This is just a car, I keep telling myself as I wait for the traffic light across the junction to flick green. Watching it like a hawk I am, as an untold amount of eyeballs and half as many cellphone cameras are on me. I don’t actually know how many exactly because I daren’t look, but the hooting and wolf-whistling suggests a mild pandemonium is breaking out. The number one rule when driving a supercar, in case you don’t know, is never look around and whatever you do, never react to the ‘hey, nice car’ remark. Don’t cave to the peer pressure of the give-it-some hand-wave gesture that means the same the world over. Because if you do, you can believe camera phone evidence of your wild soirée in a R6 million+ supercar will be swirling around the internet before you get back to the safety of the dealership. Nope, this is just another car.
Except, of course, it so isn’t! This is the 470 kW Performante version of the achingly beautiful Lamborghini Huracan. The extreme wedge with a windscreen that’s so slanted it might as well be horizontal. And as I’m about to find out; the car that’s far more technical than anyone will give the crazy Italians at Lamborghini credit for. The cabin is cloistered and dark; just how I’d imagine a space shuttle to be with nothing but speed to alleviate the claustrophobia. Folded inside, my body is trying to make friends with the narrow one-piece bucket seat, but it is difficult if I’m being honest, because the backrest cannot be adjusted so I’m kind of wedged in place just to see beneath the sun visor.
My brain and nervous system feel like they’ve checked out already, clandestinely deciding to behave like one giant adrenalin pump as sweaty palms fuse with the suede steering wheel. I take in the futuristic dash, with certain components proudly displaying a forged composites logo. Sounds odd, but the material looks a bit like a kitchen marble countertop. What it actually is, however, is Lambo’s latest award-winning tech. 20% lighter and stronger than even that most irreproachable material, carbon fibre; it is chopped carbon fibres set in a matrix of resins. The front splitter, rear wing and diffuser are made from the same material and that makes them 40 kg lighter than if they were regular carbon fibre. Crazy!
The rest of the cabin isn’t as over the top as I would’ve thought, and despite knowing deep down beneath it all it’s just Audi bits, the TFT command centre inside the driver’s binnacle, which is operated from steering wheel, has bespoke graphics which gives it a real fighter cockpit feel. Despite a few tricolors to remind you it’s Italian, the cabin is more premium and mature than its Gallardo predecessor, too. At the centre of this experience is a complex multifunction steering wheel with integrated wipers and button indicators like a Ducati superbike. That’s so there’s space for the seven-speed DSG paddle shifters, the largest of their kind ever fitted aft of a steering wheel. And boy do they love a good pull …
Away from the prying eyes of the 021 supercar spotters who must’ve been tipped off about the Performante’s presence in Cape Town this morning, I open her up for the first time and come to terms with just how stunningly fast she is. Lest we forget, the Performante was at a time the Nuburgring production car lap record holder with a lap time of 6 min 52 sec (before its big-brother Aventador SVJ grabbed the limelight) and you cannot be this quick and beautifully balanced without having put in serious development work. One of the tricks up its forged composite sleeve is active aerodynamics. Called ALA, the passive looking rear wing is anything but. Beneath the engine cover are two electronically actuated air ducts. Under hard acceleration flaps to the ducts remain closed keeping air below the wing and making the car as slippery as possible. The instant you brake or begin dialing in steering lock, the car’s brain reckons you’re going to want downforce, so the ducts open up and air flow is forced up the struts to the wing. But it gets better, because, it knows which direction you’re turning, within 500 milliseconds, it will direct air through an individual strut depending on which end you need the downforce. It is aero vectoring without silly spoiler waving and creates 700 kg more downforce. It’s so simple and yet so effective – how very un-Italian.
Speed is par for the course for any raging bull, but outputs in the Performante version are pumped up to 470 kW and 600 Nm from its 5.2-litre V10, making it the most powerful naturally aspirated engine in terms of kW per litre in the world. The cylinder banks and wheels are finished in a unique bronze colour, harking back to a Diablo 30th anniversary addition, signifying its Performante status. 0-100 km/h is decimated in 2.9 sec dead, 200 km/h has come and gone in 8.9 sec and the top speed of 325 km/h. But it’s the dynamism through the corners that’s simply irresistible. Double wishbones all around, super sticky 20-inch Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres all around, all marshalled by the ANIMA driver control switch: offering Strada, Sport and Corsa modes. These tweak the obedience of the four-wheel-drive system, roll stiffness, torque vectoring, aero vectoring, throttle response, steering ratio and traction control. Interestingly, Sport offers the most tail-happy fun from a slip-angle point of view, while Corsa engages the front wheels more to optimise traction and lap time.
The four-wheel-drive makes it safe and sure-footed so you can drive with utter confidence, riding that crescendo of free-breathing V10 bark at 8 750 rpm as you pull savagely towards the horizon, knowing the Pirellis are clinging hard to the tarmac at all for corners, and the wind is literally being sculpted in your favour all around by the advanced aerodynamics. It’s abundantly clear at the end of my blast in the Performante that its talent lays in fusing extrovert Lambo styling with extreme yet exploitable performance. What a combination.
In a nutshell –
Lamborghini Huracan Performante
Haunting soundtrack, adrenalin pumping performance
Complex steering wheel/digital display
Engine: 5 204 cc, V10, petrol
Power: 470 kW @ 8 000 rpm, 600 Nm @ 6 500 rpm
Weight: 1382 kg
Power to weight: 340 kW per tonne
Performance: 0-100km/h 2.9 sec, top speed 325 km/h
Tyres: 20-inch, 245/30 front, 305/30 rear – Pirelli P Zero Corsa
Economy: 15.5 l/100 km (claimed)
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto
CO2 emissions: 348 g/km
Price: R6 795 000