A funny thing has been going on with Lamborghini.
When I was growing up, the legendary Italian supercars were considered wilder and crazier, cruder and more tasteless than Ferraris.
If you liked Lamborghinis, you kind of knew what you wanted to be when you grew up, and it wasn’t necessarily civilised.
However, since the late 1990s, the marque has been owned by the VW Group and allied with Audi.
This structure has tempered some of the old Lambo stuff, beneficially making the brand more dignified, easy to live with and more technologically up to date.
All that sounds great, but what about, you know, the Lambo-ness?
Well, we’ve seen the benefits played out in the Huracan line-up.
Lamborghini sells three cars: the Huracan sports supercar, the Aventador super-hypercar, and the new Urus SUV.
The Huracan is meant to provide a little something for everybody who wants to get into the brand.
Hence an all-wheel-drive version that can be mistaken for an Audi, a rear-wheel-drive version that cannot (which remind Lamborghini lovers of the cars of the 1970s and 1980s), a drop-top Spyder for open-air motoring – and now a racing-track-oriented car, the Performante.
Yes, it looks like a racing car. But it can be taken on the road. And then to the track. And back to the road.
The Performante – a high-performance version of the already high-performing regular Huracan – is the car for those well-heeled enthusiasts who want to test their driving skills and also mess around – and stun the neighbours.
Lamborghini let us borrow a 2018 Huracan Performante for a few days.
Our test car was the all-wheel-drive version.
Here’s what we thought.
The Performante is the “regular” Huracan turned up a few notches.
The ferocious architecture of the Huracan remains: this is a classic mid-engine supercar.
Unlike Lambos of old, the Huracan has gone for a more stately, dignified vibe. Inasmuch as that’s possible for the snarling bull.
Speaking of snarling bulls ...
... Here it is! Huracan is actually the name of a fighting bull – that’s a Lambo tradition.
The Italian-colours detail featured on the side stripe is flamboyant, and for me, maybe overkill.
Yet it is certainly fun, and this Lamborghini does hail from Bologna.
The price of our test car started at about US$274,000.
A few extras took that to more than US$320,000.
For example, a lifting kit to avoid pothole-and-driveway damage was US$6,900.
The Huracan is, effectively, a wedge.
What the Performante adds to this already aerodynamic design is a welter of technologies to make a very fast car go very much faster.
There’s a front air splitter up front – which produces downforce by creating differences in the air pressure on the upper and lower side of the splitter when the car moves – but the most notable aerodynamic feature is that large rear wing.
It is part of the car’s ALA – “Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva” – system, which dynamically varies downforce, sticking the car to the road at high speed and loosening it up at slower velocities.
Look closely and you can see that it’s made of Lamborghini’s forged composite material, a type or carbon fibre that is compressed rather than woven.
That is what accounts for the cool patterning.
From the rear, the wing actually looks rather discreet.
A theme throughout the Huracan is the use of hexagons. Here’s one: it’s the side-view mirror.
Note the dual exhaust pipes (below), perched above the Lamborghini's rear diffuser.
They are modest, given that the Performante is powered by a V10 engine.
I’ve always been a fan of the Huracan. I think it’s one of the most beautiful and purposeful Lambos.
The lines and curves flow almost musically, and the music is loud without being excessively distorted.
The Performante features ventilated carbon-ceramic brakes and meaty black calipers.
They are a necessity for slowing the Lamborghini from a top speed of 202 miles per hour (325km/h).
Because the engine is behind the driver, there is no rear boot and only a tiny storage area – big enough for two small racing helmets – in the front ...
... along with a pair of zippered pouches carrying repair gear.
... which includes a pair of white leather Lamborghini-branded gloves.
There is a “transparent engine bonnet” which allows you to easily gaze upon ...
... the golden 5.2-litre, 631-horsepower V10 engine. No supercharger. No turbochargers.
Just old-school power, produced by displacement. Torque? That’s 443 pound-feet of push.
Shall we slip inside?
Yes, it’s snug. And yes, there’s a lot of synthetic suede Alcantara.
The Performante is the least luxurious Lamborghini of the current generation I’ve been in.
It reminds me of the McLaren 675LT – another purposeful, track-oriented machine.
The red Lamborghini badging and stitching adds some touches of colour to the otherwise monotonous “Nero Cosmus” interior.
I tend to feel pretty comfortable behind the wheel of a Lambo. These cars can be crazy. But the Huracan is fairly pleasant to drive when you aren't in full-on, go-fast mode.
The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch unit, with automatic and manual modes – the latter making use of paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
The instrument cluster is digital and will reconfigure depending on which drive mode you are using.
Driving modes are selected using the “anima” switch on the steering wheel.
You have “Strada”, “Sport” and “Corsa” from which to choose.
The “Corsa” driving mode, for example, transforms the instrument cluster into a track-oriented information-crammed screen, which is dominated by a digital tachometer
Founder Ferruccio Lamborghini would be proud.
Believe it or not, there’s even a cupholder, concealed in the dashboard. I didn’t test it. For obvious reasons.
The Performante can blast from 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds. You wouldn’t want to risk spilling your latte.
The forged composite features also appear inside the Huracan.
The patterning really is cool. It’s a wonderful change over the near-ubiquitous woven carbon-fibre.
Climate controls are very simple, located along with the infotainment-system controls on the Lamborghini's jet aircraft-style central console.
No, you don’t have central infotainment screen.
Instead, you have this small display on the instrument panel.
Believe it or not, it’s actually quite easy to use.
The car’s navigation renderings may be small, but they are detailed and accurate.
The navigation system has Bluetooth connectivity, as well as USB/AUX ports. You don’t really miss a big touch screen interface.
Other features are controlled using a line of aviation-style switches. The red one is for the hazard lights.
But the most important of all is the red flip-up cover on the start-stop button.
Let’s fire the Performante up and drive!
So what’s the verdict?
I’ve driven the “base” Huracan with all-wheel-drive, the high-strung LP580-2 with rear-wheel-drive, and the Huracan Spyder drop-top.
I’ve genuinely enjoyed them all, so much so that I always look forward to a few days in Huracan-land.
These Lambos are more refined and balanced than Lambos of old, a consequence of Lambo being owned by the VW Group and sharing tech and platforms with Audi.
In this context, the Performante is sort of the best of all worlds.
It can be dialled back to pliability for everyday motoring, although the fact that it’s a V10 mid-engined two-seater supercar means it will never really be practical.
Once a Lambo, always a Lambo, as I found when I drove nice and slowly around my hometown and watched the jaws of teenagers drop everywhere as I passed by.
They seemed paralysed by the impressive looks of the Lamborghini supercar. As they should have been!
Its blistering velocity bona fides are also undeniable.
The Performante lapped Germany’s famous Nürburgring racing track so swiftly that it set a record for production vehicles in 2017.
As with the 755-horsepower Corvette ZR1 that I drove a few months back, you simply cannot appreciate the Performante’s capabilities on the public roads.
You have to find yourself a racing track to access the more hypnotic and thrilling levels of speed the Lamborghini can deliver.
And that’s why this car exists. Lamborghini wants racing track enthusiasts to have a car that’s up to the task – but that’s still street-legal.
Street-legal-wise, the best part of the Performante is of course that vicious, snarling, belching, burbling V10, all thrust and backfire and bark and yowl.
Simply driving around at the legal speed limit, flipping between gears, is auditory bliss.
You don’t need to go fast, heretical as that is to say.
You can have fun playing the pipe organ of combustion that is the Performante’s brilliant motor.
Yes, indeed, US$320,000 is a high price to pay for such pleasures, which can also be had with less-expensive versions of the Huracan.
However, if you are a track hound, or if you simply have the resources to spend it on forged composite carbon and the like, so that it feels as if your car is glued to the road at all times, then you are not going to want to overlook the Performante.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider .