The Lamborghini Urus Performante Set A Production SUV Speed Record
The best-selling Lambo ever broke the record at Pike’s Peak, the most dangerous hill climb in the world.
Despite the fact that it’s mid-July in Colorado, the predawn air way up here at 9,300 feet above sea level is crisp and alerting. All around us is pandemonium: quick chattering Italians dart around a humming tour bus in tight red pants and matching sneakers, puffy Lamborghini-embroidered vests keeping the cold at bay.
A fully camouflaged Urus Performante sits on blocks with its wheels removed, with cables and sensors spilling out of the hood in vivisection; engineers and mechanics tend to it diligently like a pre-runway supermodel. The sky above remains deep black, but a vibrant orange sliver on the horizon threatens to break over the inky valley.
In the center of the chaos calmly hovers Stephan Winkelmann, splitting the madness like Gandolf in an Orc war. Arguably the most dapper man in the automotive industry, he takes it all in with just a wisp of palpable excitement. The mere presence of the decorated CEO underscores what an important moment this is for Lamborghini—flying halfway across the world for less than 24 hours just to bear witness to the event, why we’re all here on this chilly hill: to notch the record for fastest production SUV up Pikes Peak.
This is, after all, Lamborghini’s best-selling vehicle ever, attempting to break the record of perhaps the most (in)famous, and dangerous, hill climb in the world. The Race To the Clouds, as it’s lovingly referred to. The fact that Pikes Peak happens to be in America, in Colorado, Lamborghini’s biggest and most important market? I’m sure that doesn’t hurt either.
“I have to admit I’ve been in love with Pikes Peak since I was a child,” reveals Rouven Mohr, Lamborghini’s amicable and enthusiastic Chief Technical Officer. “When there were still dirt roads, the Group B rally cars were the heroes of my youth!” he continues enthusiastically. “Therefore for me Pikes Peak is magic. There are only a few places in the world that give so much input to car culture—for sure Nürburgring is one, and Pikes Peak is the second.”
As the so-called “super-SUV” now reaches its mid-lifecycle, Lambo has crafted this apex Urus: the Performante. It wouldn’t be officially unveiled for another month until The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering during Monterey Car Week in California, but before Mohr and designer Mitja Borkert pull back the silk sheets at the glittering event, the team is intent on notching this golden Pikes Peak ring, just to let everyone know which is the fastest, baddest, and most unstoppable high-performance SUV on the world’s most treacherous and challenging hill climb.
Just a day prior the new $260,676 Performante left the road on one of the last corners of this Hill, putting this entire endeavor in peril. It wasn’t driver Simone Faggioli’s fault, of course. “You have to adjust to the road every time you take a run,” explains Fred Veitch, Chairman of the Board for Pikes Peak, as we sit at the halfway point waiting for the Performante to make its first run of the day. “Conditions change: this year it was very hot during practice, and yet race day was foggy and cold…. As a driver you’ve only got two or three corners from the start to figure out what road conditions are, then you have to quickly adapt to go up the Hill.”
As we anxiously await for the Performante to blur past at 120 mph, he explains the altitude’s merciless wear on all aspects of the car: brakes, transmission, and of course engine. It’s not just brutal on the vehicle of course—the driver and crew suffer too. Veitch laughingly calls it “Formula One meets Woodstock” because of the sheer spectrum of competing teams: from deep pocketed OEMs to tiny cabals of friends wrenching kit cars at the bottom of the hill.
Just then we hear the first hints of the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 screaming through the titanium Akrapovic sports exhaust rising from deep in the valley. Under the duress of the Pikes Peak climb, aspects of the 666-hp Performante’s bonafides like its feral burst (0-62 mph in just 3.3 seconds) will be flogged, even if it will never quite approach its 190-mph top speed in these unforgiving twisties.
In the three seconds the super-SUV takes to blur past us on this long stretch we’re able to discern a few aesthetic qualities, like its newly-designed rear spoiler helping to increase overall downforce by 8%. Improvements like a carbon-fiber hood and roof help shave 104 pounds, but given this camo’d unit’s orange wrap that’s invisible to us.
The polished version of the lightweight material we’d see in Pebble Beach a month later may be the Performante’s most salient visual upgrade, along with its Aventador SVJ-inspired rear spoiler with carbon fiber fins. With the trimmed weight and 627 lb-ft of torque kicking in at only 2,300 rpm, the Performante’s best-in-class weight-to-power ratio and top-tier driving tech (e.g. torque vectoring, rear-wheel steering, active anti-roll bars, etc.) anoint it with unholy ability. At least in theory.
A couple minutes later that theoretical superiority is confirmed in reality. As Lambo execs pace anxiously the call comes crackling through the walkie-talkie: the Urus’ Pikes Peak time is in: a record breaking 10:40.68. The next day the Performante would shave eight more seconds off the clock, ending with the fastest-production SUV time ever of 10:32.064.
When we make it back down to the starting line there is jubilation among the Italians and Germans. Ceramic espresso cups are clinked in lieu of champagne flutes. “We just came for this, so we had great expectations and they were fulfilled, big time,” Winkelmann gushes with uncommon gusto.
“It was important to have an understanding of the performance of the car…. We were able to showcase that this is a real super sports car amongst the SUVs.” The beaming CEO goes on to express the significance of Pikes Peak, and how capturing the record before its Pebble Beach debut underlines the importance of the American market. Next to Winkelmann, his visibly-charged head engineer smiles broader than the Colorado Rockies.
“There is always an uncertainty that can destroy everything. It’s like motorsports—it’s stupid, but to finish first you have to finish first,” says Mohr, a look of satisfaction and relief carved onto his visage. “A lot of things can happen, you never know. So to have this spectacular time after the crash that happened yesterday, this is absolutely joy.”