"I woke up to the sound of artillery fire." This sentence is only one part accurate, one part a metaphor and one part the fugue state from which I just arose. See, that wasn't gun fire, it was the sound of ten Italian cylinders gargling 95 octane – and it had shaken me right out of my sleep. For the sake of brevity and clarity, let's time travel 12 hours into the past.
The previous night we were treated to viewing our steeds, a trio of Lamborghini Huracan Perfomantes in three delicious hues. That's Grigio Titan, Rosso Mars and Verde Mantis. Or grey, red and green respectively - if you insist on being a basic um... beast.
Supper was had just metres from their pristine carbon shells, their bodywork glinting sharply under showroom lamps, distracting me the whole while we attempted a meal and meaningful conversation. I was transfixed. "You get to choose a colour first," I was proffered. Clearly, my wild eyes and face twisted in anticipation had me resembling a security threat and this was a way of appeasing me. It worked, "this one please", I uttered nervously and began patting the grigio roof of a Titan.
Less than two hours later I was tucked into my hotel bed trying hard to fall asleep. How could I play it cool, I'm an 80s kid about to drive his very first Lamborghini? Sure, I've driven McLarens in Cape Town, a Ferrari in the Italian Alps and another on the Yas Marina F1 circuit. When it came to exclusive drives, I was already comfortably in the 1% but this was undeniably more special for someone who spent his formative years staring at his bedroom wall where the poster of a Lamborghini Countach lived. Teased. Inspired.
So, can you blame me for stirring at 5am after what must have been a night spent with a head full of raging bulls?
Diablo’s in the details
Yes when it comes to the devil, the Huracan is indeed full of it. A car seemingly conceived from the steepest and most raked of gradients into an elaborate alien construct of honeycombs, vents, dams and strakes rendered in carbon composites. And the most exciting of those surfaces formed with Lamborghini's Forged Composites technology.
Essentially, they've taken carbon fibre weaves, smashed them and rebonded them in resin, tempering it like a supernatural blade. Thusly conspiring for both lightness (40kg less) and stiffness – hallmarks of the go-faster initiative. You'll find this exciting new material on the exterior in the aero work and boot lid finished in a deep gloss, or in the cabin where the vents and centre console are done in matte.
More about that aerodynamic addenda - it's active. The Huracan Performante features what Lamborghini call Aero Vectoring (ALA) and what it essentially means is that the front and rear wing will react in an instant to your steering inputs by channelling the air in a specific manner to help steer the car and place the weight of the Huracan firmly on the loaded wheels – similar to how torque vectoring does in a conventional sports car.
This is done automatically by electronic actuators working in conjunction with a series of sensors and gyros, not that you as the driver would notice them. All you'll be aware of is a chassis that grips as tenaciously as the aerodynamics are slippery – and that’s a lot.
Yet they just all play support to the mid-mounted main event. The naturally aspirated V10 in the belly of the Performante is nothing less than the most powerful unit Sant'Agata produce. That means 470kW and 600Nm gets shifted to four wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic for rapid fire shifting. This means a 0-100kph sprint in just 2.9 seconds, and if you keep your right foot pinned, you'll cross 200kph in 8.9 seconds – all the while trumpeting the soundtrack of a large military incursion. But we'll get to that... right now.
Dialling up to eleven
The grey shard of unobtanium I’m currently folded into has been outfitted with an unforgiving pair of bucket seats. It also comes standard with Apple CarPlay. Naturally I baulk at the idea of listening to music when not 30 centimetres behind my head resides one of the finest Italian orchestras ready to play for an audience of one.
I can feel my resting heart rate rise – this cabin stirs, a futuristic and tactile delight with firm emphasis on drama. The large shift paddles feel purposeful, cold to the touch and crafted from more of that Forged Composite carbon candy, while red accents on important bits of switch gear shout out ‘fighter-jet’ levels of cool.
Obviously, the Start/Stop button living under an Ironman-like trigger-release cradle shouts loudest for my engagement. I oblige with a two-part ceremony; flip and jab. Almost all at once an explosion, a crack and a howl are emitted and so the ten-cylinder cacophony begins.
In a modern Lamborghini, there is no D for Drive on the gear lever. Because there is no gear lever to begin with (pun intended), simply grab the first cog via the right paddle, and shove off. But be warned, you do so with plenty of shunt, even in Strada mode, its mildest setting. I’m low, arse millimetres from the asphalt, as I exit the showroom, even after quickly raising the nose for navigating the driveway.
The next ten minutes are tense as I familiarise myself with the controls, not to mention acclimatise with a cockpit best described as Alcantara Alien. As for the ten minutes beyond that, that was for finding the sweet spot. Which in part meant graduating from Strada mode to Sport. This meant a more hooligan-like approach to the administering of power – now quite liberally and mostly sent to the rear wheels.
Aurally, what was previously a gargling volcano now grew to a robust napalm strike upon a minefield. Drop a gear (manually now), pin the throttle and the soundtrack is perfectly apocalyptic, bassy and raspy but also sonorous and swelling in volume as though the entire brass section of the orchestra were being held by gunpoint. The needle races to the 8,000rpm mark – I change up a micro-milli-second too late crashing into the 8,500rpm redline for the briefest of moments but enough to give me a very violent shake. I won’t make that mistake again, so spend the next few minutes training my reflexes so as to kiss the top of the rev range with the barest of whispers for a smooth transition. Oay, ninety minutes later, and with the indomitable Franshhoek Pass looking, I was ready.
If you only read this part…
With a now more confident hand I notch the red Driving Mode selector on the helm to ‘Corsa’. That’s all it has to give – maximum track-centric behaviour with all the grip, all the grunt - no quarter given.
With this mode comes a race-oriented array of digital dials and an immediate increase in alacrity. The difference is not quite as pronounced as the shift between Strada and Sport, but it only took one corner for me to tell that this was the Huracan now wearing its most serious of racing faces.
First comes the long, gentle curves leading up to the meat of the mountain pass and with it the chance to push the limits with relative safety. By now I’ve mastered changing up gears by sound alone, snatching third gear and with it unleashing the full reserves of 600Nm of torque. The sound is lustful, the acceleration hugely addictive and I’m grateful for the grip levels of these bucket seats almost much as I am of the tyres, themselves being largely assisted by the active aero.
Honestly, we are absolutely pulverising the forces of physics here but with such ease it beggar’s belief. You don’t turn this car, you think it through the bends, from apex to apex. I’m halfway up the hill and by now I’ve gone from swapping gears to go faster to “hell, I’ll just change them when I want to hear that glorious exhaust note”. Left, right and left again – despite having four wheels planted to the Tarmac, I cannot help but feel like I’m gliding across the surface. The only way this could get more exciting would be to see a Verde Mantis (that’s the green one) ahead of me, and the Rosso Mars (red) Huracan in my rear view. Which did in fact happen on the odd occasion – as two other pilots joined us on this manic adventure.
Absolute, mind-numbing sensory overload is achieved, driving Nirvana verily accomplished.
Feedback from the steering wheel is flavourful, while inputs are relayed with great precision to the wheels. I find myself saying more than once that “I can do this all day” in spite of a seat that cannot recline, and an incredibly firm sports suspension. But sadly, a man in a Lamborghini shirt took the keys away from me after 300km or so. And that was that.
The original supercar
Lamborghini is Genesis. No, not the band – although I definitely felt something in the air that night.
I mean it’s the beginning, both for the supercar and for many millions of motoring enthusiasts, myself included. They were never race-cars for the road like their rivals in Maranello. Lamborghinis were created for the drama, for the emotions. And absolutely for the infectious passion.
Yes, logic and history foreshadow that a drive in a Huracan should have echoes of Audi R8 V10+. But this is the Perfomante. And there was not.
In a word, this was ‘bullisimo!’ And with that, a drive I will never forget.