It is apparent that this is wholly a very focused driver’s car – no nonsense.
It was a stressful 45-minute drive from south of Los Angeles to where I needed to be before the sun rose. The final seven miles through some sweeping canyon roads ending up at the Griffith Observatory were particularly daunting, but something made it all easier. To be specific, I’m referring to the 2018 Lamborghini Huracan Performante, the best variant of the Huracan supercar ever to be produced.
Here’s the thing; typically cars can go two ways. Either they’re so calming making the drive forgettable and easy, or involving enough to render every drive an adventure. The Huracan Performante is the best of both worlds – it is incredibly engaging yet makes the daily commute a piece of cake. The Performante is special enough to almost be a spiritual return of the car that made me an enthusiast; Lamborghini’s own Diablo. This is one of the most impressive cars ever built, and also has set a new production car record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife (6:52.1).
The Performante takes the standard recipe for the Huracan and cranks it up a notch. It’s 90 pounds lighter thanks to more carbon-fiber by means of Lamborghini’s Forged Composite tech. These bits don’t look like the regular carbon-fiber weave, but instead resemble a tortoise-shell style that can look dirty from some angles but menacing from others. It looks special, that’s for sure. There is also an ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva) package that adds a huge rear wing and a front splitter, capable of 770 pounds of downforce at 310 km/h.
Putting its money where its mouth is, the Huracan Performante gets a tweaked version of the 5.2L V10. It’s now good for 631 horsepower at 8,000RPM and 443 lb-ft. of torque at 6,500RPM. This is a bump of 29 horses from the regular Huracan, peaking at 250RPM lower, and torque is up by 30 lb-ft. This thing is fast, and in a world where turbochargers seem to reign supreme, the naturally aspirated powerplant is a fresh change of pace and a reminder of what immediate engine response feels like.
All of this power is managed by a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that is called Lamborghini Doppia Frizione, and it is simply incredible. The column-mounted paddle shifters allow the driver to change gears in a split-second, and it’s met with wonderful noises from the exhaust. The chassis is a hybrid between aluminum and carbon fiber, and the Performante gets all-wheel-drive with an electronic management system. The whole setup is noticeably sharper than the regular Huracan, and it is apparent that this is wholly a very focused driver’s car – no nonsense.
This car is a bit much to handle around the city, particularly if you don’t like attention (read: I don’t), but it was on that maiden voyage at sunrise that brought it into its element. Carving the few miles of canyon roads to go up the mountain, with the drive mode set to “Corsa” and the transmission in manual, was what I thought to be the most engaging and rewarding drive yet. The razor-sharp steering response and chassis composure is surreal – this really is what a Lamborghini is about. The sound of the V10 screaming behind my passenger and I kept permanent grins on our faces.
That short jaunt encouraged us to tackle some of our favourite driving roads in the area, including Angeles Crest Highway. For those not in the know, ACH is a long, winding stretch with plenty of elevation changes and traverses the Angeles National Forest. It’s one of the best roads in North America, and one I have been fortunate enough to drive with several great machines. None were as extraordinary as this one, and the noise from the freer-flowing performance exhaust system from 7,000RPM right to the 8,500RPM redline will never be forgotten.
Steering response is just insanely crisp, with actual engagement in the wheel and the driver being able to feel every road imperfection and pebble right at the fingertips. Lamborghini Dynamic Steering not only adjusts steering weight through the drive mode selector (named “ANIMA”), but physically changes the steering ratio as well. The “Sport” and “Corsa” modes stiffen up the adaptive suspension, downforce, enhance engine response, and alter steering appropriately.
A carbon ceramic brake system can haul the car to a stop extremely quickly should an oncoming car decide to cross into your lane on the treacherous canyon roads. One downside to the carbon-ceramics is a loud squeal at low speed braking, which can be a bit embarrassing in the city. It’s a small tradeoff for the raw braking performance, but it does need to be mentioned.
Let’s take a step back to the ALA downforce setup – the “Attiva” in the name stands for “active”. This system will open grille flaps in the front directly above the splitter, which will minimize drag. The rear wing and the struts that hold it up are essentially hollow, and scoops directly ahead of these struts that will send air right into the wing.
The Performante is a lethal track day weapon that will set some serious lap times when asked to, but it’s also a fully capable street cruiser. The “Strada” setting on the drive mode selector relaxes the car’s reflexes and ensures accommodating ride quality and response on the street. It’s still loud and fast, but the Huracan also stays comfortable in this setup. The performance-oriented seats are actually quite nice (they’re heated, too), and the driving position is excellent.
The Huracan Performante starts at $274,390 in US dollars. Our vehicle had a series of options including 20” Loge forged wheels, a navigation system, a nose lift system, dynamic power steering, laser-engraving, a unique Performante Interior package, and contrast stitching. Interestingly enough, even at this price, Lamborghini still charges $1,000 for cruise control, $2,100 for Park Assist, and $800 for an anti-theft system. The total sticker on this tester was $320,885, which converted to Canadian dollars at the time of writing comes to about $420,000.
It was quite obvious over our few hours in the canyons that it wasn’t just us who were taken aback by the raw potential of this car. The car culture out in the canyons is a different world from where we live, and people constantly wanted to chat about the Huracan. The 2018 Lamborghini Huracan Performante impressed in every aspect, with groundbreaking performance numbers and the ability to keep permanent smiles on the driver’s face.