Can Lamborghini’s lighter, harder-hitting Huracán really mix it with £1m hypercars?

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Six minutes 52.1 seconds. Those numbers are the reason why the Lamborghini Huracán Performante is here awaiting our thorough examination.

We want to understand how this naturally aspirated, conventional supercar can apparently lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife – the home of one of the industry’s preferred performance benchmarks – faster than the recent crop of hypercars.

The Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva (ALA) logo on the front splitter, tells you that this Huracán is the real deal in terms of active aero

It has done so without a horsepower figure beginning with a nine. It has done so without electrical assistance, which would fill any torque gap left by an astonishingly highly tuned or turbocharged engine.

It just has less weight, a bit more power, a bit more aero and apparently a lot more chassis deftness than the usual Huracán.

This wasn’t meant to happen. There are other cars in the Volkswagen Group that are designed specifically to be harder, faster, more powerful, massively more expensive and far more technologically advanced than any Lamborghini. And yet, during October last year, Lamborghini test driver Marco Mapelli – clearly quite a handy driver because he also recorded a sub-seven-minute lap in a Lamborghini Aventador SV – manhandled the Huracán around.

It isn’t easy to find an opportunity to set a Nürburgring lap time because the place is so busy.

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Mapelli took one of the 15-minute slots set aside for very fast laps at the end of an ‘industry pool’ test day and did one warm-up lap followed by a fast lap to record a time so quick that some people disbelieved it.

We can do rather better than that here. We had use of our test track for two hours straight. We also have independent test times set by the chief alternatives – McLaren’s P1 and the Porsche 918 Spyder.

So let’s see if the Huracán is the fastest-lapping production car of the moment – and, because or despite of that, how good it remains as a road-going supercar.

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Lamborghini Huracán Performante rear

Outwardly, this car looks a lot like a regular Huracán. The tub is the same mix of aluminium and carbonfibre (mostly aluminium) that it has always been and behind the two-seat cabin is the naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine, which drives all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

It’s wrapped in one of the more striking supercar shapes around albeit, fundamentally, not too dissimilar to the Audi R8 underneath.

There’s no conventional gear selector lever here and no ‘D’ button so, after start-up, be sure to engage first gear with the right-hand paddle

It’s in the details, though, where you start to notice that the Performante is something special.

Parts of the body are formed from chopped, forged carbonfibre, which, produced from short parts rather than large sheets, can be quickly formed into parts that are more intricately shaped than large sheets of it.

You’ll find lots of that around the Huracán, contributing to a claimed 40kg saving over the regular car. That’s not bad going, but this car still tipped our scales at 1590kg full of fuel. As you peer around, you also notice the aerodynamic addenda.

Lamborghini makes a big thing of this, but it’s impossible to say exactly how much it contributes to the Huracán’s lap time. It’s called ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva), although ‘ala’ is also Italian for wing.

The short of it is that there’s a low-drag mode and a high-downforce mode and the Huracán knows when and how to switch between the two.

Think of it as DRS on a Formula 1 car, in a way. The front spoiler has an electric motor attached to flaps behind it and these open in high-downforce mode to allow airflow through it. When ALA is engaged, it deflects air beneath the car instead, reducing downforce and decreasing drag.

It’s similar at the rear, where there are ducts beneath the engine cover. When closed, the rear wing acts like wings are meant to. But these flaps can be opened, channelling air through the wing itself (it’s hollow) rather than over it, again decreasing drag.

Cleverly, the Huracán can do this only on one side or the other, to give downforce on one side (typically the inside), while allowing a bit less drag on the other.

Finally, you might notice that the car has a bronze-coloured engine cover, the mark of a special Lamborghini engine.

Here, that means a new intake system, new titanium valves and a freer-flowing, lighter, exhaust system. Power is 630bhp and peak torque 442bhp.


Lamborghini Huracán Performante boot space

The cockpit of a Huracán is a feast for the senses.

In the Performante’s case, that feast comes with a liberal topping of tactile Alcantara and Lamborghini’s ‘forged composite’ carbonfibre resin.

The starter button is guarded by a red flip-up cover, that is a perfect example of the Lambo’s form-over-function design approach. You’ll love it

Forged composite is pretty much everywhere you might find plain plastic in the standard Huracán: it’s what the interior door handles, air vents and much of the centre console mouldings are made of. As is evident on the outside of the car, it’s a deliciously attractive material just to admire.

From a functional standpoint, the Huracán’s cabin has its flaws, ranging from slightly annoying to the more serious, but to consider many of them in isolation would be to ignore what they contribute to the greater part of the car’s appeal: the way it looks.

Sure, there’s a limited amount of head room and the steeply raked windscreen cuts into forward visibility. But accepting both foibles means you get to drive something that looks about as arresting as a modern fighter jet.

The Performante’s standard seats feel a bit pudgy and high mounted, but if you specify Lamborghini’s optional fixed-back bucket-style seats (as fitted to the left-hand-drive example that we performance tested, rather than the one we photographed), you get a lower seating position and just enough head room for an average-height driver wearing a crash helmet.

With the standard seats, reclining the backrest to its maximum angle when the cushion is simultaneously set for maximum leg room gives just enough space for a 6ft 3in driver.

In the style increasingly favoured by supercar makers, the switches for the headlights, indicators, washers, wipers and cruise control are crowded onto the steering wheel. You get used to the position of most of them.

The exception, for most testers, was Lamborghini’s Anima drive mode selector, which sits on the flat-bottomed ‘six o’clock’ quadrant and is located so close to the rim that you can flick it inadvertently when feeding the wheel.

Storage is limited but there may be just about enough of it, depending on where you’re taking the car, what you’re doing and how light you travel.

The nose-mounted boot is just large enough for one medium-sized suitcase or a couple of soft bags. On top of that, there’s a shelf behind the seats onto which you might squeeze another couple of holdalls, and there are modest but useful door pockets and a small transmission tunnel cubby as well. A McLaren 720S has a bigger boot but less cabin stowage.

It was a bold decision by Lamborghini, several years ago, to leave out a central infotainment display screen on the Huracán and try to squeeze almost every bit of information needed by the driver onto a 12.3in digital instrument display.

These days, you’d say other brands have managed the feat better and you do miss a conventional central display screen here.

That’s mostly because the navigation mapping and system menus can be displayed at only small scale next to an analogue-style rev counter on the instrument screen, making them hard to read.

Lamborghini charges extra for a Sensonum premium audio system, which our car had. It sounded fine, although we spent much longer listening to the car’s 10-cylinder 90deg mid-mounted soundtrack.

Navigation with Apple CarPlay also costs extra (£3120) but it’s well worth paying for because, with your iPhone plugged in, Apple’s navigation mapping is given almost the whole of the car’s instrument screen to spread out over and is much more readable than the factory set-up. 


5.2-litre V10 Lamborghini Huracán Performante engine

A five percent power hike, some active aerodynamics, half a passenger’s worth of saved weight and what might be the most adhesive set of tyres on the road-legal side of a hillclimb slick: working together, they have a transformative effect on the Huracán.

They get it only so far against the Autocar timing gear, though. So Lamborghini hasn’t quite turned the Performante into the quickest supercar on the block here – not in a straight line, at least.

There’s just a touch of throttle adjustability to the handling around if you’re carrying enough pace

You might not have imagined it would be, of course, compared with a McLaren 720S that’s 170kg lighter still and considerably more potent with it.

But taking the bombastic theatricality of the Huracán’s V10, the car’s unmistakably enormous outright pace and that engine’s micron-perfect throttle response and pedal proportionality in combination, it’s hard to believe that anyone could find the style or scope of this car’s performance in any way wanting.

The Performante sounds magnificent. Thanks to its special exhaust, it’s even louder and more operatic than any other Huracán and therefore several times more red-blooded and characterful than any turbocharged rival.

It responds in what seems like a nanosecond and in supremely close relation to the angle of your right foot and it makes you weep for the wider demise of the atmospheric performance engine.

Our in-gear acceleration graphs show something you won’t see on the equivalents for a Ferrari 488 or McLaren 720S: almost arrow-straight lines as the car accelerates, preceded by pointy corners representing the instant the accelerator pedal is flattened. This car has exactly the kind of engine you once dreamt a supercar might.



It has a superb transmission, too, whose dual clutches can swap ratios with well-timed smoothness in automatic mode and with laudable speed in manual mode. The sheer pace of this car on a circuit means you’re seldom in the same ratio for more than three or four seconds if you’re really pushing, yet the next one – either up or down the ’box – always seems to be ready before you need it.

The car’s brake tuning can be a bit problematic, the pedal tuned to be race-car hard in normal use and only really softening and offering much feel when there’s heat in the tyres and ceramic brake discs.

In the wet, therefore – and even when our test car’s Trofeo R tyres were cold – the brakes felt slightly weak, leaning too heavily on anti-lock intervention. When the car’s critical components are on track and on song, of course, it’s a very different story.


Lamborghini Huracán Performante rear quarter

And so to the $64,000 question: has Lamborghini finally brought the balanced, communicative, exciting handling out of the Huracán that it has so far declined to supply in both rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive forms and that it so needs to depose the car’s competitors?

It certainly started in the right place with both of the test cars that we drove: fitting the adaptive Magneride suspension to both but leaving off the frustrating LDS active steering that makes the front wheels feel so remote and unpredictable.

Huge mechanical grip and stabilising aero mean you can power through shallow corners almost flat

And on the road, the initial signs are promising. There’s greater weight and natural feel to the Performante’s steering than in any other Huracán we’ve tested before and, as it doesn’t take long to realise, a more agile-feeling blend of outright lateral grip, enhanced directional response and cornering balance than in the Performante’s range-mates.

The car’s ride is predictably firm, as it would need to be on any car proven capable of a faster lap of the Nordschleife than any proper production machine before it.

And yet it doesn’t feel nagging, unyielding or savage on the road; not, at least, if you choose Lamborghini’s Strada driving mode.

The Sport mode makes for a more rear-axle-biased torque distribution setting than Strada, but it doesn’t make the Huracán’s handling as adjustable or involving as a 488 GTB’s. There’s a pervading and ever-present sense of throttle-on stability to everything the Huracán does, even in this, its most highly strung form yet; and, it would be fair to observe, there is still a small but noticeable shortage of feedback and delicacy to its handling repertoire relative to its peers.

But is there ever titanic grip, purpose, stability and speed about this car when Corsa mode is selected, when the tyres and brakes have been brought up to optimum temperature, and it has been set loose on a circuit.

Such is the adhesion those optional Trofeo R tyres develop against dry tarmac that you almost feel you’ll never find its limit. It was a limit distant enough, by the way, to take 0.4sec off our MIRA Dunlop handling circuit lap record (set by the Porsche 918 Spyder in 2014) and to suggest that, right now, there may very well be no faster road-legal circuit car in the world than the Performante

The day we took the the Performante to MIRA started with a deluge lasting two hours, after which we feared MIRA’s tarmac surfaces would simply not dry out.

But, eventually, the track did dry, those Trofeo R tyres warmed up and the Huracán delivered the goods.

In wet conditions, on these tyres, this isn’t a car you’d drive either far or fast. Its grip level isn’t that precarious, but your sense of that grip level is low, so you proceed somewhat gingerly.

But in the dry, once the tyres are at operating temperature, the car’s grip levels are huge, its brakes are powerful, its balance is assured and it inspires much more confidence.

There is some handling adjustability available but you have to cue it up on a trailing throttle using weight transfer and then develop it using power. Mostly, at the kind of cornering pace of which this car is capable, the blanket of stability the car provides is a welcome one.


Lamborghini Huracán Performante

Just one potentially quite serious observation here – and it has nothing to do with the 16.9mpg fuel economy average that the Performante recorded, which seems a very reasonable price to pay for a car that’ll be driven as seldom as this will and enjoyed as avidly.

Lamborghini has priced the car quite attractively. At just north of £200,000, it’s an extra-special track-ready derivative of a proper supercar competitive with a base-level 720S on price.

CAP predicts steep depreciation for the Performante, expecting it to be worth less than the AMG GT R at four years

You can be sure that when the successor to the Ferrari 458 Speciale arrives, it’ll do so with a price much closer to £300k – as, you’d imagine, will McLaren’s next Super Series LT.

Trouble is, our market watchers at residual value experts CAP suggest even this Huracán may not retain its value quite as stoutly as its nearest rivals – and if CAP’s prediction is right, ownership will be expensive for the car’s first and second keepers.

It may be wrong, of course, and the classified ads don’t seem to suggest that used Huracáns are faring too badly for retained value at the moment.

But, as much as it may matter to some, there are certainly safer ways to spend £200,000.

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4 star Lamborghini Huracán Performante

Just days after the Porsche 911 GT2 RS beat the Huracán Performante’s Nürburgring lap time, we’re handing it a different prize: a T-shirt, if only one would fit, with ‘Autocar’ writ large on the front, the outline of a circuit recognisable to almost nobody on the sleeve and a huge target on the back.

This £200,000 ‘junior’ supercar has proven itself quicker around our benchmark handling track than million-pound hybrid hypercars, ‘loonatic’ track specials and even the Bugatti Veyron.

Breathtaking track makeover brings it close to greatness

It is surely no longer possible to think of the Huracán as an also-ran exotic; a stonking powertrain wrapped in a pretty box but an oddly disappointing drive.

The Performante never disappoints. It has strong suits and eye-poppingly strong suits – and in the few areas where it comes up short, it mostly does so in understandable, even embraceable fashion.

The Performante remains narrowly shy of the outright performance level and handling delicacy needed to top the supercar niche and that’s why it misses out on a five-star score. Overall it means the Performante grabs third spot in our top five ahead of the Noble M600 and the Ford GT, but lags behind the Ferrari 488 GTB and the superb McLaren 720S.

But the whiff of untapped potential about this Lamborghini is now a dim memory.

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Lamborghini Huracán Performante 2017-2019 First drives