The SUV arms race has gotten to the point where automakers are one-upping even themselves, introducing higher-performing variants of their already high-performance machines. The 2023 Lamborghini Urus lineup is a case in point. Last year’s Urus made 641 horsepower, but someone, somewhere decided this was insufficient, so they cranked the output up to 657 horses and called it the Urus S. But even that wasn’t enough, because they’ve also gone and built a Urus Performante, which makes the same power as the S but is decidedly more hardcore on account of lightweighting measures and a more performance-oriented suspension and tire package.
Had either been available, the Urus S would have been the choice to do battle with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT and Aston Martin DBX 707 in our earlier comparison test. Like them, the S has height-adjustable adaptive air springs to go with its active anti-roll bars, torque-vectoring rear differential, and rear-wheel steering system. It might have given the Porsche a run for its money because the Lambo is built on the same platform as the Cayenne, but with a 4.3-inch longer wheelbase. It utilizes the same suspension layout, eight-speed automatic gearbox, and 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, but with the latter tuned to make 657 horses instead of the Porsche’s 631 horsepower. Thing is, money might also have been its undoing, because at $233,995 to start the Urus S is about as expensive as the Aston, which lost out to the Porsche on account of price.
As for our extroverted Viper Green Performante, it literally lives on a different plane of existence from the S and those others. In a nutshell, it ditches the idea of height-adjustable air springs in favor of coil springs. The chosen fixed height indicates an indifference toward ground clearance, as the Performante’s permanent crouch slumps 0.8 inch lower than the “normal” height of a Urus S and matches the lowermost aero posture the S acquires at speed. If that wasn’t enough to put paid to the very idea of off-roadability, the Performante’s so-called Anima drive selector lacks all three off-road modes: Neve for slippery work, Terra for basic off-roading, and Sabbia for sand. In their place is Rally, which sits at the tail-out hooligan end of the spectrum, atop Strada (street), Sport, and Corsa (track).
With the performance attitude firmly locked in place, the engineers set to work optimizing the chassis to suit aggressive pavement work and little else. Those lowering springs are firm to give the Corsa drive mode sufficient teeth—not to mention the ability to keep this lower-slung machine out of its bump stops. The active anti-roll bars and torque-vectoring rear diff have been reoptimized, and the center differential is decidedly more rear-biased than on a standard Urus. But the Performante’s ace in the hole is its tires, Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R quasi-competition track-loving gumballs with a 60-treadwear rating that undercuts the 80-treadwear Pirelli Corsas on Porsche’s Turbo GT.
Mash the throttle and the Performante delivers, but it’s not an across-the-board drubbing by any means. Though we’ve tested a quicker and stickier Cayenne Turbo GT, for this breakdown, we’ll reference the Cayenne Turbo GT from the comparison test. The Performante is 0.2 second quicker to 100 mph, four-tenths quicker to 130 mph, and a tenth or two quicker in our 5-to-60-, 30-to-50-, and 50-to-70-mph acceleration tests. But its 3.0-second 60-mph time is a tenth slower than the Cayenne’s, and it’s an 11.2-second tie at the stripe at the quarter-mile—albeit with the Performante rolling 2 mph faster. What gives? The transmission ratios are identical, but the Lambo’s diff ratios are fractionally lazier and its tires are an inch taller. Its effective gearing is therefore taller, and the shift points simply hit different.
Meanwhile the Performante orbits the skidpad to the tune of 1.04 g’s, holding a slight tail-out posture as it pips the Porsche’s 1.03-g effort. It’s a monster on mountain roads, too, but in more than one sense of that word. On the one hand, it responds well when pushed and cuts an eager and precise arc when asked to turn in at speed. We attacked a favorite tight winding downhill road, and it never flinched. The carbon-ceramic brakes held up admirably through numerous heavy downhill applications with nothing more than the occasional excited squeak. At the track, its 70-mph stops of 152 feet only beat the Porsche by a couple feet, but its 100-mph stops of just 296 feet bested the Turbo GT by a full 16 feet—essentially a full Cayenne length.
But the pavement needs to be smooth to get the best out of the Performante, as the tuning is perhaps more Corsa-optimized than we’d like. Push hard on the lumpier mountain roads we know, and it feels less sorted, and even switching the dampers to their softest mode (which we gravitated to most of the time anyway) doesn’t seem to help because the aggressive rebound damping doesn’t let the suspension breathe. This also makes it a bear to tolerate around town, where the passage of time and heavy trucks does pavement no favors. The active anti-roll bars feel constrained within the stiff suspension and as a result don’t seem to decouple as effectively as the Cayenne’s to combat head toss. Here we’re reminded that this is an SUV, which means that somewhere out there there’s a well-heeled family with high-dollar car seats in back for their progeny. Ever heard of shaken butter? That’s what you may get with milk in a sippy cup.
Despite the ride, the interior is nevertheless a very interesting place to be, with an overwrought-at-first-glance look that grows on you quickly. Our Performante’s numerous options included swaths of carbon-fiber trim that looked attractive and well integrated, and the dual-screen center stack worked logically—even if the upper infotainment one is a bit small. The strange dual Anima drive mode selectors grew on us due to their ease of use, and even the shift lever made sense in short order, even though we’d never seen one like it. Sure, selecting Drive with a steering paddle is weird, and the red flap over the start button is unnecessary, but it’s fun. None of this would pass muster in a Camry, mind you, but it made perfect sense in the context of a Lambo, where over the top flies under the radar.
The Performante is not cheap, as you may have surmised. Its base price of $268,666 is some $35,000 more than a Urus S, and our test car rang in at a breathtaking $342,765 due to nearly $75,000 in options, most of which amounted to trim and color upgrades. The Viper Green paint added $18,941, and gloss-black and carbon-fiber interior and exterior goodies amounted to nearly $33,000. Weirdly, the Performante’s base price includes a $1300 gas guzzler tax that the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT does not incur even though rated fuel economy is identical at 16 mpg combined (14 city/19 highway), a number we matched during our time in the car. That’s because the Lambo is formally classified as a wagon (a.k.a. car), while the Cayenne is an SUV, a truck designation.
Thing is, we have a hard time coming to grips with who the Performante is for, even though Lamborghini expects half of Urus buyers to choose it over the similarly powerful and undoubtably more well-rounded Urus S. From the way it’s tuned and equipped, the Performante is clearly the more track-focused and least family-friendly of the two. Normally, such considerations wouldn’t matter in the least to a Lamborghini-intender, but this isn’t some scissor-doored supercar built for those bent on eschewing matrimony. On the other hand, Lambo fans gotta Lambo, and this does come across as part of that family, four regularly hinged doors notwithstanding.
2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/As Tested: $268,666/$342,765
Options: Viper Green paint, $18,941; carbon fiber roof, shiny, $7361; 3D Bang & Olufsen premium sound, $7321; carbon-fiber hood, shiny, $5969; big carbon-fiber interior, matte, $5702; full carbon fiber exterior, shiny, $5573; full driver safety-assist package, $3616; ventilated and massaging power front seats, $3314; ambient light package, $3194; dark interior package, $2832; carbon-fiber kick plates, matte, $2469; 22-in shiny black rims, $1352; black brake calipers, $1288; contrast stitching, $901; wiper blades with washer nozzles, $868; floor mats with double stitching and piping, $703; premium air quality system, $594; steering-wheel contrast stitching, $422; gloss-black Lamborghini badge, $379
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 244 in3, 3996 cm3
Power: 657 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 627 lb-ft @ 2300 rpm
Suspension, F/R: multilink/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 17.3-in vented, cross-drilled carbon-ceramic disc/14.6-in vented, cross-drilled carbon-ceramic disc
Tires: Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R
F: 285/40ZR-22 (110Y) L
R: 325/35ZR-22 (114Y) L
Wheelbase: 118.3 in
Length: 202.2 in
Width: 79.8 in
Height: 63.7 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 56/49 ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/R: 56/22 ft3
Curb Weight: 4986 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 3.0 sec
100 mph: 7.2 sec
1/4-Mile: 11.2 sec @ 122 mph
130 mph: 13.1 sec
150 mph: 20.0 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 4.4 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 2.6 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 3.0 sec
Top Speed (mfr’s claim): 190 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 152 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 296 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 1.04 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 16 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 16/14/19 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
Dan Edmunds was born into the world of automobiles, but not how you might think. His father was a retired racing driver who opened Autoresearch, a race-car-building shop, where Dan cut his teeth as a metal fabricator. Engineering school followed, then SCCA Showroom Stock racing, and that combination landed him suspension development jobs at two different automakers. His writing career began when he was picked up by Edmunds.com (no relation) to build a testing department.