2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante: Firmer and Faster

·5 min read
Photo credit: Lamborghini
Photo credit: Lamborghini

Lamborghini has just unveiled the Urus Performante in Pebble Beach, but you won't have to wait long to learn how it drives in nearly finished guise. We have already been behind the wheel of a prototype example of the turned-up super-ute, at the Porsche-owned Nardò test track in Italy earlier this year.

This was a limited turn in an early-build example, and we pushed it harder than most Urus owners will in the real world. But it was enough to confirm that the Performante does feel significantly different from the regular Urus, to a much greater extent than suggested by the new model's modestly improved performance numbers.

A Modest Horsepower Increase

We'll deal with those numbers first since it won't take long. The Performante uses the same twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 as the regular Urus, with output increased slightly to 657 horsepower (which translates to a satanic 666 PS). That's a 16-hp increase over the standard version. Peak torque of 627 pound-feet is unchanged, as it represents the upper limit of what the eight-speed automatic gearbox can tolerate.

Photo credit: Lamborghini
Photo credit: Lamborghini

Weight has also fallen slightly, with the Performante shedding a claimed 104 pounds thanks to reduced sound deadening, fitment of a carbon-fiber hood, and lighter steel springs swapped in for the regular version's air suspension. But despite that weight-loss regimen, the Urus Performante is still pretty porky, tipping the scales at just over 5200 pounds.

The Performante sits 0.8 inch closer to the road on its new springs, which continues to work in conjunction with adaptive dampers and a 48-volt active anti-roll system. It gets a new center differential that diverts more torque to the rear axle, and the rear differential again is able to distribute that torque to each rear wheel. Carbon-ceramic brakes and rear-wheel steering are standard, as on the regular Urus, but all the active dynamic systems have been recalibrated to improve responses. The Performante also gains a new Rally drive mode that permits drifting on low-grip surfaces.

Photo credit: Lamborghini
Photo credit: Lamborghini

The Performante on the Track

The drifting came later, as our first experience was on Nardò's 4.03-mile handling circuit, the same technically challenging high-speed track where we made acquaintance with the pre-production Huracán Tecnica for the first time. While this was certainly a less likely environment for a large SUV than a lithe supercar, the Performante felt impressively agile considering its weight and size—and markedly more so than the standard Urus.

The regular Urus has never been lacking in mechanical charisma—with a powerplant more theatrical than many theater companies—but the Performante has indeed succeeded in turning the experience up a couple of notches. Accelerator response feels even more eager in the more aggressive dynamic modes, and the V-8 sounds raspier and angrier above 4000 rpm with a fusillade of pops and rumbles whenever you ease the gas pedal. The gearbox is quicker to downshift in Drive and holds onto gears longer. And although it lacks the savage quickness of a dual-clutch transmission, it shifts more snappily than the regular Urus when you call upon it with the steering-wheel paddles.

Photo credit: Lamborghini
Photo credit: Lamborghini

The chassis enhancements are equally notable. Lamborghini's chief technical officer, Rouven Mohr, says the decision to switch to steel springs was done primarily to improve response, although Lamborghini also saved 30 pounds over the regular car's air springs. When driving the two models back to back, the Performante's steering felt crisper and more accurate, and reactions are indeed keener and more tenacious. In tight corners, the Performante has sharper turn-in—helped by the recalibrated rear-steering system, plus bonkers Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires—and was less given to understeer. When loaded up in a bend, the prototype was also more willing to alter both its cornering line and attitude in response to throttle inputs, and under power the increased rear torque bias was obvious. Overall, there was much less slack than in the regular Urus, and the Performante was impressively agile for a vehicle of its size and shape. At higher speeds, the revised bodywork has less aerodynamic lift (Lamborghini quotes a 38 percent reduction), although the changes aren't enough to create positive downforce.

Photo credit: Lamborghini
Photo credit: Lamborghini

Nardò's handling track is a great way to test the Performante's high-speed performance, but it didn't provide much of an opportunity to see how the new suspension has altered dynamic behavior at a gentler pace. Although firm by segment standards, the air-sprung car is pliant at highway speeds in its gentlest mode, Corsa. The Performante seems certain to feel firmer out in the real world, especially when sitting on the larger 23-inch wheels (22-inchers will be standard.) It's definitely louder too—even at a cruising pace the V-8 fills the cabin with a muscular hum.

Experiencing the Performante Off Pavement

We also were able to try out the new Rally mode on Nardò's gravel-covered off-road handling course. This mode reduces the ESP intervention threshold and uses the torque-biasing rear differential to allow a driver to achieve (and hold) impressive angles of power oversteer. Which was fun in a beat-up prototype, but it's hard to imagine the owner of a pristine Urus Performante choosing to utilize the feature often on a dirt trail.

Photo credit: Lamborghini
Photo credit: Lamborghini

Despite being quicker and more responsive, the Urus Performante is definitely not a stripped-out performance special. Beyond Performante-branded seats, it feels pretty much identical to the existing car, and buyers can take advantage of the same extensive range of factory customization options provided their wallets can bear the additional strain.

The Urus is already the bestselling Lamborghini, and the Performante is likely to quickly become the bestselling version of it. Company CEO Stephan Winkelmann admitted to C/D that the new variant is likely to make up at least half of the SUV's sales. Sales will start by the end of the year, with a $264,671 base price representing a relatively modest premium over the existing Urus, which starts at $229,495. As the most extreme version, the Urus Performante seems set to be the one that best encapsulates Lamborghini's core values.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

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