Car Reviews First Tests

2018 Lamborghini Huracán Performante First Test Review

Praiseworthy: Lamborghini has arrived in the pantheon of the supercar

Praiseworthy: Lamborghini has arrived in the pantheon of the supercar

Those of you who couldn’t wait have already scrolled to the bottom and checked the chart, but for context as to how well the 2018 Lamborghini Huracán Performante performs under instrumented testing, let’s review the numbers.

Far and away the most impressive number is its lap time at Willow Springs International Raceway’s “Big” track. There, it shattered the Porsche 918 Spyder’s long-standing record by a full second with a time of just 1:22.5. Unfortunately, a month before we tested the Performante, we tested the McLaren 720S, whose turbo torque contributed to a blistering 1:21.7 and gave it the official lap record. Still, it’s a monumental accomplishment for a Lamborghini.

“The all-wheel drive and the power down is really confidence-inspiring,” our pro driver, Randy Pobst, said. “With a car at this power level, I can use an awful lot of throttle. Like driving up the hill out of Turn 3, it’s a steep uphill with a slight decreasing radius. Every other car loosens up right at the exit of Turn 3. This one does not. It just rockets up that hill.”

Fastest Production-Car Lap Times at Big Willow
2018 McLaren 720S 81.75 sec
2018 Lamborghini Huracán Performante (Euro-spec) 82.53 sec
2015 Porsche 918 Spyder 83.54 sec
2017 Ford GT 83.69 sec
2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S 84.26 sec
2016 McLaren 675LT 84.29 sec
2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (Z07, 6M) 85.00 sec
2014 Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 85.17 sec
2016 Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce 85.42 sec
2015 Nissan GT-R NISMO 85.70 sec
2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (Z07, 8A) 85.76 sec
2015 McLaren 650S Spyder 85.88 sec

The second impressive figure is the figure eight, where this European-spec Lamborghini is now tied with the Porsche 918 Spyder for the quickest lap at 22.2 seconds. The Porsche pulled a slightly higher 1.06 average g to the Performante’s 1.00, though. It’s also 0.8 second quicker than a standard Huracán and quicker than contemporaries such as the Ferrari 488 GTB and McLaren 720S.

Indeed, the Performante’s lateral grip in general is staggering but not quite record-setting. On the skidpad, it ranks behind the Camaro SS 1LE, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT R, Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, and the current- and previous-generation Corvette Z06 and the Dodge Viper ACR at 1.12 average lateral g.

It’s a similar situation in acceleration. The Performante cuts 0.2 second off the standard Huracán, hitting 60 mph in 2.6 seconds. It’s damn quick but lands in a sixth-place tie with the Audi R8 V10+ and Tesla Model S P90D. Just ahead are the McLaren 720S and Porsche 911 Turbo S at 2.5 seconds, the 918 Spyder and Ferrari LaFerrari at 2.4, and the Model S P100D Ludicrous at 2.3. The 488 GTB needs 2.7 seconds.

If you’re interested in drag racing, you’re going to do well. With a 10.4-second elapsed time at 134.5 mph (216.4 km/h), the Performante is tied with the Lamborghini Aventador SV and Bugatti Veyron 16.4, and it is fifth overall behind the LaFerrari, McLaren P1, 918 Spyder, and 720S. The 488 GTB runs a 10.6.

The Huracán Performante is top five in braking, too. Tied with the Viper GTS, 911 S, Camaro SS 1LE, 720S, last-gen Corvette Z06, and Ferrari F430 Scuderia, the Performante stops from 60 mph in 93 feet. Ahead of it are the Corvette Z06 and Grand Sport and the 911 Turbo S. The 488 GTB needs 94 feet.

More interesting than the raw numbers is the way the Performante delivers them. One of the last naturally aspirated supercars, the Performante’s acceleration curve is a beautifully linear crescendo as the comparatively low torque gives way to world-class horsepower. The longer you stretch it out toward its 8,500-rpm redline, the more power it seems to make. The limiter comes on hard with zero warning, so you’ve got to keep an eye on the tach; the engine sounds like it could spin to double its limit, and the power never lets off.

There’s a certain beauty to that naturally aspirated torque. It allows you a moment to think. In turbocharged cars such as the 720S and 488 GTB, corners are coming at you so quickly that you brake and turn more by instinct than by rational thought. It’s less a feeling of the car accelerating and more as if you’ve reached out, grabbed the horizon, and pulled it to you in an instant. The Performante builds its speed in a less bewildering manner, giving your brain a split second to adjust to the rapidly blurring scenery out the windshield.

It also affords you an additional cushion of control exiting a corner. Driving any car fast is all about smooth inputs, and the need to be smooth on the throttle escalates with power. Having all that turbo torque available the moment you crack the throttle exiting a corner comes with a great responsibility to apply it judiciously, lest you end up backward in a ditch. Less torque and a comparatively gradual implantation eases the mind as you roll into the throttle leaving corners.

“The engine’s powerful, but it’s not crazy because it’s naturally aspirated, and we’re not dealing with a huge amount of torque,” Randy said. “I think it just revs. It pulls well all the way to the redline. It has a very linear power curve. It is not peaky, and that makes the car a lot easier to drive, frankly. I have no fear that I’m going to break the tires loose and spin them. I would even like to a little bit, and I did get a little drift once or twice, and it was just a sweetheart thing. It is a terrific handling car. It’s easy to go fast with it.”

Part of this is also the Performante’s impressive stability. On the skidpad and racetrack, we were able to provoke small mid-corner understeers and equally small exit oversteer but nothing more. On the road, the handling is perfectly neutral, and the grip feels limitless. Modern supercars have become so fast that finding their limits on public roads is about as reasonable a proposition as Russian roulette, but the Performante puts the mind just a little more at ease knowing it’s not inclined to push or spin if you overdo it. Confidence in the car is greater than the more high-strung Ferrari and McLaren when the consequence is a mountainside or a cliff. Randy, however, saw room for improvement entering Turn 8 at 140 mph (225 km/h).

“I just want more shock control on entry,” he said. “When I turn in and the body rolls, weight transfers left to right. I want that to happen slower. I want it to be more damped, and braking makes that even worse. If I brake and turn at the same time, it really rolls over hard and fast, which surprises me, frankly. That’s why I want more shock damping in that situation. I’m so happy to be asking for that because it’s so common for cars to be too stiff. Especially cars like this.”

Even still, he was deeply confident in the car. Contributing to that confidence are the brakes, which is something we haven’t said about Huracáns in the past. The pedal is hard, but the response is linear and very, very strong. What’s more, it never changes. Not in hot lapping and certainly not on the road. If it’s possible to fade the pads or boil the fluid, it would take many more laps. On top of that, all the wiggling and hunting the standard Huracán experiences under hard braking is gone. Randy did find that hitting the brake pedal too aggressively could aggravate the ABS, but it’s easily accounted for with a smoother foot. Altogether, the Performante lets you push your braking points, always finding a little extra stopping power when you think you’ve pushed them too far.

“The brakes are very effective,” Randy said. “They don’t take a lot of pedal effort, which I love. I’m very happy with the braking on the car. It didn’t change a bit. Nothing like fade or hot calipers or anything in the behavior.”

We can’t say how much of this stability is directly attributable to the ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva) active aerodynamics system because there’s no way to turn it off for a back-to-back test. Randy is skeptical it’s making a big difference, but the principles certainly add up on paper. Flaps at the front of the car can direct air under or around it, altering total drag and downforce. Valves in the rear wing can allow air to escape vents on the underside of the wing, stalling it and reducing downforce both in total and side to side.

“I can’t feel it,” he said, “and I don’t see a negative to having downforce on both sides. I want downforce all the way across the back, all I can get.”

What we can tell you is how the car feels and how different it is than a standard Huracán. Where there’s a hint of Audi passionless capability to the standard car, the Performante feels alive. The steering has surprising road feel and feedback for an all-wheel-drive car, something Lamborghini has struggled with in the past. The rear end seems to leap into turns and is eager to point the car in the moment you crack the wheel. But it’s just enough to feel playful without scaring you into trying to countersteer an oversteer that isn’t coming. The car wants to turn in a way that no street Lamborghini, not even the Aventador SV, ever has. It’s got a chip on its chiseled shoulder and is anxious to prove to you just how good it is in a corner.

“The steering is light, which I like,” Randy said. “Whoever’s setting this car up is after my own heart, and the handling balance is a little bit of understeer in the middle of the corner. It has what I like, a two or three understeer out of 10. It almost never gets loose. The only way it can get loose is with a super-aggressive entry brake and turn-in. The tire grip’s amazing, and the tires break away so slow at the limit. I love the behavior at the limit.”

Yin to the handling’s yang is the ride quality, which is remarkable in a car that posts these kinds of numbers. Lamborghini’s first go at magnetorheological shocks on the standard Huracán felt unfinished and underdeveloped, but no more. For as little body roll as there is at the track, the Performante is shockingly compliant and comfortable on the road. It’s stiff, sure, but nothing like the punishing Aventador SV or the racy Camaro ZL1 1LE. It’s not quite Porsche 911 supple, but it’s closer than you’d ever expect.

Likewise, the standard leather seats are both comfortable and appropriately supportive. The optional forged carbon buckets are only a little more supportive and, more shockingly, not uncomfortable. Sure, there’s no padding under the Alcantara, but the seats are expertly shaped, and the fixed recline angle is just right. You could actually do long distances in them without regretting it, which is more than can be said for the ones in the Aventador SV.

In either seat, you sit right on the floor of the car, but you’re still looking out gun-slit windows. Thankfully, the outward visibility is better than you’d think. The rear wing is tall enough that it doesn’t impede rearward visibility, and the little rear quarter windows are actually useful in checking your blind spots before merging. As big as the windshield is, the roofline is still quite low, and you’ll often find yourself craning your neck to look through uphill corners or to see the average traffic light.

Randy had an additional complaint: the shift paddles. They’re mounted on the steering column, not the wheel, and he found it distracting to move a hand off the wheel to get a mid-corner upshift. They’re also hair-trigger sensitive, giving Randy an unwanted double upshift on one or two occasions.

“I find myself wishing it had a PDK-like automatic mode in Corsa,” he said, “because it’s such a pain to find those shifters.”

Gun-slit windows and shift paddle mounting preferences are much smaller prices to pay for a car like this than, say, its $279,185 USD base sticker. That’s $30,000 USD more than the Ferrari, but it’s also just about a $10,000 USD savings over the McLaren—as if such things matter to people who spend more on a single car than the average home price in the U.S. Still, it fits neatly between the two competitors in both price and performance but with the extra exclusivity of being a special model.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Supercars are special, and they make you feel special. Measured on that scale, the Lamborghini stands apart. Not just because of its radioactive paint and unmistakable style but also because it offers a driving experience unique even among the ranks of the world’s best super cars. Randy calls it “a sweetheart to drive fast,” and that only scratches the surface.

2018 Lamborghini Huracán Performante
BASE PRICE $279,185
PRICE AS TESTED $302,985
VEHICLE LAYOUT Mid-engine, AWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE 5.2L/630-hp/443-lb-ft DOHC 40-valve V-10
TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,493 lb (43/57%)
WHEELBASE 103.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 177.4 x 75.8 x 45.9 in
0-60 MPH 2.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 10.4 sec @ 134.5 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 93 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 1.12 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 22.2 sec @ 1.00 g (avg)
0-100-0 MPH 9.4 sec
2.4-MI ROAD COURSE LAP 82.53 sec
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 14/21/16 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 241/160 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.18 lb/mile