WE ARE used these days to cars that beep and bong constantly. They bong when you open the door, bong when you don’t immediately fasten your seatbelt, bong if you put a shopping bag on the passenger seat, bong if you try to start the engine without depressing the clutch first, bong if they think you’re going to bump into a lamppost, bong if you forget to turn the lights off or even if you leave your telephone in the glove box. Some even bong if you’ve nodded off.
But when it comes to making irritating noises all the bloody time, for no bloody reason, nothing gets close to the Lamborghini Huracan Performante. Bong it went when I set off on a chilly London morning. This was because its TSU was malfunctioning. I had no clue what its TSU was but it malfunctioned again moments later, with another bong to alert me of the fact. And then, after a minute or so, it did it again. This might have been bearable had it been regular but it had all the rhythmic timing of a bored dog.
So I called Lamborghini, which said it was a preproduction car and that its telemetry wasn’t installed properly. So I took it to a dealer, which applied a laptop and said that the bonging would now stop.
Bong, it said on the way back to the office. Once again, I reached for my spectacles to see what was wrong this time. And, according to a small message on the arcade-game electronic dash, something called the MMI had become disabled. For acronyms, this thing was worse than the British Army.
However, since the disablement of the mysterious MMI — it turned out to be the multimedia interface — was making no difference to my progress and there’d only been the one bong, I figured I could live with it.
That afternoon I left London for the country and as I joined the M25 the car bonged again. Once again, I reached for my glasses so I could read the message, which this time said that I should switch off the engine and check the oil level. It was 6pm and I was on the M25 and it was drizzling, so I figured it could wait until the next services.
As I slowed for the slip road to the next services, the warning light went out. It had obviously decided that there was, after all, enough oil in the engine, so I speeded up and 10 minutes later there was a bong to say the oil level was low and I should stop. Which I didn’t. I was too busy trying to turn on the sat nav, which wasn’t working, or get information about traffic. But that system wasn’t working either. And then the oil warning light went out again. And all was well.
Except, it wasn’t. Because by this stage I was trying to find the windscreen wiper switch. Foolishly, Lamborghini has taken a leaf out of Ferrari’s book and mounted it on the steering wheel along with the switches for every other damn thing. So each time you want to turn on the wipers you end up listening to Classic FM with your left indicator blinking.
It gets worse when you are in the countryside and you need full-beam lighting because you push the button and when you let go, the full beam goes out. So you push it again, except at this point you’re going round a corner so now you’ve turned off the wipers.
In desperation, I fumbled away at the switches by my right knee until eventually all the lights went out. So now I’m doing 50mph, it’s raining and dark and neither the lights nor the wipers are on.
“This thing is idiotically fast. In a straight line it will leave a Ferrari 458 Special Needs for dead”
Shortly after sorting all this out — by swearing — I came up behind an Audi that was being driven by a headrest, with ears, at 35mph. I desperately needed to get home by 7pm so I put the Huracan in Corsa, or Race, mode, which caused the dash to become one huge rev counter, and when we encountered a short straight I put my foot down.
Well, I’ve never heard a noise like it. Plainly, the engine had decided it was bereft of oil, after all, and had exploded. In a panic, I abandoned the overtaking move and took my foot off the accelerator. And then I realised that, no, that’s just the noise a Huracan makes when you poke it with a stick.
I finally managed to overtake the Audi but by then it was too late. I’d missed the 7pm deadline and The Archers had started. But in the Lambo that was OK because this car is so loud you can’t hear anything at all. Ever again.
The sound starts off as a jackhammer and then when you floor it, you have babies crying, improvised explosive devices going off, Krakatoa, the Grateful Dead, a space shuttle rocket test, white noise, a latter-day V10 Formula One car at full chat, a squadron of F-15 Eagles on combat power, some lions, a hunt ball and a war. All going on in your car. At the same time.
What’s extraordinary is that it’s not a big car. Yes, it’s festooned with weird spoilers at the back and a snouty nose at the front. And my test car was a flat orange. But it’s not big. Which is what makes the sound it makes faintly ludicrous.
However, as I used the sound to drown out The Archers on that final few miles dash home, I’m afraid I fell head over heels in love. This is a wonderful car. A brilliant car. An absolute gem.
Lambo says that because it has developed a new way of making carbon fibre, it can use it to make small intricate parts, which means the Performante is lighter than you’d expect. Which it isn’t. At nearly 1.4 tons, it’s still a fatty. And it still has a cumbersome four-wheel-drive system, and the 5.2-litre V10 — the last of the breed, almost certainly — is broadly the same as the engine you get in the standard car.
Somehow, though, this thing is idiotically fast. In a straight line it will leave a Ferrari 458 Special Needs for dead. And around the Nürburgring, it’s faster than any of the million-quid hypercars. You won’t believe this — very few test drivers that witnessed it did — but it went round in six minutes and 52 seconds.
And it’s not just fast. It’s exciting. It may be making the sound of a universe forming and your head may be pinned back against the headrest but you can still feel it blowing gently on the hairs on your arms. This is a car that roars and purrs at the same time. It’s like an Italian tomato — little and bright and so full of taste sensations it makes your eyes go crossed.
Yes, it’s also annoying. My preproduction test model was easily the most irritating vehicle I’ve driven but that’s part of the charm too. That’s what makes this car feel human. That’s what gives it a soul. And that’s what turns a good car into a great one.
Head to head: Lamborghini Huracan Performante vs Ferrari 488 GTB vs Porsche 911 GT2 RS vs McLaren 720S
|Lamborghini Huracan Performante
|Ferrari 488 GTB
|Porsche 911 GT2 RS
|When Richard Hammond reviewed the original Huracan on Top Gear in 2015 he said it was too tame. Perhaps that’s what spurred the company to produce the Performante, which he is far more enthusiastic about in his upcoming test for The Grand Tour. As well as containing lots of new aluminium and carbon fibre (Hammond and the car), the engine is up by 28bhp to 630bhp.
|“Luigi follow only the Ferraris,” says the garage proprietor in the film Cars. For some, there’s only one Italian supercar and it’s the one with the prancing horse badge. The 488 GTB is seriously impressive and a reminder of how to build a car that’s not just fast but sends tingles down your spine every time you drive it. There is a more potent version of the 488 in the pipeline too.
|Porsche has had plenty of practice at building 911s that will stand a driver’s hair on end. The latest, fastest model yet is the GT2 RS. At 1,545kg, it may seem a tad heavy but on the road it is mind-bogglingly fast. The contrast between Porsche and Lamborghini can appear as stark as bratwurst and bolognese — until you remember they share the same VW parent company.
|After a shaky start, McLaren is proving a worthy British contender for pole position in the 200mph-plus club. The latest 720S does without the four-wheel drive of the Lamborghini, but that doesn’t seem to slow it down any. Comparisons with the Huracan Performante have shown the McLaren to be faster in a straight line. On a curvy track, however…
|Top speed 202mph
|Top speed 205mph
|Top speed 211mph
|Top speed 212mph
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