An Italian summer - Lamborghini's 60th Anniversary
You're starting in the Viola Pasifae, "says Enrico, Lamborghini’s jovial PR manager, flashing his time- honoured Italian smile at the lady in our group. Sensing our impatience, he turns to the rest of us and goes, “You’ve got the Grigio Acheso, you the Arancio Xanto, you the Rosso Efesto, you the Blu Okeanos,” and directing his attentions towards me, “You the Giallo Inti.” Lovely, Enrico. Except none of us speak Italian; none of us have memorised Lamborghini’s colour palette. And so Enrico goes through the whole rigamarole again. “Purple, grey, red, blue and lastly for you,” he says pointing at my yellow t-shirt, “Yellow.” And that’s that. The Italians are brilliant at this. No 5000-slide presentation requiring industrial-grade espresso to keep us awake. None of the tedious, ‘don’t do this, don’t do that, and all speeding fines will be debited to your account.’ Just a thumbs up, the barrier leading out to Lamborghini’s historic Sant’Agata factory pops open, and we head out in convoy led by a radioactive green (Viper Verde) Urus Performante and swept by another Performante in an awesome camouflage-green (Verde Turbine) that we christen Field Marshall Urus. It’s a 6300bhp convoy heading up and into the hills of Modena, Italy’s Motor Valley, on the very same roads used by engineers to test Ferraris, Ducatis, Paganis, Maseratis and of course Lamborghinis. I’m in the Urus Performante, an SUV that remains my biggest regret of the year – missing the India drives at the Bren Raceway and, hell’s bells, listening to my colleagues sticking it in Rally mode and drifting it round the dirt-layout of the race track. Let’s make amends.
Not to brag, but I've been lucky from the frustration of being restricted to just 40km on my very first drive in the Urus to being invited on multiple Giro events where I’ve full-sent this super-SUV to my heart’s content, I know the Urus well; well enough to dive right into the upgrades that have earned it the Performante suffix. It starts with steel springs replacing air suspension and ground clearance going down by 20mm to lower the centre of gravity. Will this make a difference to daily usability in India? I am not sure, Italy doesn’t have the ridiculous speed breakers that we have to contend with, but I can tell you that the ride is appreciably firmer. These roads up in the Modena hills are bumpy, lumpy and narrow with very little room for error. You’ve got to be fully committed, and so driven it reveals a hardcore side to the Urus, which is only appropriate because this is an SUV tuned for the race track (as absurd as the very notion of a track-going SUV sounds) and soon enough the Lamborghini mechanics in the lead car dial up the pace to 11. If we were on our own we’d scout a small section of road, make sure it’s empty (and sans speed cameras), drive full blast up and down it, and that would be that for our full-send runs. Today we can lean on the Lambo’s test engineers’ local knowledge and so we go, go like mad men and women. Three cars ahead are the two Tecnicas howling and shrieking but I can’t hear them, drowned out by the thunder from the quad Akrapovic exhaust tips poking out the back of the Performante. Together with a whole bunch of sinister-looking carbon parts this exhaust system drops weight by 47kg to 2150kg while downforce is up by 38 per cent thanks to the rear spoiler. There’s even extra cooling and drag-reducing surfacing, while on the inside I’m thankful the steering is clad in Alcantara because my palms are sweating from maintaining the ridiculous pace. In tighter corners and hairpins rear-wheel-steering makes the Performante far more manageable – and faster! – than anything this big and wide has any right to be. Medium and higher speed corners reveal a ridiculously keen front end and a determination to chew up and spit out the corner that is jaw-dropping. I’m in the max-attack Corsa mode and no matter how early I get on the throttle, the back end follows the nose faithfully. In Sport there’s a bit more playfulness but, remember, there’s a heat wave in these parts, the tarmac is nice and hot, plus the Performante is wearing Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres. These are semi-slick tyres with a bespoke compond. On an SUV! What a world we live in! The new Torsen centre differential can also send more power to the rear axle more of the time and you get varying levels of torque vectoring as you toggle through the driving modes culminating in sideways heroics in Rally mode. Except there are no rally stages in the mountains which means my one big regret of the year remains unrequited.
The Italians love their food as much as their cars and lunch is enormous chunks of the meat that must not be mentioned, served in a spectacular setting, up in the hills. The Italians also have a spectacular appetite and while we Indians take it easy lest we throw up with our own driving, the local crew polish off all the plates on all tables. I now swap into the Urus S, primarily to let the lunch settle in what is the softer Urus. There’s air suspension in place of the steel springs, there are more modes on the Anima drive selector, there’s more ground clearance, and mine-is-bigger- than-yours enthusiasts will be happy to know that the wheels can be spec’d up to 23s from the mere 22s on the Performante. Trundling through the village reveals a nicer ride – the reason why the Urus has been so wildly popular. This is a mad-fast car that you can use as your daily. The seats are comfortable, the ride is nice, there’s genuine space at the back to even be chauffeured in (say, when you’re stuck in traffic), and it’s all dressed up in outrageous styling, announced via a violent hail of noise and lays waste to all the car spotters thanks to its staggering ability over every kind of road.
That’s what our Italian friends are keen to demonstrate, also the fact that the lunch hasn’t slowed them down one bit. Once we are out of town, mamma mia!, we are back to full sends and out the window goes any suggestion of this being soft.
The Urus S devours straights with every bit of the vim, verve and vigour of the Performante. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise though because the twin-turbo 4-litre V8 is in the same state of tune as the Performante. There’s 657bhp of power, up by 16bhp over the earlier Urus while torque remains unchanged at 850Nm, presumably the maximum the 8-speed automatic transmission can handle. Maybe it’s the steel springs, maybe it’s the Akrapovic exhaust, something is clearly working to the Performante’s advantage where it cracks 100kmph two tenths of a second quicker than the Urus S’s 3.5 seconds. Top speed is 1kmph quicker at 306kmph to the Urus S’s 305kmph. And all this, I can confirm, is academic. Unless you are lined up at the drag strip you will never notice the differences. In the Modenese hills the S feels nearly as mental – and capable – as the Performante. Nearly as mental.
Over these bumpy roads the Urus S feels more planted and less prone to bouncing about. It clearly has a more supple demeanour and rides the bumps better. But in the corners the Urus Performante is more incisive. More determined, more aggressive and more brutal in the way it murders the corner. If you plan on doing track days or drag races with your super- SUV, the Performante will make you the hero of the pitlane. For everything else you’d be better off saving half a crore of rupees and sticking with the S because, whichever variant you opt for, the Urus is an SUV that thinks, acts, and behaves like a sports car.
This is the end. Not just of our drive, but for the howling, spine-tingling, awe-inspiring and borderline anti-social V10. Along with the Sterrato, the Tecnica marks the last hurrah for the heroically naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 after two decades in production. It also marks the end of series production for the Huracan after a decade. And what a way for both to go.The V10 is insane. The Tecnica is insane. All through the day we’ve been marvelling at the rowdiness of the Urus, how it manages to keep pace with the Tecnica, how it’s almost like a sports car. Except the Tecnica is a sports car. And the Lambo engineers driving the pants off the lead Urus Performante, driving like this is their own private race track, driving with intimate knowledge of every single crest, corner and camber – are just too slow for the Tecnica. Those same bumps that nearly got me airborne in the Urus Performante are squished into submission with a firm hand. The corners are dispensed with a flick of the wrist, the hairpins are sliced and diced with half a turn of lock, the straights are swallowed up in an epic hail of fury. And through it all the star of the show remains the V10, neither muffled by turbos nor synthesized by hybrid electric motors, that sings like no road-legal engine should be permitted to sing. We ease off through a village, there’s a bunch of school children waiting to cross, and I click the Tecnica’s gearbox into neutral and rev its nuts off. The kids squeal in delight, the teachers clap and wave; we’ve made their day. Those kids might grow up in a world filled with electric cars, but they’ll remember the day a purple Tecnica blew their eardrums out. Spreading the joy makes me desperately happy, the realisation that future generations won’t experience this makes me desperately sad.
Mash the throttle to blast off the weeds, and the turn of speed is furiously intense. Remember I’ve been driving 657bhp super-SUVs all day, yet 631bhp screaming heroically in the back of a sports car is another kettle of fish. You hang on for dear life. Scream at the GoPro hoping it will catch some of your gibberish for the video you’re trying to film (no chance!), scream at the lead Urus to drive faster, scream in delirious joy. There are faster and more technically sophisticated sports car than the Tecnica, there’s no doubt in the days to come EVs will be even faster, but the noise amplifies everything by 500 per cent. Lift off and it doesn’t pop and crackle but lets off an AK-47 fusillade. It roars, snarls, howls and shrieks its way to the 8500rpm rev limiter. It truly is a noise from the gods. It settles the ICE vs EV debate, obviously in favour of the former. It’s so addictive I’ve forgotten to tell you anything about the car.
So what is the Tecnica? In simplest terms it’s a mashup of the RWD Huracan Evo and the track-focused STO, leaning more towards the latter. The chassis gets recalibrated settings on the LDVI (Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata) – the electronic brain fed by an army of sensors monitoring lateral, longitudinal and vertical loads, as well as pitch, yaw and body roll to control the adaptive dampers, rear wheel steering, traction control and torque vectoring – the net effect being a broadening of the dynamic repertoire to bring out different characters. Sport mode also features ‘Enhanced Oversteer’ but the scorching heat, even hotter tarmac and ultra-grippy Bridgestone Potenza Sport tyres (for the Italians to opt for it over Pirellis tells you how epic this rubber is) means it stays glued to the tarmac. It also means you never miss all- wheel-drive. In fact the front end, uncorrupted by having to transmit torque, has terrific clarity along with lovely weight and response. While quick, the steering doesn’t feel hyper- sensitive and that means you get into lovely flow, also aided by the ditching of variable steering; the Tecnica, like the STO, now sporting the single, direct steering ratio.
Rear-wheel steering has the effect of virtually shortening the Tecnica’s wheelbase in low-speed corners and particularly in the hairpins it’s surprising how little effort, how little steering lock is needed. Conversely the faster you go the rear-wheel steering virtually lengthens the wheelbase thereby giving it better stability in faster corners as well as during quick direction changes. The high-speed stability is also aided by 35 per cent more rear downforce than the Evo RWD, thanks to the fixed rear wing while drag is reduced by 20 per cent. And while we are on the subject, wow, this looks nothing short of epic, particularly in the Viola Pasifae purple. There’s a new front bumper that riffs off the Terzo Millennio concept and its Y-shaped lights, there’s hints of the track-only Essenza SCV12 in the greenhouse, massive hexagonal exhaust tips that leave nothing to the imagination and even the lower edges of the fenders have been pinched inward to expose more of the rear tyres. The front and rear hood is carbonfibre and, if I were speccing my Tecnica I’d leave it unpainted and have it on display for the world to admire. Like the STO you get a vertical rear window between the flying buttresses, a glass panel in the carbonfibre engine bay, putting the V10 on full display. This is in the exact same tune as the STO – 631bhp and 565Nm of torque – and driving the rear wheels via the 7-speed twin- clutch auto gearbox. 100kmph takes 3.2 seconds, top speed is 325kmph, and every time you hit the accelerator all your worries disappear. Sports car, super cars, they’re primary purpose is to make you feel good and the Tecnica not only makes you smile like an idiot, it plasters that same smile on every passer-by, every 8-year old, every 80-year old. Cars like these are the reason why we identify as car guys. And cars like these have reached the end of their life.
Next year’s Huracan replacement will axe the V10 for a mild-hybrid, turbo-V8. I have no doubt it will be faster, easier to drive, even wilder to look at with even more heroic cornering. It will also be more efficient if that’s something that bothers you. But will it have the same sound and fury of the V10? The summer of 2024 will hold answers, by when I’d have mastered the Italian colour shades as well.