"I can't believe we forgot to invite Lamborghini," my coworkers laughed, standing next to an eye-searingly orange Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica, a car that we very much did invite to the 2023 Performance Car of the Year. This was my first time at the test, I'd never driven a Lamborghini, and I was just starting to get the joke.
Welcome to the run-up to Performance Car of the Year 2023. This year we’ll be running breakout stories on each of our 10 contenders twice a week, every week until the full all-out comparison goes live the third week of January. Let's get into it.
Every time it came to swap keys around, everyone gravitated towards a few very new cars, cars that we absolutely had to drive. There was a new Z06. There was a new Civic Type R. There was a new AWD Toyota turbo hatch nobody had tried, and a Porsche Cayman GT4RS that had everyone reeling as they got out of it. It was perhaps more important to my fellow road testers that these cars were really new than they were necessarily good or bad to drive. They were curious.
Nobody was all that curious about the Lamborghini. That made sense; the Huracán has been around since 2014, the facelifted version since 2019, and while the Huracán Tecnica is new for 2022 it is mostly a road-friendly re-tune of the Huracán STO that they all drove in 2021. Not me, though. I'd never driven a Lamborghini. I, myself, was overflowing with curiosity, and I eagerly leapt behind the wheel the moment the opportunity presented itself.
Before I get too deep into what the car was like on the road, let me present the specs. It starts at $245,295. It weighs 3040 pounds dry. Its 5.2-liter V-10 revs to 9000 RPM and delivers 631 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque along the way. The chassis is a mixture of carbon fiber and aluminum first riveted and then glued together . The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. It looks like a particularly futuristic wedge of cheese.
In many ways, the Tecnica is a more old-school driver's car than its avant-garde looks and digital dash would have you believe. The V-10 is naturally-aspirated not turbocharged. The steering is a fixed ratio. The big wing and scoop of the STO are gone. The suspension is chilled out for road not track.
In other aspects, the Tecnica is still very much a modern automotive product, a more-is-more kind of vehicle. It has rear-wheel drive but all-wheel steering. The suspension, traction control, torque vectoring, and even pedal response all change based on its three selectable drive modes.
I stepped out of the thing short of breath, throat raspy. Alone in the car, I had been screaming. Screaming because of the force it accelerated down a straight. Screaming because of how violently bumps and rough spots in the road deflected the car. Screaming just to match the volume of the V-10, filling the cabin with a wall of sound.
In truth, the Tecnica might be relaxed compared to the STO but it is a thoroughly wild vehicle to pilot down the cracked pavement of America's best driving roads. (In this case, we were all howling around the Catskills reservoirs that supply New York City a few hours south.) The grip of the tires and the aggressiveness of the suspension geometry makes corners almost trivial. The Tecnica doesn't so much as turn in as dive, hurling itself right to left. The car operates more in the vertical plane than the horizontal. You spend the whole time scanning the road ahead of you for potholes. And you seesaw between wonder and fear. The addictive gravity of the gas pedal drawing itself to the carbon floor; the terrifying lift as you envision the car spearing into a guardrail if you didn't slow for those upcoming frost heaves.
These are supercar-like qualities. The evocation of danger and demise, incantations in orange. A fateful toll rung out from ten bells behind your head. The Lamborghini was fast, sure, but on a backroad with cold pavement and poor visibility, I think no quicker than the sport compact cars a fraction of its price and horsepower. The Elantra N had no trouble sticking to its tail during our group test drive, to say nothing of the Honda Civic Type R or Toyota GR Corolla. Supercars, after all, are not about being the fastest things on the road. They need only be the wildest.
This Lamborghini did do its typical Lamborghini duties, I will say. When we stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant, a little kid led his mother through the parking lot, gawking at all the cars. But it was the orange Huracán Tecnica with which he wanted his picture taken. Whether or not it was quicker on a tight two-lane road than a hot hatch was immaterial. It had the looks, the sound, the romance.
Even with this mania, these flaws, the Tecnica is still not a supercar. It is something more.
A supercar is an automobile taken to its extreme. It has 8 cylinders where 6 would do, or 12 if 8 would fit. Bugatti will cram 16 in if possible. Maximalism is key. Look at the Lamborghini Aventador, for instance. It is about the size of a football field, the windshield is so canted back that it has more dashboard showing than most minivans on sale, and a good 80% of the car's real estate is taken up by either the tires or the V-12 engine. The person crunched somewhere in the middle of the car is a vague afterthought.
For all of its extremity, the Huracán Tecnica is still something more human, or perhaps humane. The experience of the driver is what stands as the main goal, not the experience of the person sticking fingers in their ears walking past it on startup. The Huracán is still relatively small, not hogging its whole lane. The Corvette Z06 is more ungainly, even if you sit much lower in the Huracán, practically bolted to the floor and strapped in with an optional four-point harness. The Tecnica is one step closer to thrilling than it is to frightening.
I pulled the Lamborghini into the turn-out that all of us were using, lining the car up amidst all the other PCOTY contenders. The Cannonsville Reservoir glistened at our backs. Everyone laughed when I rebuked them for disparaging the Huracán, saying they all knew it drove great. They knew that already. They'd all driven Huracáns before. I guess this was why I was there, my journey to undertake. To grasp with clammy hands that under the carbon fiber flair, this is a sports car, through and through.