First drive: 2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante in Italy
Not many who have driven Lamborghini’s Urus would complain it’s lacking in grunt or dynamism. Even so, the Bolognese Raging Bull aims to reassert the sharp-edged SUV’s superiority over ultra-rapid rivals such as the Aston Martin DBX 707 and Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT via the new Urus Performante flagship.
Due on sale locally in the ME by the end of the year (with a starting price around Dh1.1m), the Performante gains a whole raft of upgrades to make it a sharper track tool, and one of the most significant elements of the revamp is its use of steel-spring suspension in lieu of the standard model’s air-sprung setup.
The new coil-spring suspension lowers ride height by 20 mm, and Lamborghini chief technical officer Rouven Mohr says this setup “delivers greater linearity and more precise body control” vis-à-vis the standard model’s air suspension. In addition, the front and rear tracks have also been pushed out by 16 mm, endowing the Performante with a beefier stance than its base-model sibling.
There’s also a bespoke Torsen centre differential with new hardware that makes it quicker to respond and shuffle a greater percentage of torque to the rear axle. This particularly pays dividends in the new ‘Rally Mode’, which loosens up the electronic safety net to enable the car to slide around on loose surfaces.
The standard four-wheel steer further boosts agility, while a recalibrated eight-speed auto makes for faster shift times.
Bespoke Pirelli Trofeo R semi-slick tyres are optionally available (Pirelli P Zero rubber is standard) on the standard 22-inch rims and these alone reduce the lap time around the 6.22km Nardo Handling Track by 1.5sec and account for about 30-50 per cent of the Urus Performante’s performance gains versus the standard model.
Meanwhile, the Performante’s aero package features air curtains incorporated into the lower air intakes. These smooth airflow around the side of the car and also extract heat and air pressure from the front wheel wells. Meanwhile, the vents in the bonnet reduce front end drag while also extracting heat from the engine bay.
The roofline culminates in a carbon-fibre wing that contributes to 38 per cent more rear downforce, while the rear bumper and diffuser is also fabricated from carbon-fibre.
The 4.0-litre twin-turbo isn’t significantly changed, although power is bumped up marginally from the standard model’s 650hp to 666hp at 6000rpm. The peak torque figure of 850Nm is unchanged and is on tap from 2300 to 4500rpm.
Performance is borderline neck-snapping as the Urus Performante dispatches the 0-100kph dash in just 3.3sec, while 0-200kph is accomplished in 11.5sec. Top speed is a largely academic 306kph.
The engine has a noticeably fruitier soundtrack, thanks to the lightweight titanium Akrapovic sports exhaust, which develops its characteristic Lamborghini resonance depending on the drive mode selected. It also reduces weight by a substantial 10.5kg.
Track and off-road performance
We travelled to Italy for the international launch of the Urus Performante, and a key component of our drive experience was a series of hard laps at the tight and technical Autodromo Vallelunga in Rome, Italy. This track calls for quick direction changes and strong drive out of corners.
It almost defies belief that a 2,150kg SUV that stands over 1.6m tall could scoot around this circuit with such deftness and vigour. Watch our on-board footage here:
Lamborghini’s chief test and development driver Mario Fasanetto revealed to DriveArabia that the Performante is virtually as quick as the original 2014 Huracan around the 6.22km Nardo Handling Track, which is in itself a mind-boggling stat.
Powering out of pitlane, the straight-line punch and appealing soundtrack of the Performante is immediately evident, but what’s more eye-opening is how vigorously the carbon-ceramic stoppers (440mm at the front and 370mm at the rear) wipe off speed. Moreover, there’s no discernible fade even after a series of hard laps.
More surprising still is how the Performante is able to hook up and launch out of slow corners, of which there are many at Vallelunga (that’s the upgraded Torsen centre differential and torque-vectoring rear diff at work).
The big Lambo is also terrifically adjustable, so you can easily tweak your trajectory if you’ve misjudged your line on corner entry. Of course, much of credit here goes to the grippy Trofeo R semi-slick tyres.
Apart from ditching the standard Urus’s height-adjustable air suspension, the Performante also dispenses with the Sabbia (Sand), Terra (Mud/Rocks) and Neve (Snow) drive modes that the standard Urus offers. So, the Performante is not the right tool if scaling sand dunes or ploughing through muddy swamps is on the agenda.
What you can do instead is select the new ‘Rally Mode’ via the Tamburo selector on the centre console and carve up gravel roads. This drive mode loosens up the electronic safety net, allowing plenty of scope for sideways action.
Even so, the Performante remains easy to manage, with little flicks of steering correction bringing the car back into line without any drama or onset of white-knuckle syndrome.
The Performante’s cabin strikes a nice balance between being sporting and cossetting. The front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of adjustability, so it’s not hard to conjure up an ideal position behind the wheel.
Rear-seat dwellers (you can opt for a four- or five-seat format) have adequate head and shoulder room, although the small side glasshouse limits visibility somewhat. Luggage capacity is a respectable 616 litres with all the seats in place.
The cockpit is trimmed in Nero Cosmus black Alcantara as standard with a new hexagonal seat stitching design that’s known as the “Performante trim” – leather is optional.
Dedicated colour and trim options include extension of the Performante trim on doors, roof-lining, seat backrest and rear wall, with further Ad Personam customisation including interior matt carbon-fibre details, red door handles, and a customised kickplate with Ad Personam logo.
The black Alcantara/leather steering wheel is trimmed in matt black while the aluminium interior trim in black anodised. With the optional “Dark Package”, the matt black treatment can be extended to other interior details including the lever of the Urus’ central ‘Tamburo’ drive mode selector.
A new HMI graphic, with a dedicated design for the Urus Performante, features on both the centre console screen and in a large arc across the main display.
It’s fair to say the standard Lamborghini Urus (soon to be replaced by the updated Urus S) already offers enough punch and pizzazz to satisfy even hardened performance enthusiasts.
Even so, the upgrades the Urus Performante brings to the table make it an extremely enticing package, provided your budget can stretch to well over Dh1.1 million (by the time you get it optioned up to your tastes).
The Urus Performante doesn’t have things all its own way, as the Aston Martin DBX 707 and Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT are both rapid and capable, too.
But the sheer dynamism and Latin flair of the Urus Performante will doubtless earn it the nod from many buyers, and they won’t be disappointed. It’s genuinely hard to fathom that a full-size SUV could be so fast, agile and plain laugh-out-loud fun.
SPECS: 2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante
Price: Approx Dh1.1m
Available: End of year
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 666hp at 6000rpm
Torque: 850Nm at 2300-4500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Top speed: 306kph