raging Huracan Performante
Appearing at the very top of Lamborghini’s V10 line-up, the Huracan Performante finally arrived in South Africa, five years after the standard Huracan was launched worldwide. This means it’s now in its final iteration before being replaced by an all new model in the next two to three years. However, two to three years is a long time, and to keep Lamborghini’s cash registers ticking over around the world the company has decided to turn its littlest raging bull into a car that’s actually, arguably, one of the best cars it’s ever made. First, let’s get all the need-to-knows out the way.
Before we get to its engine and its dynamics, it’s worthwhile to get to grips with the witchcraft that goes into piecing a Huracan Performante together. You see, while the chassis is relatively the same as the standard car’s, the body’s now made out of a mix of lightweight metals and exotic, forged material.
Lamborghini South Africa’s Christo Kruger sums up the car’s composition quite appropriately: “The Lamborghini Huracán Performante is amazing; first of all for its massive adoption of Forged Composites. This is one of the most innovative materials used by Automobili Lamborghini and it is made by including chopped carbon fibres embedded in a resin matrix, allowing the creation of complex design within a light weight structure.”
Basically, you get the strength of carbon fibre in the body, but it’s even lighter than the traditional carbon fibre panels you’ll find on ‘regular’’ Lambos. The forged body parts also have a very distinct look to them, almost mirroring the effect of a granite kitchen top.
By chopping up the carbon fibre and using this resin mulch to build the body, it’s inherently lighter - up to 21 percent lighter if you compare the rear engine cover on the Performante against the standard Huracan, for example. So, lighter means faster, and that’s how the Performante was able to break the lap record for production cars at the Nordschleife. It has trick aero too (more on that later), and a fixed rear wing that screams Diablo GT.
It’s a hyper-looking car, and it’s constructed in a way that’s unheard of in road cars. Inside too, the seats are thinner and the sound deadening has been reduced. And the radio is there, but we prefer it deleted to save weight further. Overall, though, you’re looking at a car that weighs as much as a Volkswagen Golf R.
If you peer into the back of a Huracan Performante, you ‘ll see gold cylinder head covers. Yes, these are the very same cylinder heads that Lamborghini uses on its Super Trofeo racing cars, which means you get a full-fat 470kW of power at 8000rpm. Torque is high too at 600Nm, reaching this peak at 6500rpm. Basically, this engine comes alive when most cars, especially turbo cars, have already given up.
Sending the power and torque to all four wheels is a seven-speed double clutch automatic transmission, very similar to the unit in the standard car, but tweaked in line with the Performante’s added engine potential. Shorter gears at the front of the stack ensure sub-three second sprints to 100km/h with Launch Control engaged, while a tall seventh gear enables reasonable cruising ability. Yeah, right.
Last year, I travelled to Spain to drive the new Audi R8 V10 at the Ascari circuit, where it simply blew my mind in terms dynamics and driver engagement. Sharp on turn in, responsive to throttle inputs, and eager, oh so eager, to rev. I thought this is it, there’s no way ‘this V10’ could get any better, but Lamborghini have managed to squeeze even more potential and drama from this sum of parts than the boys over at Ingolstadt.
We picked up the test car at Lamborghini’s new dealership in Century City, heading immediately for the highway and some quiet roads on the outskirts of Franschoek.
My co-driver, who had hoped into the driver’s seat first was seemingly too eager to experience the car’s potential, having to go into full-ABS mode after trying to pass some slower traffic (on the left). The Huracan gathered its momentum so quickly that it was only a matter of seconds before we were galloping at twice the speed limit. Nevertheless, it was good to experience how well the car’s standard-fit carbon ceramic braking system works in synergy with its trick Pirelli tyres. If you’re out on a burn with your Performante, it’s good to factor in that other cars just can’t pull off as strongly or respond as quickly to your inputs in the Lambo. My co-driver was smitten by the car’s straight-line performance, and he had every right to be, as it’s not every day that one gets to expereience the rush that a 2.15kg/hp weight-to-power ratio car provides.
Oh, that sound
Before we reached the Franschoek pass, we swapped seats so that I could have a turn riding the bull. With the car set to Sport (and manual) mode (there’s also Strada for ‘normal’ driving and Corsa for track work) I took to the tarmac, stretching the car to the top of third gear (mostly) where the conditions permitted. Not only did it sound absolutely glorious at full tilt while running through the gears on acceleration, it also made the most fantastic exhaust sounds on over-run as the exhausts backfired.
Think VRRRR-PHAAA but with loads and loads and loads of Red Bull. There’s no other car on the planet that sounds like this car, not the V10 R8, not the V8 BMW M3 Frozen Edition, not the Aventador S with its glorious V12. It’s so unique when raging that I’d bet the Performante is one of the best-sounding cars ever made.
Turn-in, if you’re wondering, is razor sharp and I really mean razor sharp. The variable-rated rack does well at maintaining the weight required from driver inputs, and the nose of the car simply goes where you want it to go. Sure, carry too much speed into a corner and it will not respond well to your request for more angle as it’s calibrated to understeer before it oversteers.
Overall though, in Sport mode, it’s one of the easiest ways to get in trouble with law enforcement on the road, which means the more hardcore Corsa mode is best reserved for the track. I briefly put the car into Corsa mode while pottering along the Franschoek pass and found the throttle to be too sensitive to inputs when negotiating the bumpy road surface. The car’s magnetorheological dampers also firm up a bit too much in Corsa mode, which when combined with the thin sports seats makes for a rather sore back after a few hundred kilometres. So rather save the Corsa mode for the track, and stick to Sport mode for your on-road antics.
Apart from the Huracan Performante’s arresting design and its impressive powertrain is its standard-fit ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva) system. ALA offers a pair of active aero splitters on the front of the car (left and right side) and before the rear wing (left and right side) of the car that move based on your throttle and steering input and based on what the car’s gyroscopes and brain tells it.
The system is always active and will turn ‘on’ and ‘off’ based on the amount of grip that’s required for the circumstance. According to Lamborghini you get 750% more vertical downforce compared with a no-rear-wing configuration Huracan.
It’s super trick and you’ll really appreciate it if you chase track times. ALA will also work to keep the car pinned in a corner by adjusting downforce for more aero pressure on the inside wheel in a bend. In the hands of a racing driver, on a track, it could probably be felt, but on the road, at reasonably fast speeds there’s more than enough mechanical grip from the Pirelli’s and the variable Haldex four-wheel drive system.
Worth the money?
Let’s not beat about the proverbial bush here, it’s pricey. Our test car was pegged at R6 095 000 in its base form, but with its optional paint, a ‘style’ package, forged 20-inch rims, and, and, and...it came to a total asking price of around R7 million. It does, however, come with a comprehensive maintenance plan (three-years/100 000km) which, if you’re familiar with Porsche plans in SA, you’ll be happy about.
So, as far as fast cars go, the Huracan Performante is one of the fastest ones out there, and if you’re a fan of naturally aspirated engines, this is one of the best NA engines ever made.
Sure, you could save quite a lot of money and jump into the facelifted R8 V10 when it arrives later this year, but that Audí’s not going to deliver the thrills on the very high end if you’re a seriously demanding driver.