They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and they’re right. This year’s R&T Performance Car Of The Year marks the fifth anniversary of a feature that still has a that new-car smell to it as far as we’re concerned. Here’s something else to make that same point: the movie Happy Gilmore was released more than twenty-one years ago. In case you’re too young, too busy, or too artistically discerning to have seen it, here’s the important point: Happy Gilmore can hit a golf ball farther than anyone else on the PGA Tour, but he can’t sink a putt to save his life. The final twist in the film comes when, in the critical tournament to save his grandmother’s house, Happy reveals that he has learned how to putt, which makes him the perfect golfer and effortlessly superior to his nemesis, Shooter McGavin.
At the time that Happy Gilmore was filmed, Lamborghini was still building the Diablo, most notably in VT Roadster form. The Diablo VT Roadster was more or less unsurpassed at being outrageous, which is probably why Donald Trump bought one in 1997, but like Happy Gilmore at the beginning of that movie it was far from possessing any sort of well-rounded excellence. In the years that followed, Lamborghini was acquired by VW Group, which promised to improve the everyday usability of the product. In other words, they were going to teach Happy Gilmore to putt.
The Gallardo, Murcielago, and Aventador that followed were much better ownership propositions, but they lacked some of the essential outrageousness that had defined the Lambo brand in previous years. They were also fairly lackluster around a racetrack. That wasn’t important during the Countach and Diablo eras but for modern buyers who expected their supercars to post impressive results both at their local lead-follow trackday and around the Nurburgring it was a major drawback.
It hasn’t helped matters that Ferrari is in the middle of a bona-fide Italian Renaissance at the moment, turning out a seemingly endless series of cars that look stunning, rip around a racetrack like they were designed with nothing else in mind, and operate with minivan reliability in daily usage. The pressure has been on Lamborghini to step up their collective game–in other words, to make a car that knows how to putt.
The Huracan was a big step in the right direction. It looks like a greatest-hits album of every great mid-engined Lambo to date, it handles urban traffic as well as a BMW M3, and it performs at a very high level both in a straight line and around a road course. Many autowriters, your humble author included, prefer it to the Ferrari 488GTB, particularly in LP580-2 RWD form. Still, there’s some room for improvement in two critical areas: raw racetrack speed and sheer outrageousness.
Enter the Huracan Performante. Ten seconds spent looking at the thing will confirm that it’s got a full Miura SV’s worth of mojo. The base Huracan’s sleek and clean shape has been over-festooned with Super Trofeo-style aero hardware rendered in “Forged Composites,” a kinda-new material best understood as carbon fiber that has been sliced, diced, suspended in resin, then pressure-stamped. Of particular interest is the rear wing, which as part of the ALA computer-aero system is capable of applying uneven aerodynamic pressure to the car to help it get through high-speed corners.
The interior ramps up the sportiness with massive panels made from the same Forged Composites material and new trim, while the chassis and engine are both treated to expensive and worthwhile upgrades that include new titanium intake valves and stiffer suspension bushings. You’d never know it from a casual examination, but curb weight is also down ninety pounds despite the added mass of the wings and splitter.
So how does it work? Well, on the road the Huracan is the same rolling tourist attraction it’s always been, only more so. All of the core qualities remain intact, from the outstanding stereo system to the surprisingly decent ride over broken pavement. The front spoiler would occasionally ground out on the very narrow and camber-flexible Kentucky two-lanes used during the first half of PCOTY testing, but that was happening at speeds and g-loads that were, in the parlance of our current business-centric era, corner cases for public-road driving. It should also be noted that every time the road and the Forged Composites materials came into conflict, the new fancy stuff seemed to either win or draw.
You can argue that the Performante upgrades are justified simply based on the additional amount of attention you’ll get from even the most exotic-weary observers, but it wasn’t until we got to NCM Motorsports Park for the second half of the test that we realized just what a bargain the new model represents, even at more than $30k over the base price of the LP580-2 that would have been the enthusiast’s choice of Huracan up to this point. First off, the increased straight-line speed from the lower weight and higher power is both welcome and noticeable. In an era of supercars that rely on whistling boost and computer-flattened torque curves to make the numbers, this naturally-aspirated V-10 is an utterly singular, and thoroughly thrilling, experience. The hyperspeed rush with which this massive V-10 reaches its 8500-rpm redline is unmatched anywhere else in the street-car game. Yes a Corvette Z06 makes similar power, and a Ferrari 488GTB makes more–but next to Huracan, they’re both about as exotic-sounding as a Lumineers demo track.
Around NCM's West Course, however, the Lamborghini’s engine was just the opening act, a back-straight warmup to keep you occupied until ALA could take the stage. They say that trackday drivers go through four stages, all of which will benefit mightily from this aero system. “Unconsciously incompetent” drivers will appreciate the way in which ALA works with the P Zero Trofeo tires and the remarkably deft stability control to let them easily move up to the fastest run group. Consciously incompetent drivers will appreciate the safety net provided by the big downforce in scary-fast corners. Consciously competent pilots will make big laptime gains when they learn how to push the front end to speeds and cornering loads that a traditional supercar just can’t get thanks to the rear wing’s assistance in getting the car turned towards the apex without pushing the front end past traction limits. And those unconsciously competent fellows will find that ALA seamlessly extends the Huracan’s ability to recover from the most fearsomely lurid tail-out corner entries.
You know how I’m going to sum this up: Happy learned to putt. It’s true. The Huracan Performante is the first all-purpose superstar in Lamborghini’s history, equally and absolutely comfortable in situations ranging from the valet-parking spots outside the Tower Bar to a late-afternoon grocery-store run to a young man’s dorm-room poster to the suspension-killing grade change at the bottom of the Fuchsrohre. It’s going to put some blood in the water at your local exotic-car showroom, trust me. There’s just one question left: Was it good enough to best all challengers and win this year’s PCOTY? Stick around to find out–and we will do what we can to make the time fly.