Lamborghini Hurracán Performante - Expresso Machine

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The Huracán Performante is a larger than life supercar

Let’s get one thing clear from the very beginning; the Lamborghini Huracán Performante does not do sotto voce. From start up to shut down this car is the archetypal drama queen.

Drama was certainly what the fastest ever production Lamborghini caused in the automotive world when its 6:52.01 minute lap of the Nürburgring Nordscheife, run on the 5th of October 2016, was officially announced just before this year’s Geneva Show.

Speculation about the video’s authenticity centred on the fact that the in-car footage showed Lamborghini test driver Marco Mapelli looking inordinately calm despite the cars rapid pace. Then Lamborghini released their full telemetry and the critics were silenced.

The key to the Performante’s blinding speed and outstanding composure on the world’s toughest track is its revolutionary active aerodynamics. Without resorting to big wings and flaps or heavy and complex active aerodynamic systems, Lamborghini’s clever ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva) uses small moveable internal flaps to alter the flow of air being channelled through its fixed front spoiler and rear wing.

This is how it works. The front spoiler uses active flap on its top surface that provide more downforce when closed. At the rear, air is channelled from intakes on the engine cover through the hollow spoiler struts and into the fixed wing.

When its airflow control flaps are closed the wing acts as a normal spoiler, providing maximum downforce. However, when the flaps are open air is channelled out through the slots in the bottom of the wing to reduce drag and maximise acceleration and top speed.

The small electric servo motors that operate the internal flaps react almost instantly compared to the inertia laden mechanical systems normally used to move whole aerofoil sections against the airflow. Thus, the ALA system works faster and more seamlessly than anything that has gone before, and in total, the Performante’s front and rear spoilers create 750% more downforce compared to the standard Huracán.

ALA can also selectively and progressively alter the side-to-side downforce at the rear to optimise traction in a given corner. “We refer to this as ‘aero vectoring’ explained Lamborghini’s technical chief, Maurizio Reggiani. “In a cornering situation, aerodynamic downforce is applied over the less loaded wheel to reduce roll, and improve stability and grip. However, we only use this system at the rear because when we tried it at the front as well in testing we established that the resulting mid-corner changes in steering response can confuse the driver.”

To prove their concept Lamborghini took us to Imola, their very fast home circuit, and venue of the San Marino Grand Prix until 2006. This 4.909 km long track sees very high terminal speeds on the straights in a car as rapid as the Performante and is thus as much a test of a car’s braking power and endurance as its acceleration and traction out of the nine right-hand and 13 left-hand corners.

A 640hp car capable of blowing through 100km/h in 2.9 sec on its way to a 325km/h (202mph) top speed should not be as easy to drive on the bald limit as this. But the fact that the Lamborghini Huracán Performante is as user friendly as it is despite its heroic all round performance is a source of both awe and joy.

The last of the great naturally-aspirated motors in the sub-£200,000 mid-engine supercar genre, the charismatic 5.2 litre V10 has been tuned for an extra 30hp, which means 640hp at 8,000rpm, underpinned by 600Nm of torque at 6,000rpm. No mere remap of the ECU’s fuel and spark curves, the Performante specification is a thorough re-engineering job aimed at improving overall efficiency.

In hardware terms this includes titanium valves for lower top-end inertia, a new intake manifold derived from Lamborghini’s motorsport experience, and a lighter, free-flow exhaust whose outlet pipes sit higher up in the cars rear panel. The LDF seven-speed dual clutch gearbox is now even faster shifting, yet is still super smooth in its action.

No matter whose turbocharged flat plane crank V8 you compare it with, the naturally aspirated, dry sump V10 still stands out for its electric throttle response and spine tingling soundtrack. And it has enough engine capacity to ensure that 70% of its peak twist is on tap at just 1,000rpm.

Thanks to Forged Composites ®, a new technology pioneered by Lamborghini and used for the front and rear spoilers, engine cover and rear bumper/ diffuser and some interior parts, the aluminium and carbon-fibre Performante tips the scales at 40kg less than a standard Huracán. Its dry weight of just 1,382kg makes for a sensational power-to-weight ratio of just 2.15 kg/hp.

Driven in anger around Imola, the Performante is notable for two things - its raw speed and its awesome stability. There is a tendency for road cars to feel slow on fast tracks like this. Not the Performante. Many high performance road cars end up wanting in braking, balance and traction on a fast track like this. Not the Performante.

If anything, the one over-riding impression you have of this car after a couple of fast laps is that not only do its dynamic qualities raise the class bar, but of greater importance, they work together in perfect harmony. This is what gives the driver such a huge confidence window at very big speeds.

Chasing factory test driver, Marco Passerini in a no holds barred one-on-one session for the video camera, I was teetering on the threshold of ABS activation under trail braking into the slower bends, and exiting with a smidgen of power oversteer. Even at this pace the Performante gave me absolute confidence thanks to its linear characteristic velocity once the very high limits of mechanical grip were exceeded.

The bespoke 245/30ZR20 and 305/30ZR20 Pirelli Corsa rubber wrapped around the 8.5J and 11.0J x 20-inch lightweight forged alloys wheels are another vital component of the Performante’s impressive handling and grip equation. Apart from anything else they have to contend with the unusually high aerodynamic downforce (for a road car) created by the ALA system, while the geometry of the double wishbone suspension, aided and abetted by stiffer spring and damper rates, has been set up has to work perfectly across this broad downforce spectrum.

The engineers have also done a great job with the electro-mechanical power steering, which is simply brilliant. Whether tooling along at town speeds or driving on the bald limit on track, you always know exactly what the front end is doing, and I never gave it a second thought because it feels so intuitive.

The four-wheel-drive system endows the car with its stupendous traction, firing it to 100km/h in 2.9 sec, and through the 200km/h marker in 8.9 sec. On a very fast track like Imola, and especially the Nurburgring, that level of traction is vital for stability and safety.

The 4WD hardware is identical to the standard Huracán, with the control software mapping recalibrated for the greater power and more aggressive delivery characteristics. Similarly, the ABS control software has been revised for the track, allowing much harder braking before it is triggered. In this respect it is now a step closer to a racecar ABS system in its application.

Having driven the Performante on the limit with relative ease, I can understand how Marco Mapelli, who knows the car and the ‘Ring intimately, would indeed look calm and composed on his Banzai record lap. The proof of the pudding is indeed in the eating.

In the cabin, all the carbon-fibre parts are made from Lamborghini’s Forged Composites. As with the exterior parts, this new material has a lovely surface finish that reminds me of a high quality polished granite kitchen top in its pattern and depth. The spoilers have a glossy finish, while the cabin elements like the centre console and dashboard air vents feature a semi-matt look. Either way, the material has a visual depth and unique pattern that is much more fascinating to behold than traditional carbon-fibre.

The seats, dashboard and door panels are covered in Alcantara, and there is a choice of normal and race style seats. It is an indication of the lateral g-force the Performante is capable of on track that I found myself using my back muscles to resist the cornering forces despite the well-shaped and supportive normal seats. The third and fastest of my track sessions was in another car equipped with the race style carbon-fibre backed seats, and I definitely recommend these if you are a track day junkie.

Tooling along on public roads the Performante is much like a normal Huracán. Its ride is a tad stiffer and more controlled, but other than that it feels very much like business as usual.

If you are lucky enough to have some nice twisty roads nearby you will be able to experience the extra incisiveness the Performante offers over the standard car, especially in terms of crispness and responsiveness. But it is only on a racetrack when the engine, chassis and active aerodynamics are doing their best work that this car really comes alive in a symphony of power and precision.

It is a fact that when you watch a really well sorted and stable car being driven rapidly by a competent driver time seems to slow down and everything appears calm and unhurried.

This is definitely the case with the Huracán Performante, and while its active aerodynamics cannot actually be seen working unlike on cars where whole sections of spoiler can be seen strutting their stuff, the stopwatch does not lie. A 6:52.01 minute lap of the Nürburgring has never looked so easy.

In an age where supercars are becoming faster and more capable, but also losing some character due the muffling effect of turbocharging, the Lamborghini Huracán Performante stands out from the pack with its snappy naturally aspirated motor and spine tingling soundtrack. An engaging and inspirational steer that burns itself into your memory like a firebrand, this car represents Lamborghini at their very best.

 
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