FRANSCHHOEK – “You drive,” I tell my co-pilot, pulling over next to the road. He's a little surprised, as this is not where the scheduled driver change should take place. But I need a short break. It might seem I didn't want to spend as much time as possible savouring every moment behind the wheel of one of Lamborghini’s most exciting cars to date, but that's not the case. I simply needed a few minutes in the passenger seat to catch my breath; driving the Performante is intense.

On the road

New car launches usually involve alotting two journalists per car with set driver changes divvying up the mileage between them. But when you've known your co-driver for several years, you tend to make your own arrangements. Having completed several runs along Franschhoek mountain pass for the pictures you see here, I gave it my all to try to extract as much performance from the Huracán Performante on the series of long straights and fast, flowing corners.

There are very few cars that demand the same level of concentration and offer the same kind of thrills as a superbike, but the Performante comes tantalisingly close.

The exceedingly firm buckets seats fitted to our Verde Mantis green unit were far from comfortable and form part of a driving position that's not as natural as that of a McLaren 720S. But they do contribute to an incredibly close physical connection with the car.

Although there is enough torque to shift early in the rev range, you can’t help but chase the 8 500 r/min redline at every given opportunity. The engine revs freely around the clock, while gearchanges through the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission are slick and quick - quite unlike that of the previous-generation Superleggera.

Having driven this road in several sports- and supercars before, it became apparent that the optional electronically controlled magneto-rheologic suspension was soaking up tarmac irregularities better than the hardcore GT3 RS I sampled here a few months ago.

I quickly learnt to trust the Performante through these fast sweeps, partly thanks to the all-wheel-drive system (Haldex generation V) and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres, and also because there is real downforce at work (search the internet for Lamborghini’s ALA system for an in-depth analysis).

The addictive howl from the high-revving 5,2-litre, V10 engine further contributes to the connection with the car. So much so that at times my co-driver and I went through some uncharacteristically quiet moments to afford whichever of us was behind the steering wheel the means to focus on the task of piloting this formidable beast.

As the pops and bangs from the high-mounted, centre exhaust ports reverberate from the cliffs, scaring a few birds away in the process, driving through Rawsonville, I depress the throttle pedal for the revs to climb and immediately back off to give the young kids, adults and every other person seeing the car a front-row seat to this Lamborghini's incredible soundtrack.

Having cleared the towns, the old Du Toitskloof Pass loomed before us, providing a final chance to string together several high-speed corners. I indulge in the absolutely rock-solid chassis, a trait that's been present in Lamborghini's wares since the launch of the Gallardo, and the way the car's nose darts into corners. Leaning on the brakes scrubs off speed with surprising immediacy, inspiring more confidence than I expected.

Summary

The Huracán Performante left me yearning for more time behind its wheel, which, believe it or not, isn't always the case with sports- and supercars. In fact, few vehicles I've sampled over the years have managed to serve up the dynamic thrills I experienced in my few hours with the Performente. It may not bear the degree of everyday usability of, say, a Ferrari 488 GTB, but that's far from the point of this car. From the pure adrenaline from behind the wheel to the bold exterior design and the excitement its soundtrack elicits from every single person who hears it, the Performante sits in a league of its own - serving up an intense and undiluted driving experience that draws you back, time and again ... with the occasional stop to catch your breath, of course.



FAST FACTS

Model: Lamborghini Huracán Performante (*Claimed figures)
Price: R6 095 000
Engine: 5,2-litre, V10
Power: 470 kW at 8 000 r/min
Torque: 600 N.m at 6 500 r/min
0-100 km/h: 2,9 seconds
Top Speed: 325 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 13,7 L/100 km
CO2: 314 g/km
Transmission: 7-speed, dual clutch
Maintenance Plan: 3-years/100 000 km