FIRST DRIVE | 2019 Lamborghini Huracán Performante is a track slayer
When the Lamborghini Huracan Performante in 2016 became the fastest production car to lap the Nurburgring, there were whispers of the sort that follow "out-of-ordinary" performances in cycling that require riders to pee into a cup.
Was there some jiggery-pokery happening beneath that louvred engine cover? Was there anything more than the standard 470kW/600Nm normally-aspirated 5.2l V10 doing the work?
Because as powerful as that is, the Huracan is a relative underdog in the rarefied sportscar world, where entry to the top-dog club generally requires 500 and plenty kilowatts.
But the lap time was legitimate. It's not just about power but how much of it can usefully be applied in the corners. Turns out that the Lambo's bog standard secret weapon (or one of them) was active aerodynamics — or ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva) in the language of the inner circle.
Power is nothing without control, as the old Pirelli catchphrase goes, and the Huracan Performante controls its power to devastating effect — including being shod with a set of super sticky Pirelli Corsa tyres.
This is a Huracan dialled up with more adrenalin than its lesser stablemates. It has the golden trifecta of performance enhancement: more power, more downforce and less weight.
The Performante wields the most powerful V10 engine yet made by Lamborghini, and beats the 449kW/560Nm output of the next-best Huracan in the range. The Performante is also 40kg lighter by virtue of the forged composites used in its construction; an interesting spin on the carbon fibre theme that looks somewhat like a granite counter top.
Though the 6min52:01s laptime has subsequently been beaten by the more powerful Lamborghini Aventador SVJ (6:44.97s) and the Porsche GT2 RS (6:47.3s) — both turbocharged — the Performante's feat is still mentioned in the same kind of underdog-beating-the-odds breath as Leicester City winning the Premier League.
Using flaps that open and close ALA system automatically manages active aerodynamics by increasing vertical load on the car’s large rear wing to provide more downforce through corners, and reducing drag to assist acceleration and top speed in a straight line.
It's a clever system that works asymmetrically, keeping one side of the rear wing open and the other closed, allowing the inside rear wheel to be pressed down harder to improve cornering grip.
If you think that sounds a little gimmicky, refer to the Nurburgring laptime.
There was no racetrack available at the Performante’s SA media launch earlier this week, hosted by Lamborghini importers LSM Distributors, but Cape Town's mountain passes pressed home the effectiveness of the car's traction- boosting systems just fine.
In fast sweeps I could feel the effect of the aerodynamic downforce pressing the car into the tar like a giant invisible hand. In slower, tighter corners the all-wheel drive mechanical grip was just as impressive. Those Pirellis gripped like a handshake from the Hulk.
The sheer traction meant that the car’s stability control was largely untroubled during my drive through iconically twisty roads like Franschhoek Pass, although it's there to contain throttle overeagerness on the exit of a tight corner.
The instant acceleration of the car is a joy to experience, nearly as much as the deep-throated howl coming from right behind your back as that normally-aspirated V10 soars to its 8,500rpm redline. Such charismatic powerplants are part of a dying breed as more muscular but less aurally satisfying turbocharged engines are becoming the sportscar norm.
The Performante’s war cry is part of a violent assault on the senses, and in its driving demeanour this Lambo buzzes with the nervous energy of a racehorse.
Comfort is low on the agenda. With suspension even stiffer than a regular Huracan’s, this track-bred variant rides restlessly over imperfect roads, jiggling its occupants about quite mercilessly in the hard one-piece bucket seats.
Not great for daily commuting, but such discomfort matters are easily forgotten when slicing through a twisty mountain pass and experiencing the Performante’s edgy handling and raw appeal. The level of rawness can be adjusted by setting the car to Strada (street), Sport, or Corsa (track) modes.
Its ability to sweep from rest to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds and reach a 325km/h top speed are compelling factors too, and plucking such numbers from its repertoire is made all the more pleasurable by the seven-speed automatic, an engineering masterpiece with almost seamless shifts.
The carbon-ceramic discs — standard fitment on the car — deserve special mention for literally making my passenger's sunglasses fly off his face during one particularly robust late-braking test.
Not everything comes standard on this R6.1m car, while on the subject. The matte grey paint job was a R306,000 extra, for instance, and you'll also need to dip into the kids' varsity fund to pay for options like the active suspension, and even the radio.