"Put it in Rally mode" isn't something I ever expected to hear while firing up the engine of a $265,000 Lamborghini. But I also never expected to be pointing the nose of a Lambo down a muddy two-track trail.

Rally mode is a new feature for the 2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante that lets the SUV's rear axle live a little, allowing it to slip more freely as you whip around slick hairpins. It's a hilarious way to experience this shaper, lighter, quicker version of the Urus, but it's only part of what makes the new Performante so rad.

Quick Stats 2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-liter V8
Output: 657 Horsepower / 627 Pound-Feet
0-60 MPH: 3.3 Seconds (est.)
Top Speed: 190 MPH
Base Price: $260,676 + $3,995 Destination

Gallery: 2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante: First Drive

Sign Of The Beast

The Performante uses the same twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 as the Urus S, making 657 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. That’s a relatively insignificant 16-hp increase over last year’s base Urus, which actually goes away for 2023, but at least this further widens the on-paper performance gap between Lambo’s SUV and its corporate kissin’ cousin, the 591-hp Audi RS Q8. Oh, and fun fact: 657 horsepower translates to 666 CV, or the German-standard measurement for power (also written PS), and one Lamborghini executive told me that delightfully devilish spec is not just a coincidence.

Rather than giving the Performante a power boost, Lamborghini instead made a number of tweaks to the Urus’ hardware and software. The SUV’s eight-speed automatic transmission is reprogrammed to shift quicker, making the huge, steering column-mounted paddles even more satisfying to use. The throttle is also more responsive, giving you more bite at initial tip-in, and the retuned Torsen center differential actively sends more torque to the rear axle. All of this results in a Lamborghini-estimated 0-to-62-mph time of 3.3 seconds, giving the Performante a 0.2-second lead over the Urus S despite having nearly identical output figures.

2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante
2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante

Also contributing to the Performante’s quickness is a 104-pound weight reduction, largely thanks to the increased use of carbon fiber in the body, most notably on the roof and hood. The Performante’s new titanium exhaust is both louder and lighter, as well, and the model-specific lightweight wheels cut about 14 pounds of unsprung mass.

Those titanium pipes really improve the Urus' aural quality, especially in the heart of the engine’s powerband – specifically, between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm. Stomp on the accelerator after sliding the Urus through a muddy corner and the shouty exhaust will accompany you all the way to the next turn, really amping up the visceral excitement of Rally mode. That said, I wish the Urus wasn't so shy about putting down full power while countersteering – something you'll do a lot while sliding around a dirt track. But hey, at least the Performante sounds like the absolute business. It looks killer kicking up dusty rooster tails, too.

2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante

Lamborghini didn't change the Performante's steering tune, keeping the same 13.1:1 ratio as the Urus S. Direct and weighty, the Urus' steering gives you plenty of info regarding how much grip is available at each corner, a necessary bit of data in order to figure out just how hard you can push this 4,740-pound porker.

Optional 285/40 front and 325/35 rear Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires are a boon for handling, rarely letting go on warm pavement, while standard carbon-ceramic discs with 10-piston aluminum front calipers kill speed with immediate surefootedness. Rear-axle steering helps the Urus rotate through corners, and more aggressive lateral torque-vectoring helps send power to the tire that needs it most.

2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante

The Performante's front and rear tracks are six-tenths of an inch wider, and it sits eight-tenths lower to the ground than the Urus S. More importantly, Lamborghini ditched the adaptive air suspension and fitted the Performante with static steel springs instead. The company says this improves the overall handling without killing the on-road ride. I totally agree with that first part, but I'll have to take Lambo's word for the latter, since my test drive was limited to the tarmac (and dirt) inside the walls of Italy's Autodromo Vallelunga motorsports complex. Not that I would’ve wanted to drive this thing through Rome traffic, anyway. Yikes.

2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante

Unquestionably A Lamborghini

On public roads, the front seats will likely be plenty comfortable, but man I do I wish they had more side bolstering to keep me from bouncing around on the track. The Urus Performante has Alcantara fabric absolutely everywhere, including the seats, and you can choose between a bench or a pair of buckets in the second row. Behind that, the Performante has just 21.7 cubic feet of cargo space, so a Home Depot hauler it is not.

The rest of the cabin is just like any other Urus, meaning the center stack is a mess of toggles and levers and buttons and screens. But thankfully, those displays house a reworked version of Audi's nicely responsive and endlessly functional MMI multimedia software. The digital gauge cluster also looks great with its Lambo-specific drive mode displays and hella edgy fonts.

2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante
2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante
2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante
2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante

Speaking of edgy, the Urus’ design continues to be, let's say, polarizing. But at least designers touched up the front fascia and got rid of those horrible painted grille veins – you know, the ones that looked like tuning forks. A spoiler atop the hatch accounts for a 38-percent improvement in rear-end downforce and doesn't look too gaudy, either. Overall, Lamborghini says the Urus Performante has a 10-percent improvement in aero efficiency, not that this translates to any meaningful improvement in fuel economy. You're looking at 14 mpg city, 19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined, assuming you drive this thing with a light foot, which, come on.

Hefty fuel bills aren't really a problem for Urus buyers, of course; this SUV starts at $264,671 including a $3,995 destination charge, and that's before you go wild with Lamborghini's extensive personalization catalog. As for competitors, Porsche has the closest rival in the 641-hp, $190,150 Cayenne Turbo GT, which is really stinkin' good, but Lamborghini owners aren’t exactly cross-shopping. (Can't decide? Just get both.)

Absurd as that MSRP might seem for us mere mortals, it's exactly what you'd expect for an Italian supercar. The Urus Performante might be an SUV, but it offers a properly exotic driving experience. Besides, how many other supercars actively encourage you to hit the dirt?

2023 Lamborghini Urus Performante

Engine Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-liter V8
Output 657 Horsepower / 627 Pound-Feet
Transmission 8-Speed Automatic
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Speed 0-60 MPH 3.3 Seconds (est.)
Maximum speed 190 MPH
Efficiency 14 City / 19 Highway / 16 Combined
Weight 4,740 Pounds
Seating Capacity 5
Cargo Volume 21.7 Cubic Feet
Base Price $260,676 + $3,995 Destination
Got a tip for us? Email: tips@motor1.com