"Performance SUV” is an oxymoron. It shouldn’t exist. Utilitarian plus very fast makes no sense. What self-indulgent person needs a ridiculously expensive vehicle to haul sheets of plywood, a family of five, or 20 carry-ons—and ass? And with a 190-mph top speed? Performance-car enthusiasts are not practical people and certainly not rational consumers. No one needs a whomping SUV, but plenty of people want one.
Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo GT runs the Nürburgring as quickly as a 911 from a decade ago. General Motors put a 682-hp supercharged V-8 in the Escalade. The best-selling Mercedes G-Wagen variant in the U.S. is, laughably, the AMG G63. Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Lotus held out but are now in the fast-SUV business. And the fastest and most ostentatious of them all? It’s likely this: the Lamborghini Urus Performante, a $330K, two-and-a-half-ton, 657-hp twin-turbo V-8 crossover optimized for the racetrack.
To call the Urus Performante a “culmination” would be to tempt fate, as these things aren’t getting slower, lighter, or cheaper.
The Performante is awash in torque, the eight-speed automatic paddles precisely, and the chassis grips like a barnacle. There’s some Audi in it, like in every Urus, but from carbon-fiber hood to titanium exhaust, this is the most Lambo of Urus models by far. It’s stiff and it barks, but it still has room for a couple of kids.
And it’s all GMC’s fault.
In 1991, Car and Driver, Road & Track’s sibling/rival, put the then-new GMC Syclone pickup truck on the cover, lining it up against the Ferrari 348TS. The $26,120 ($58K in today’s money) 280-hp pickup had a single turbo on its 4.3-liter pushrod V-6 and all-wheel drive that allowed it to edge out the Ferrari in a short drag race. The Syclone was 0.4 second quicker to 30 mph and 0.7 second quicker to 60 mph but 13.7 seconds slower to 120 mph, close to its 126-mph top speed. The new king of Woodward would have been smoked on a mountain pass or a racetrack. But someone had to be first to outrun a Ferrari with a truck, even if one had to zoom in pretty close to game the math.
But then GMC made a small change for 1992 and created a segment: It fit the Syclone powertrain, body kit, and wheels to its already nine-year-old two-door S-15 Jimmy, gave it an equally awesome wind-based name, the GMC Typhoon, and invented the fast SUV.
Evan Meyer is a Typhoon enthusiast—he’s owned four. In high school, his first car was a lightly used (resprayed) Fly yellow example; he then owned a pair of black ones (concurrently); then he acquired the monochrome Frost white collector-grade version we’re driving today. He knows the model-year nuances and didn’t end up with this one by chance.
“The single-tone paint was for 1993 only,” Meyer explains. “All the 1992s had the gray lowers with red badges; this one has the gold badge. They changed the seats for 1993 as well. These are more comfortable than the buckets that came with the early ones and Syclones. But these are my dream cars, and they are just so cool for cruising around L.A. Occasionally, I’ll use this one as a daily driver, and it’s really nice. It’s the right size, it’s still pretty quick, and it holds my kids and stuff in the back. This one was a one-owner truck before me. It came from the owner of a GMC dealership down in Florida.”
I am also, in theory, a Typhoon guy. This truck explodes with Nineties cool. From the body kits to the graphics to the novel powertrain—it ticks all my weird niche boxes. Meyer’s Typhoon has 34,000 miles on it and looks as good as any I’ve seen. The paint is clean and fresh, the leather is crack-free, and the plastic is as good as new. It smells like a Nineties GM car. “I removed the door badges on all four Typhoons I’ve had. I just like the cleaner look on the side, and it’s like a tradition at this point.”
Typhoons have been trending upward. Before 2020, seeing one sell for over $20K was unusual. Today, only a junker would bring less than that. Low-mileage collector-grade examples regularly go for $40K to $80K—about what midgrade Ferrari 348s go for. A 272-mile Typhoon sold for $175,000 on Bring a Trailer in February 2022.
The dynamics don’t justify this number. Despite being super laggy, the Typhoon accelerates briskly to 60 and makes cool turbo noises. But the fun ends there, or at the first corner, whichever comes first. The Typhoon is comfortable, spacious for four people, and has a nice-size cargo area in a compact (by today’s standards) package. But it’s not that fast, and it doesn’t handle well. It has a four-speed automatic with a crazed mind of its own.
But the stage was set. After the Syclone, soon there were fast Jeeps, fast pickups, and crossovers on big wheels with tires that barely had sidewalls. When Porsche went into the SUV business with the 2003 Cayenne and began making massive money, the world was changed.
The Performante is an inferior Urus made to be faster around a theoretical racetrack it will likely never see. With fixed-height coil-over suspension, Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires, and a bare carbon hood, this thing has shaken off any pretense that it should go off-road or see winter use. The ride is brutal, the practicality all but gone. It’s stupidly fast, but without a track, it’s barely quicker than the standard Urus, which was already faster than it had any reason to be. And the regular one had comfy air suspension and tires that could safely handle cold rain. It’s the same crude compromise GMC made with the Typhoon: performance at the expense of all else.
But those GMC Typhoons weren’t rational purchases for Evan Meyer, and the Lamborghini Urus Performante isn’t a sane purchase for anyone. Still, the company says over 50 percent of new Uruses will be this variant. Lamborghini owners have always eagerly sacrificed comfort and sensibility for speed and style. A practical Lambo only has so much appeal.
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