Lamborghinis are meant to be wild, exotic and aggressive. They’re not supposed to be practical or comfortable – or at least they weren’t until Lamborghini introduced the Urus SUV.
My beef with the Urus (other than its looks) has always been that it felt more like a traditional German SUV than a Huracan or Aventador. So when the brand announced the more hardcore Urus Performante, I had hopes that it would bridge this gap.
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.
Full Disclosure: Lamborghini wanted me to drive the 2023 Urus Performante so badly, they had a company drop one off at my house for a weekend with a full tank of gas.
The Urus Performante is an incredible machine with absolutely bonkers looks and stellar road manners. In many ways, it’s everything you’d want from a 657-hp ultra-SUV. But crucially, it still doesn’t feel like it came from Sant’Agata.
Like the regular Urus, the Performante is based on the Volkswagen Group MLB Evo platform which is shared with the Audi Q7/Q8, Bentley Bentayga, Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg. Its engine is also not unique to the Urus, but the Audi-derived twin-turbo V8 is such a sweetheart that it’s easy to let this slide. The Performante has a retuned version of Audi’s eight-speed automatic transmission, too. The highlight of the powertrain is the Performante’s unique (and standard) titanium Akrapovic exhaust, which not only lets the engine breathe, but makes for an epic roar. The Performante also comes with all-wheel drive, but has more aggressive differentials than, say, an Audi Q8 with Quattro.
While the Performante’s drivetrain is more or less identical to the Urus S, the chassis sees some sizable changes. The biggest one is the move away from an air suspension to a steel-coil-spring setup. This may seem like a step backwards on a more expensive car, but in addition to making the ride height 0.86 inches lower than the Urus S, the steel springs behave more consistently, making the SUV easier to drive at the limit.
This move has the disadvantage of making the Performante slightly less plush than the Urus S on the road, but the ride is still shockingly good (pun intended) for something this performance-focused. The Performante’s track is also 0.6 inches wider than the base car which has the benefit of making the SUV more stable in corners. Other chassis changes include wheels that are 14 pounds lighter than the those on the Urus S, as well as massive carbon-ceramic brakes at all four corners. The front rotors are an almost ridiculous 17.3 inches in diameter, and the rears measure 14.6 inches with 10-piston and single-piston calipers, respectively.
Lamborghini went a long way to help the relatively porcine Urus shed weight for the Performante trim. In addition to the aforementioned wheels, the total 108-pound weight savings comes from the extensive use of carbon fiber in places like the hood, front fenders and an optional carbon roof. Without driving the two Urus models back to back, I can’t definitively say that this diet makes a difference, but given the Performante’s 4,739-pound curb weight, I’m inclined to say no.
Where the reworked carbon body panels do make a difference is in the way the Performante looks. The lower stance, combined with the vented carbon hood and carbon overfenders, make the Urus look less like a half-baked Mansory-derived nightmare and more like a cohesive design effort. It’s not pretty or elegant by any means, but I personally find it to be less of an eyesore. Lamborghini claims that the new bodywork is good for a 38-percent increase in downforce over the Urus S, but as with the weight loss, it’s not something you’re likely to notice off-track.
Inside the Performante, things start getting a little more promising. As you’d expect, this racy variant gets all kinds of added Alcantara everywhere from the dashboard to the seats to the weird, paddle-like reverse gear selector lever. The effect is pretty “Lamborghini” in that this is the car’s best link to the Huracan and Aventador. The Performante-specific seats look like they’re going to be super-aggressive, supportive but ultimately uncomfortable, but thankfully, this isn’t the case, even after long stints stuck in traffic. Still, the fact remains: Nothing in the Performante’s cabin feels like it belongs in a car that costs north of $300,000.
The rest of the ergonomics are a bit of a mixed bag. While the driver’s seat offers plenty of adjustment to keep my head off the headliner (no mean feat with me being 6-foot-4), taller passengers aren’t so lucky. Further, even 5-foot-8 rear passengers find themselves lacking headroom. The cargo area is decent, at least, at 21.7 cubic-feet, especially given the Urus’ aggressively sloping roofline.
Considering the Urus’ Audi-based roots, the electronics package is pretty good – one major advantage of this platform-sharing. The MMI-based infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Bowers & Wilkins stereo is pretty good, if not spectacular, and is basically the same unit found in other high-end Audis like the RS 6 Avant. The infotainment system overall is reasonably responsive, but the Lamborghini-designed skin over Audi’s hardware doesn’t really make things better in any way.
Being so closely tied to an Audi platform, the safety tech in the Urus Performante is better than what you’d typically find in a Lamborghini. Things like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and active lane-keep assist are standard.
So, while the Urus Performante is way, way better on the road than I expected it would be, I can’t imagine why you’d buy one. Unfortunately for the Urus, vehicles like the Audi RS Q8 and Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid offer similar performance for a lot less money, and while those won’t make you feel like a Lamborghini driver, neither will the Urus, especially if you’ve driven something like a Huracan.
My test vehicle is as close to an ideal Performante spec as I could ask for, with its pearl white paint, dark interior and upgraded wheels. But with a sticker price of $313,880 including a $1,300 gas guzzler tax and a $3,995 destination fee, it just doesn’t do it for me, even as someone who loves Lamborghini. If you absolutely have to have a Raging Bull on the hood of your family hauler, the Urus Performante is a blazingly fast and competent SUV that will work in all weather, and looks like nothing else on the road. Just don’t expect it to feel like a proper Italian exotic.