It’s a gloomy day in the beautiful city of Rome. The sky is dark, and the weather is not the best to drive a performance car on the track, let alone an SUV.
Lamborghini’s Performante has been the moniker for faster and more agile raging bulls and the carmaker now wants to raise the bar with the Urus. Does it have a massive jump in power? Not really. It has 666hp, which is just 16hp more than the previous Urus and the same as the Urus S. Torque, meanwhile, remains the same at 850NM, which is the max the gearbox can handle. The big changes are elsewhere.
We are at the Vallelunga race track and the instructors tell us that we will not be able to push limits owing to the bad weather conditions. Worse, we will have to drive off the racing line since the track is wet and slippery. The bright spot on such a dull day is the rainbow selection of cars—purple, orange, green and yellow. We jump inside the cars, and as you press the start button, it springs to life with a louder, deeper gurgle from the new ultra-light titanium exhaust. We move on to the track and it is indeed very slippery. We are driving slow by Perfomante standards but still hitting three-digit speed in a flash. It is quite incredible how easy it is to hustle this SUV that is over 5m long and over two tonnes in weight. We dart from corner to corner, while the Performante holds its line calmly.
As I’m getting more confident with the car, I push harder. The instructor immediately calls out to hold me back. But the Urus shows me its naughty side, with the tail sliding out just a little bit before the electronics cut in. Luckily, by then, the sun is peeping out of the clouds. There is a promise of a drier track.
The sun is out
When the track does dry up, we head out for a second stint. This time the tail pipes are blaring, the foot is flattened to the floor and the curb stones are just flying by in a blur. Inside the cabin, the snug seats and great balance ensure you don’t get thrown to the sides.
The Performante’s throttle response is sharper, the gear shifts quicker and its balance is unbelievable. The active anti-roll bars, which now come as a standard, work to keep the car balanced, so much so that carving out corners feels like one fluid motion. The rear axle steering makes everything seem effortless. The steel springs have replaced the bulky air suspension, making you feel more connected to the road. It feels more like a car than an SUV flying around the track.
Raising the bar is in Lamborghini’s DNA. The Performante is one of the last few ICE (internal combustion engine)-only vehicles, with hybridisation of the range starting from next year. So the carmaker wanted to give it their all.
The Performante also gets a rally mode. This eases out the traction control, allowing a little more oversteer and a lot more fun, which I got to try on a gravel track.
Accelerating out of corners, it kicks into oversteer and the tail swings out. With countersteer, it lets you hold the drift. It is hugely addictive. The new Torsen centre differential delivers more torque to the rear wheels, improving low-grip performance and the rear differential again splits power to whichever wheel needs it more. The result is a grin-inducing, adrenalin-raising ride. You can slide around a dirt track with the confidence of Sébastien Loeb. What is unbelievable is the size and shape of the vehicle that allows you to do it while keeping you completely calm in the cabin. The engineers at Lamborghini have clearly learned the art of defying physics.
How did they do it?
Well to begin with, the Performante version of the Urus has been put on a diet. There’s extensive use of carbon fibre on the bonnet, roof, fins, wheel arches, front bumper and the rear diffuser. The dual-tone variants let you know exactly where it has been used. The bulky air suspension setup has also been traded for regular springs, which has also lowered the Urus to the ground by 20mm further. An ultra-light titanium exhaust system shaves off a massive 10.4kg, and with additional savings from interior materials, rims and wheels, the Performante is now 47kg lighter.
The design on the whole is edgier, with deeper cuts in the bonnet, a new front bumper and redesigned air intakes with larger surface areas on the horizontal parts to create more downforce. New aerodynamic alloys come in either 22” or 23”, shod with specially designed Pirelli P Zero tyres. For track days, customers can also get the Trofeos. The track has also been widened by 16mm.
At the rear, there is a new Aventador-inspired rear spoiler and a new carbon fibre diffuser that extends out. These changes help improve aero by 10% and rear downforce by 38%.
On the inside, it’s very familiar, but you get lots of Alcantara standard. Even the roof lining is Alcantara. The trademark hexagonal Performante stitching is on the seats, and roof is in the colour of the car’s exterior paint. There’s also a new graphic for the infotainment to let you know this is a Performante. Customers can also opt for a dark package, which lets you switch out the chrome bits for a more stylish matt metallic black along with red door handles.
The Urus has had a lot of success in India because you get a sportscar with a practical side and that has not changed. The back seat is spacious enough for taller people, and you can fit three in if needed. The boot is also well-sized at 616 litres. You’ll have to pay attention to the road though, as the lower ground clearance and low profile tyres and firmer suspension will be more of a challenge than the regular Urus. With 160mm clearance under the belly, however, one should still be able to clear all the speed breakers easily enough. But if you want supercar-like dynamics in the guise of an SUV that you can chuck around on dirt too, the Urus Performante should be your ride.
Renuka Kirpalani is the editor of Autocar Show. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org