None of it was planned. But somehow, on a Tuesday in late April on the big track at Willow Springs International Raceway, we found ourselves in possession of five vehicles capable of breaking three different lap records.
The Lamborghini Aventador SVJ would Challenge the Porsche GT2 RS for the overall production car lap record; both the Lambo Urus and Porsche Cayenne Turbo could vie for the BMW X6 M’s SUV lap record; and the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and Jaguar Project 8 each could grab the sedan record from the Cadillac CTS-V. Our resident pro racer, Randy “Father Lap Time” Pobst, was there. It all just sort of fell in our lap.
For months and months I’d been begging/bugging Lamborghini to let our test team have a crack at both the Urus and Aventador SVJ. I’d driven both, but with the exception of Scott Evans and a trip to Iceland with an Urus, no one else had touched either car. I wanted the rest of our team (plus, like, you know, the world) to know what crazed yet competent performance monsters Lambo had built. The trick is, when you strap on instruments to test Lamborghinis, the Italian automaker likes it if an engineer or two is present. That’s Lambo’s rule and there’s nothing we can do about it. Finally, the email showed up. Tuesday April 30 would be the day. Sweet.
As it turned out, two other things were happening that fateful week. For one, since we knew we’d have our greedy paws on the Urus, it was time to stage our now annual Best Driver’s SUV competition, the winner of which gets a ticket to play in the Best Driver’s Car festival this July.
Last year we chose the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio to represent the steroidal, yet nominally off-roadable machines. This year besides the Urus we had the Bentley Bentayga Speed, Jaguar F-Pace SVR, and Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Without boring you to tears, I spend a bizarre amount of time discussing racetracks with the fine people at Porsche. Meaning they knew we’d be lapping the Urus. Would we mind lapping their new uber-Cayenne while we were at it? Not at all!
The other happening was an episode of Head 2 Head, the car comparison show hosted by myself and Mr. Jethro Bovingdon, available on the MotorTrend app, which had to be filmed during the same time period. Hey, why not split costs between various departments and film the track portion of that episode the same day we lap the Lambos and the Porsche? No one could think of a reason not to. Right, on with it.
The current street-legal car lap record at Big Willow is held by the Porsche GT2 RS with Randy Pobst behind the wheel. In similar setup, it also has scorched Laguna Seca, Road Atlanta, and most recently Road America. The car is a metronome. A very quick metronome.
When we first heard about the GT2 RS, it was under the guise of setting the production car lap record on the Nürburgring Nordschleife with a time of 6:47.25 with Lars Kern at the wheel, smashing the Lamborghini Huracan Performante’s previous record of 6:52.01. Almost a year later, the Aventador SVJ piloted by Marco Mapolli obliterated the GT2 RS’s record with an astonishingly quick lap of 6:44.97. Given that, could Randy and the Lambo SVJ beat the Porsche GT2 RS on our home track?
No, not even close. The best Pobst could muster was a 1:24.92 lap, good enough to put the SVJ in 13th place all time, but nowhere near the GT2 RS’s 1:21.08 record. Nearly 4 seconds off the pace is equal parts confusing, disappointing, and upsetting.
What happened? The Lambo’s brakes seemed to be the culprit. Randy despised them. “The effing thing won’t stop!” he hollered at me when he pulled in. And you can bet your racing suit he didn’t actually say, “effing.” I’d also bet that the SVJ’s magnetorheological dampers were freaked out by Big Willow’s notoriously awful (meaning rough and bumpy) surface. The Corvette Z06—which rides on nearly identical dampers—had a similar issue. The Corvette team spent two weeks on Big Willow coming up with a bumpy road setting that knocked nearly a second off the lap, 1:25.76 down to 1:25.00. Lamborghini didn’t take such measures at Willow when it developed the SVJ. Anyhow, Porsche’s record is not only safe for now, but Porsche thinks there’s another half a second in there somewhere.
On to the SUVs. We agree, SUV lap times are silly. But until you people stop buying them (I own a hatchback and a wagon) this is how it’s going to be. The BMW X6 M went around Big Willow in 1:32.36, quicker than any SUV we’ve ever tested, including the Jeep Trackhawk (1:34.54) and the hunchbacked Bimmer’s shameless clone, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe (1:36.00). Call us crazy, but the X6 M is quicker around Big Willow than a BMW M3 (1:32.51).
The Urus and the third-gen Cayenne Turbo had their work cut out for them. Porsche was up first, and as Porsches are wont to do, it beat the BMW by nearly a second, posting a 1:31.59. That new record stood for at least 20 minutes. Then, the Lamborghini Urus crushed it, popping off a 1:30.87. How quick is that? Nearly as fleet as a BMW M6 Gran Coupe (1:30.66). Not bad for an SUV that stands at nearly 5,000 pounds. Lambo was one for two, and so were we.
Next up, sedans. Before we get started, I should point out that this isn’t the cleanest record. Here’s why: the ludicrously named Porsche Panamera Turbo S e-Hybrid Sport Turismo went around Big Willow in 1:29.33. Thing is, that’s not a sedan, that’s technically a station wagon. So yes, if we were talking about four-door lap records, that 5,320-pound plug-in hybrid is quicker than the third-gen 2018 Cadillac CTS-V (1:29.69). However, it’s our pie and we’ll slice it however we like. Meaning that we should probably test the non-Sport Turismo version of the big Panamera. But, for purist reasons, the Caddy is the sedan lap record holder.
Er, was. The Alfa Romeo gave it a good go, but with “only” 505 horsepower (the weakest car we tested that day by a lot) it was no match for the 640-hp CTS-V. A 1:31.80 lap puts it ahead of the X6 M, but nearly 2 seconds off the Cadillac’s lap. The last chance belonged to Jaguar. Guess what? By the skin of its teeth, the $190K, AWD, 592-hp 2019 XE SV Project 8 put down a 1:29.59 lap, beating the CTS-V by 0.1 of one second. Boom, boom, boom. Out go the lights.
So there you have it. One day, five cars, three records, and two new benchmarks set. Really, three new records, though the poor Porsche’s only stood for the briefest of moments. The best part of all this, at least from my perspective? We’ll randomly do it all over again on some unknown, unspecified day in the future. Go serendipity, go!