Car Reviews First Drives

2018 Lamborghini Huracán Performante Spyder First Drive Review

Same Brilliant Car—Just Louder and Windier

Same Brilliant Car—Just Louder and Windier

It’s no secret. We love us some Lamborghini Huracan Performante. From our camouflaged first drive on the Imola circuit in Italy where we said, “The Huracan Performante has such high levels of performance that mere mortals can feel as if they know what they’re doing on an old F1 track. How can you put a price on that?” To the debut where it was revealed that “the Performante’s real party trick is its trick ALA system (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva). Forged carbon fiber is used in the Huracan Performante’s active aero elements in the front splitter, rear diffuser, and wing.” Finally, it was announced with video proof that the car had (then) set the production-car lap record (6:52.01) on the infamous Nordschleife circuit at the Nurburgring. Finally, in our first test where the “Mantis” green, winged wedge tied or set some of our own performance records, we wrote, “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 supercars.” We recently included one as a contender for Motor Trend’s 2018 Best Driver’s Car (stay tuned for the results). So, where did Lamborghini go from there?

Super Spyder

They removed the top, making this the sixth iteration (not counting the Polizia, Pope, and Avio special editions) of the Huracan that was introduced in 2014. Unlike the larger Aventador S Roadster that has fixed, manually removable roof panels, the Huracan Performante Spyder features a button-operated electrohydraulic system that opens the rear deck and neatly folds and stows a cloth top beneath—at speeds up to 30 mph (48 km/h), in less than 20 seconds. Compared to the coupe, the Huracan Spyder’s rear deck lid is necessarily redesigned, and there’s a pair of integrated passthrough ducts on the B-pillars that are said to reduce cabin turbulence. With its power rear window up and soft top down, we can attest to the ease with which two people can have a conversation at super-legal speeds. “Excuse me, fellow professional driver, can you believe we are now traveling in excess of 100 mph (161 km/h) on this closed road with the top down and having this hushed conversation?”

With the rear window lowered, both wind and engine noise (more like music) dramatically increase in volume. “My gawd! Listen to that!” Nor does the top, when up, cause any booming or flutter. Adding 0.6 inch to the car’s height, it’s a well-engineered convertible. And, despite the approximately 275-pound (125-kg) penalty, Lamborghini estimates only a 0.2-second difference in acceleration to 60 mph. From our prior testing, this means it should take just 2.8 seconds. That’s adequate, right? Simply access launch mode (Corsa + ESC off), two pedals in, jump off the brake, and blammo! We’ll take Lamborghini’s word that Spyder’s top speed is identical to the coupe’s at 202 mph (325 km/h). Globally, Lamborghini expects the Spyder to account for 40 percent of Huracan Performante sales but predicts that the U.S. market take rate will be closer to 50 percent despite a whopping $33,069 USD premium over the coupe.

Curves Ahead

Not just a straight line fiend, the Huracan Performante Spyder retains the coupe’s ability to bend the countryside to its will. This time, however, there’s more landscape and soundscape to enjoy. When the Anima three-mode drive selector is in Strada, it has a profoundly mellowing effect on the exhaust loudness. In either Sport or Corsa, it’s all manic all the time, and in Corsa, you’ll need to pull the paddles to shift gears. The Spyder driving experience reminds me of riding a motorcycle. As you drive, your body senses changes in temperature; your eyes, the light and shadow; your nose, the smell of fields and grass; your ears, the octaves the engine produces. It really is a feast for the senses, adding another dimension to the already intensely satisfying Huracan Performante experience.

Our previous drives and tests of the Huracan Performante coupe all came with the optional magnetorheologic suspension. The Spyders we drove had traditional dampers, and although the optional ones work miracles, the standard suspension is remarkably capable, as well. On the wide variety of roads we drove in and around Napa, California, the car never once felt hard, harsh, or out of its depth. Our test cars, however, did feature the dynamic steering option (variable-rate front rack and rear-steer). Seamlessly, this system definitely helped the car negotiate slower, tighter corners, steering in opposition at these speeds and in phase at higher ones. Unlike our dynamic steering experience in the Aventador S Roadster that left us feeling as if the front and rear steering systems weren’t on speaking terms, the Huracan Performante’s system works invisibly and so well that one might not even know it was at play. And at speeds between 43 and 193 mph (69 and 311 km/h), the ALA active aerodynamics come online, as well. If you’re not familiar with it, there are ducts in both the front splitter and the rear deck that can be opened and closed in 0.5 second. Depending on their position, the car can make differing amounts of downforce, front, rear, and side to side. We wish there was a way to turn the system on and off so we could tell you how well it works, but we’ll simply point to a 2.64-second lap time advantage we recorded at Big Willow Springs Raceway between a Huracan Performante (1:22.53) and a Huracan LP610-4 (1:25.17). It can’t be just the result of a 20-hp advantage. There’s clearly more to it than that.

The optional carbon-ceramic brakes on our Spyder are about as good as those available on any production car. The pedal is, indeed, as firm as expected and doesn’t need to travel much to begin slowing the car. The hard part with carbon-ceramics is what happens as the driver eases off the pedal. Do the pedals release predictably, gradually, or all at once in a free-fall feeling? Lamborghini got this part right, too. The brakes are confidence inspiring both for their power and fade resistance, and also for their predictable release, allowing trail-braking to feel natural.

Adding Through Subtraction

Lamborghini could’ve simply left the Huracan Performante coupe alone as the best supercar it has ever produced. Sure, the cubic-dollars ALA-equipped Aventador SVJ recently reset the lap record at the Nurburgring, but the tidier, more affordable Huracan Performante will stand the test of time and remain the one that started it all. By offering a convertible version with the Spyder, Lamborghini did very little to take away from the Performante’s inherent greatness. Removing the top only adds to the experience, offers a broader range of emotions to enjoy, and succeeds in pleasuring more of your senses. Almost as a rule, I prefer the coupe over the convertible variant of the same car. The convertible is often less rigid, less practical, and less capable. However, given the choice, if I had an extra 33 grand lying around, I think I’d be one of the 50 percent who’d opt for the drop-top version of the Huracan. I’d lose essentially nothing and gain a motorcycle in the deal.

2018 Lamborghini Huracan Performante Spyder
BASE PRICE $314,654
VEHICLE LAYOUT Mid-engine, AWD, 2-pass, 2-door convertible
ENGINE 5.2L/630-hp/443-lb-ft DOHC 40-valve V-10
TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,800 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 103.2 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 177.4 x 75.8 x 46.5 in
0-60 MPH 2.8 sec (MT est)
EPA ECON CITY/HWY/COMB 13/19/15 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 259/177 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.28 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. Currently