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Mine was a white Countach Quattrovalvole.

Depending on the era in which you came of automotive age, yours could have been a Miura, an LP400 Countach, a Diablo or even a Murcielago, but if you possess the soul of an auto enthusiast, at some point around age 13, you had a poster of a Lamborghini pinned to your bedroom wall.

It’s been that way for decades, and it’ll probably be that way for decades to come.

That appeal — Lamborghini’s appeal — to enthusiast youth has been in full force since the Countach stormed car magazines worldwide starting in the 1970s. The pure extremes, the shock value, of that Bertone design (and of every Lamborghini since) seems to burn its way through adolescent boys as predictably as puberty.

But then one of three things typically happens: 1) Adult responsibilities and financial realities gradually wear away the appeal of exotic cars; 2) performance specs give way to actual driving impressions, revealing there are more satisfying sports cars for the same price or less; or 3) your trust fund matures and you buy one in every color.

Our subject here, the Huracan Performante, exists to challenge assumption number 2, the notion among those of means that a Lamborghini is merely a plaything for the ostentatiously wealthy, a noisemaker for late-night boulevard runs after the clubs close rather than a track-focused supercar for the serious driver. This car is here to prove a point: That while still outrageous-looking and demanding, Lamborghini can build an honest-to-God sports car to challenge the world’s best. 

Yes, there’s more power —always more power — but Lamborghini achieves its goal primarily through weight savings and aerodynamic enhancements. Performante models shed 88 pounds over the standard Huracán, while Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva (ALA), the company’s name for its active aero system, helps keep things pointed in the right direction.

ALA is pretty trick stuff, so let’s take a closer look at what it does. Electrically actuated flaps in the front and rear spoilers can adjust airflow on the fly, based on the car’s needs at that moment. Need high downforce for high-speed cornering and maximum braking? The car closes the flaps in the front spoiler. For top speed runs and maximum acceleration, the flaps open, sending air along special channels under the car to reduce drag.

ALA huracan

Lamborghini’s active aero (called ALA) doesn’t physically move the wing; instead, air is either blocked or channeled through slots in the lower half of the spoiler.

Things in back are a bit more complicated: To cool the 640-hp V10 and its accessories, two central ducts are always open. Two other flap-operated ducts connect to the rear wing; when they’re closed, the wing works in conventional fashion, but the design boosts downforce by 750 percent over the standard Huracán.

When it detects the car is running wide open, ALA opens the flaps and admits air through ridges underneath the wing, reducing drag; the flaps can also open independently to boost downforce and, subsequently, traction on a particular rear wheel for a sort of aero torque vectoring.

Lamborghini Huracan Performante engine

The bronze intake manifold is an homage to special-edition Lamborghini models past.

To make its 640 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, Lamborghini’s V10 engine gets titanium valves and refined intake and exhaust systems; you’ll be able to distinguish a Performante from the bronze manifold visible through the engine cover. The power is sent through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, then out to the wheels via a Haldex-based AWD system.

In the event you skipped all the tech stuff above, here are the Cliffs Notes: Lambo got a camo-clad test car to run a stunning 6:52 Nurbürgring time, beating the Porsche 918 Spyder to become (briefly) the fastest production car ever to circle the Green Hell.

The Execution

We’re testing at Imola — more accurately, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. It’s an intimidating racetrack, not only for its remarkable (and tragic) history, but also because of its layout: multiple long straights plus a 640-hp car means the potential for serious speed, and the Lamborghini folks have wisely put prominent BRAKE signs indicating when it’s time to stand on the binders.

Setting the drive mode to Corsa — maximum performance and minimum intervention from the electronic controls — preps the ALA system, opens the exhaust and recalibrates the steering and magnetic suspension settings, when equipped. The Huracan Performante is also offered with a conventional steel spring suspension and nonadaptive electric steering system, but you don’t want that, do you? Best to just get the works.

Moving out onto Imola’s front straight and accelerating slight right toward Tamburello, two things are immediately apparent: First, in Corsa, the Performante’s steering response is insanely quick and direct, but not disconcerting –- after a moment of recalibration it feels perfectly natural and makes short work of Imola’s multiple sharp corners. 

Imola in a Lamborghini Huracan performante

The Huracan Performante is a legitimate track-focused sports car, not just a sledgehammer supercar

Second, we’re all going to miss naturally aspirated engines once they’re gone: The V10 is magic, with gobs of power across the rev range. As one of my colleagues remarked, “I took a turn in fourth gear on one lap and it felt great; I tried it in third the next lap, and that felt great, too. No idea which one was ‘right’ since the car just powered out onto the straight no matter what.” Then there’s the sound: The new exhaust looks menacing, snarls on startup and shrieks like an F1 car at full tilt on the straights. No matter the performance, a turbocharged engine simply can’t sound as good as the Huracán’s naturally aspirated V10. It’s a thing of beauty visually, aurally and in terms of throttle response.

Switching between the more benign Sport mode, which also deactivates ALA, and aggressive Corsa settings shows the effect Lamborghini’s dynamic aero has in hard driving: Corsa lets the driver brake even later than those massive carbon discs already allow, and brings the car around more precisely while still letting the tail slide around a little. There’s just an immense sense of control — the car feels like it’s on your side and allows for minor correct/pause/recover mistakes without major punishment.

On the Italian country roads around Imola, drive mode system set to the softest Strada setting, the Huracán Performante does a remarkable impression of a daily driver. The exhaust is unobtrusive, ride is more than acceptable for a sports car and the seating position remains comfortable even after an hour or two. Oh, you’ll get stares, especially in central Italy where EVERYONE seems to enjoy rooting for the home team (either of them), but there’s no reason you couldn’t use a Huracán Performante to run to Ace for a bag of bolts. On your way to the track, of course. 

The Verdict

Reviews be damned, Lamborghinis will continue to haunt the subconscious of tween boys around the globe. But the Huracán Performante is so much more than just dramatic angles and flashy colors. It’s a car that deserves attention from the surprisingly broad range of buyers who might be eyeballing a McLaren 720S, Ferrari 488 or Porsche 911 GT3.  

The mere fact there’s another legitimate sports car challenger within those ranks is good news for everyone who loves cars, track days and the art of driving. Start saving your lawnmowing money now.

Andrew Stoy

Andrew Stoy – Digital editor Andrew Stoy has spent the past 20 years wrenching on and writing about cars. He’s worked everywhere from dealer service bays to the headquarters of the world’s largest automakers.
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On Sale: Summer 2017

Base Price: $274,390

Drivetrain: 5.2-liter V10, 7-speed dual-cluch automatic, AWD

Output: 640 hp @ 8,000 rpm, 442 lb-ft torque @ 6,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,500 lbs (est)

0-60 MPH: 2.9 sec

Pros: Brilliant reflexes, instant throttle response, Lamborghini looks

Cons: Very expensive track day choice; Lamborghini looks