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Hardcore 'Performante' treatment has only ever been given to mid-engined Lambos, until now…

There’s a strange degree of convergence taking place at some of the world’s great performance car makers. The game seems to be to develop essentially the same machine, only from starting points at opposite ends of the product spectrum, with some very entertaining, Mad Max-style freakshows emerging as a result.

At Lamborghini, on one hand you have the Huracán, which has recently been jacked-up 44mm and cladded with rowdier bodywork to give us the Sterrato: a V10-engined dirt-track supercar redolent of Lancia’s Group 4 Stratos.

On the other hand you have this latest Urus derivative, for which the regular air suspension has been substituted with steel springs that set the body 20mm closer to the road. The new car also has widened tracks, extra carbonfibre body panels and a fair bit more aerodynamic performance. The result is the £204,000 Urus Performante: a 3.3sec-to-62mph SUV that believes it’s a supercar.

Equivalent models at Porsche are the box-fresh 911 Dakar (okay, there’s some serious heritage there) and the slope-backed Cayenne GT Turbo. Seating capacity aside, they’re all the trying to be the same sort of entity.

Lamborghini urus performante 2023 03 rear drift

Are these kinds of cars any good? It varies. Having already driven the car on circuit, this is our first chance to see how well the range-topping Urus Performante works in the UK and – spoiler alert – as is so often the case with ultra-high-performance SUVs the feeling is more one of admiration than love.

No surprise that the Performante is absurdly fast, and would be even had the Porsche-designed twin-turbo V8 not been boosted from 641bhp (and 627lb ft) to 657bhp (with the same torque). It’s a nominal increase – one for the brochure – but those totals generate performance that defies the car’s 2150kg mass, down 47kg on the standard Urus. An Akrapovic titanium exhaust also means you’ll be heard long before you’re seen if you’ve got the engine mode set to anything other than Strada, which is passably subtle. Less subtle are the looks. The standard Urus is hardly shy but carbonfibre wheelarch extensions mark out the Performante, as do the vented, two-tone bonnet and beefy front air intakes.  

But that's all window-dressing. The Performante’s true strength and most interesting asset is its handling, which really is exceptionally assured. For this particular application Lamborghini has quickened the car's steering rack, sharpened throttle response and increased the ratio of the Torsen centre differential (so it’s more rear-biasing), all of which could have contributed to making the Performante a spiky mess on a good B-road but this isn’t the case. Precise, close body control aided by the active anti-roll bars of the regular car allows these detail changes to shine, and the steering also has some life to it, pulsing through the wheel’s Alcantara-trimmed rim. From the driver's seat the Performante isn't half as cynical as it looks from the outside, even if that is quite a low bar. 

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On a damp road where grip and traction can be overcome, the hottest Urus either can be flowed or properly manhandled, and it probably prefers the latter, the chassis moving between grip and slip with disarming, casual ease. A chonky SUV it might be, but it can be neatly rotated on the throttle and at all times disguises its bulk. 

Lamborghini urus performante 2023 06 interior

This means the Urus Performante can be genuinely good fun, remaining composed and intuitive even as its extrovert personality fully emerges from both powertrain and chassis. That said, as is the case with almost all heavy, high-riding brutes, proper driving satisfaction always remains out of reach.         

Moreover, the penalty for the Performante’s handling ability is too high. The new suspension is perma-reactive and ride-quality only becomes acceptable either when the road-surface is pristine or you’re putting serious loads though the suspension. So maybe five percent of the time. The rest of the time you’d be better off in the regular car or, better still, in Aston’s DBX 707. The fact is that the Urus Performante is manifestly unsuited to this country’s roads and you notice this from the first to the last moments of your journey, sumptuous cabin or not. 

Lamborghini would argue that anything wearing the ‘Performante’ name needs to be an unapologetic, all-out dynamo, as was the case with the superb, tarmac-scraping Huracán Performante. Fair point, but you could more easily argue that, even in this age of wild chimaera creations, infusing the Urus with Performante DNA is probably a gene-edit too far. 

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Lamborghini urus performante 2023 04 low tracking


Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

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scrap 24 January 2023

Is there a less appropriate material for wheelarch extensions than carbon fibre? Non load bearing so don't need to be strong, but should be flexible and resistant to knock damage. Carbon fibre is the opposite. These are stupid cars, designed for idiots.

jason_recliner 25 January 2023

Spot on.

ShugT 24 January 2023

...and this was on the 22 inch wheels, not the 23 inch they will all be specced with!!


Just Saying 24 January 2023
".. anything wearing the ‘Performante’ name needs to be an unapologetic"
Enough said, but perhaps not for our roads.
Bob Cholmondeley 24 January 2023

May not be great for UK roads but, Qataris and Saudis will buy more than enough to keep Lamborghini shareholders happy.

Just Saying 24 January 2023
I agree Bob