Record breakers Lamborghini Huracán Performante driven. It set a Ring lap record, now we find out if it also unleashes the Huracán’s full potential.
Lamborghini didn’t spare the electricity for the international launch of its Huracán Performante. Clearly rocking the idea that expenditure of amps was better served by a multimedia light show and megawatt sound system than investing in any form of performance-orientated hybrid powertrain, it hit the home run with a widescreen projection of the numbers 6:52.01. It’s a sequence with a hybrid-hypercar-slaying resonance sure not to have been lost on the audience of hacks clued-up on Nordschleife lap times, though perhaps no easier to comprehend.
Certainly not for me. I’ve done a quick lap of the Green Hell in a 903bhp P1 with McLaren development ‘hand’ Chris Goodwin driving. Mildly shattering it was, too. Sub 7? Although McLaren says yes but has never revealed the exact figure, I’d go with a definite maybe. Then there’s the 875bhp, 944lb ft Porsche 918 Spyder (Martini livery and lightweight Weissach spec, natch), the car that gave me the most thrilling lap of my life on the evo Triangle a few years ago and, with a bloke vastly more talented driving, nailed the Ring in 6:57.00. This was held as an absolutely stunning achievement at the time – not least by Porsche – and seemed to be irrefutable evidence of the advantages conferred by a state-of-the-art hybrid drivetrain underwritten by Porsche’s unparalleled racing heritage.
Then, this spring, a 631bhp Huracán Performante goes five seconds quicker. Not five-tenths (which would have been barely believable) but five whole seconds. And this from an essentially trad-tech, naturally aspirated car with no significant previous Nürburgring form and, indeed, a somewhat less-than- perfect scoresheet in standard guise as a drivers’ supercar on the road. How did that happen?
Well, we’ll soon be at Imola with a bunch of Huracán Performantes and, hopefully, some clues will emerge in the Italian sunshine. In fact, the slow soak to enlightenment starts as we decant from the Audi Q7 that’s brought us to the nearby spa retreat where we’ll have almost an entire day to ruminate on the event to follow. To ensure the process starts as soon as possible, a matt orange Performante is parked outside reception. Presumably as intended, it stops all of us in our tracks for some pro-level gawping, pointing and critical circling. If the devil is in the detail, there’s enough to be getting on with to make the check-in staff visibly restive through the smoked glass doors of the lobby.
The hook, of course, is that shape. It may be expressed in the modern idiom with hints of the fighter jet influences that informed the Reventón’s sharply creased lines, but the Huracán has an emotional tug that reaches back to the very dawn of the supercar and the Miura. Lamborghini talks about the Performante being ‘shaped by the wind’. It’s an apt reference to the car’s active aero system, the most prominent aspect of which is the rear wing. But the reason it connects so powerfully resides at an altogether deeper level that awakens our inner child, slows down time and invites us to get lost in an exotic world of rule-snapping craziness.
Perhaps none more so than the fascinating intricacies of Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva, which is said to have played a big part in allowing Marco Mapelli to set that remarkable lap time. Unless you look under the car, all you can see from the outside is what seems to be a conventional fixed rear wing made out of the stuff they use for fancy kitchen worktops. It isn’t, and it isn’t. ALA, for short, actually starts at the nose and a front spoiler with active flaps on the top surface that operate in conjunction with two ducts on the rear engine cover that are connected to the inner channels of the rear wing. When the flaps are closed, the rear wing acts just like a traditional spoiler, providing a claimed 750 per cent more downforce than a wingless standard Huracán. But, when the flaps are open, air is channelled through ridges underneath the wing to reduce drag and let the upgraded 5.2-litre V10 do its best, which in raw data packs down to 0-62mph in 2.9sec, 0-124mph in 8.8sec and 201mph. In Corsa mode, the ducts also operate independently, allowing what Lamborghini calls ‘aero vectoring’ to make fast cornering even faster by delivering downforce on either side, when and where it’s needed. Ingenious, and no one seems to be challenging the ‘world first’ boast.
And the kitchen worktop? The Performante weighs 40kg less than a regular four-wheel-drive Huracán and part of that is down to the mouldable forged composites that the front spoiler, rear wing, rear diffuser and engine cover are made from. The engine cover is painted body colour and has serried apertures just wide enough to glimpse the V10’s biscuit-coloured cam covers – a nod to Lambo’s early V12s, and a refreshing cliché swerve away from red. For the Performante, the high-revving V10 gets a new intake manifold, a lighter and repositioned exhaust system from the Trofeo racer with significantly less back-pressure, and new titanium valves with more lift. The upshot is 631bhp at 8000rpm and 443lb ft of torque at 6500rpm, though the fact that some 70 per cent of that torque peak is available from just above idle rather proves you don’t need twin turbos to generate serious push from modest revs. The fortuitously decorative flecked look of the unpainted composite parts is due to the contrast of silvery chopped carbon fibres embedded in the dark resin mix. There’s even some of it on the inside of the car, to provide a little accented relief from the standard-issue swathes of Alcantara. But, for sheer unadulterated eye candy, the 20in alloys and liquorice-wrap Pirelli P Zero Corsas are almost works of art, possibly bettered only by the application of even stickier Trofeo R tyres, as used by the Ring record car. If you really want to exploit every last lick of ALA’s trick tech on track, they’re available as an option.
The next morning we’re at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, aka Imola. I’ve been here once before, barely out of my teens, to watch an F1 race long before Ayrton Senna’s untimely death at Tamburello and the savagely fast lefthander’s subsequent remodelling as a still-pretty-pacey leftright sweeper. It doesn’t do much to quell the butterflies, especially as grey-bellied clouds have shuttered yesterday’s clear skies and started to spit rain. Although its F1 years are long past, recent improvements have seen Imola regain its FIA Grade 1 status and, if the San Marino Grand Prix is ever re-instituted, it will be on what is still reckoned to be one of Europe’s greatest, fastest and most challenging circuits.
Pacing the now-glistening pitlane and surveying the immaculately neat rows of pristine Performantes with Lambo boiler-suited technicians hunched at the wheelarches minutely adjusting tyre pressures seems to be ramping up the pressure in other areas, too. So it’s good to know that, to co-operate optimally with ALA, the Performante has (optional) magnetorheological dampers and a suspension setup that’s 10 per cent stiffer vertically and 15 per cent stiffer in roll than a standard Huracán’s. Also, the Huracán’s rather blunt optional variable-rack Dynamic Steering has been beefed-up and recalibrated, permitting a much narrower range of variance in Corsa mode for faster responses and, in collaboration with the aero vectoring, sharper turn-in.
We’ll get 16 laps of the circuit, split into four sessions, thankfully following the lines of an Imola-seasoned pro driver in a regular Huracán. Well, a regular Huracán wearing those super-sticky Trofeo R tyres while our Performantes stay on the standard P Zero Corsas.
Lamborghini’s charming R&D chief, Maurizio Reggiani, reckons that pro wheelmanship and intimate circuit knowledge alone won’t be enough to level the playing field and, without the extra grip provided by the Trofeo Rs, the expertly piloted regular Huracáns won’t be fast enough to maintain a safe gap back to the inexpertly piloted Performantes behind. I’m not sure I’ve ever reached for a bigger pinch of salt.
But even on the first few laps of the semi-damp track, it’s clear he has a point. Our leaders don’t waste much time getting up to speed, but the simple facts are that, even with Trofeos factored-in, the Performante can accelerate harder, brake later, turn in with more precision and conviction and carry more speed through any given bend. What’s remarkable is that all these advantages are so transparent and accessible that their cumulative effect more than compensates for the odd fumble, mistimed braking point or, indeed, gung-ho excess and allows us Imola novices to comfortably keep up, while feeling more than a little skidhappy heroic. And, oh, the sensations. The taut immediacy of the way Imola’s chicanes are punched through. The finger-snap turn-in. The outrageous exit speeds. The rage in the machine just behind your head that, despite the extra power and torque (29bhp and 29lb ft respectively), can be fully exploited in the fastest bends, a slave to the tenacity of the chassis and its active aero reinforcements.
Towards the end of the track time, it’s clear that the Huracán Performante is something very special – the place where seriously fast, focused and exciting meets extraordinarily biddable and forgiving. It’s a notionally perfect spectrum of assets for a supercar, and the elements merge so seamlessly that a circuit experience that initially threatens to intimidate and overwhelm quickly becomes immersive and stubbornly addictive.
Almost as hard to grasp as that Ring lap time is the arrival of what feels like a complete realisation of the Huracán’s seemingly forever-elusive potential. It’s a transformation that combines a shattering, race-fit soundtrack only a few decibels shy of the Huracán GT3 racer’s with searing, inexhaustible straight-line push. The standard car’s feel-less helm and edge-of-understeer balance has been replaced with precision, physicality and turn-in acuity that can nail an apex with true aggression or brush it with finely wrought finesse. Perhaps best of all, high-speed stability and grip eases down into playful, throttle-induced or trailbraked oversteer held within beautifully judged limits by the traction and stability electronics.
All this in the extreme, track-optimised Corsa mode, of course. On the road, the Performante doesn’t exactly turn into a pussycat but it does have some slightly softer options that sustain involvement levels at lower speeds. Sport mode – like Corsa activated by a button on the steering wheel – is the obvious default. It frees up the ESP just enough to make the car feel a little more supple and loose so you can pull a few shapes with the tail out of slower bends. The third setting, Strada, is softer still and ideal for rolling along without much thought to lighting the fires. Even in this mode, steering effort is slightly higher than it would be in a regular Huracán, which simply feels more reassuring.
So, that 6:52.01 Nordschleife lap time. Watch the video. It’s incredibly clean, incredibly fast. And then watch the same driver, Marco Mapelli, monster the 100bhp-morepowerful Aventador SV round in 6:59.73. It’s heart-in-mouth stuff all the way. You get the impression that Lamborghini hasn’t tried to reinvent the supercar with the Huracán Performante, just make a better Lamborghini. The figures, on this occasion, don’t appear to lie.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE 2017 Lamborghini Huracán Performante
Engine V10, 5204cc
Power 631bhp @ 8000rpm DIN
Torque 442lb ft @ 6500rpm DIN
Transmission Seven-speed dualclutch, four-wheel drive, rear limited-slip differential
Suspension, front and rear Double wishbones, coil springs, adaptive dampers (optional)
Brakes Ventilated carbon-ceramic discs, 380mm front, 356mm rear
Wheels 8.5 x 20in front, 11 x 20in rear
Tyres 245/30 R20 front, 305/30 R20 rear
Weight (dry) 1382kg
Power-to-weight (dry) 464bhp/ton
0-62mph 2.9sec (claimed)
Top speed 201mph+ (claimed)
Basic price £215,000
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‘The Performante feels like a complete realisation of the Huracán’s seemingly forever-elusive potential’
Left and below: on the road, the Performante’s Sport and Strada modes offer a good balance of civility and involvement.
‘On the road, it does have some slightly softer options that sustain involvement levels at lower speeds. You can pull a few shapes with the tail out of slower bends’
‘The hook is that shape. The Huracán has an emotional tug that reaches back to the very dawn of the supercar and the Miura’
Below right: Performante has the most sophisticated aero yet seen on a Lambo, including ducts in the engine cover that feed air to the underside of the rear wing on demand.