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2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante First Drive Review: Super SUV

Less weight and improved agility give the Lamborghini Urus better performance cred.

2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante
The Urus Performante is very much at home on a track.
Lamborghini

Sharp and fast and aggressive-looking as it is, the Lamborghini Urus is actually kind of tame. Like, too tame. Thankfully, the new Performante gives the Urus a harder edge, elevating its performance to a level you'd be hard pressed to find in any other SUV.

The changes start with a healthy diet. The Performante is 104 pounds lighter than the also-new Urus S, with things like a carbon fiber roof and hood, lightweight wheels and a titanium exhaust contributing to this major weight-savings. The Performante also ditches the SUV's standard air suspension and replaces it with fixed steel springs, giving more consistent cornering characteristics, though the ride quality is slightly worse for the wear. Combine that with 0.6-inch wider front and rear tracks, an 0.8-inch lower ride height and super-grippy Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires, and the Urus Performante exhibits noticeable improvements in both balance and grip.

Around the 2.5-mile main circuit at Italy's Autodromo Vallelunga, the Urus Performante absolutely rips. The steering is appropriately weighted and never darty, letting you neatly tuck the Urus' nose into tight corners while the rear-axle steering and improved torque vectoring help push the SUV's rump through each turn. The new Torsen center differential sends more torque to the rear than it does in the standard Urus, and lateral grip is fantastic thanks to the more active side-to-side power shuffle.

Go on, get dirty.

Lamborghini

Standard 10-piston aluminum brake calipers clamp down on 17.3-inch carbon-ceramic discs, quickly scrubbing speed on Vallelunga's long back straightaway. Lap after lap, you learn just how much more speed you can carry through each corner, though I'd love more heavily bolstered front seats to keep me from sliding around in the process.

The track at Vallelunga is best experienced in the Urus' Corsa drive mode, which loosens the reins slightly on the traction control allowing for small amounts of controllable oversteer. But if you really want to get crazy with the back end, drive the Urus off the track and hit some dusty trails. There's a new Rally mode exclusive to the Urus Performante that will really let you hang the tail out while cornering, though curiously, this setting prevents you from putting down full power while dialing in some countersteer on corner exit. Definitely don't do this on the Trofeo R tires, either -- unless you just have super-expensive sets of rubber at your disposal.

The one thing Lamborghini didn't change for the Urus Performante is power output. The twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 makes the same 657 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque that it does in the Urus S, though the Performante's eight-speed automatic transmission shifts quicker and the throttle is more sensitive. Combined with the grippier tires and lower weight, the Performante can sprint to 62 mph in 3.3 seconds, compared to 3.5 seconds for the Urus S. Bragging rights, you know?

The interior has Alcantara everywhere, and the multimedia tech is based on Audi software.

Lamborghini

The Performante doesn't look all that different from the standard Urus, either, with the telltale difference being carbon fiber sills and wheel arch extensions, as well as a spoiler that accounts for a 38% improvement in rear-end downforce. The ugly tuning fork painted grille vanes are gone, thank goodness, and the Performante gets a whole bunch of cool color options just like every other Lamborghini. The purple is so good.

Inside, you'll find Alcantara suede all over the dashboard, steering wheel and seats, and the center stack uses the same dual-screen infotainment setup as the base Urus. The multimedia software found within is essentially a Lambo-skinned version of Audi's MMI cabin tech, meaning it's intuitive to use and supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In back, there's a three-across bench standard, though you can also get the Performante with two individual bucket seats -- which also need better bolstering. Go figure.

Like any good Lamborghini, there are tons of customization options, meaning the $264,671 MSRP (including $3,995 for destination) is just the beginning. That's a roughly $40,000 increase over the outgoing Urus, and Lamborghini hasn't yet released pricing for the US-spec Urus S. But that's the price you pay for supercar-level performance in a functional SUV, and the new Urus Performante is all the better for it.

Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of CNET's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.