A £160,000-plus Lam­borgh­ini with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and 641bhp. Car­bon­ce­ramic brakes, 23in al­loy wheels, an An­ima se­lec­tor to flick be­tween Strada, Sport and Corsa modes, four-wheel steer­ing and ac­tive sta­bil­ity con­trol, op­tional Pirelli Cor­sas for

I beg your par­don?

Top Gear (UK) - - TOW TEST -

Yup, leaf through the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the Lam­borgh­ini Urus and you will dis­cover, as a quirk of its shared her­itage, it can come equipped with the fix­ings to tow an Eld­dis Buc­ca­neer. Or a trailer filled with grass clip­pings set for the lo­cal re­cy­cling cen­tre, a sit­u­a­tion likely to atom­ise the rearguard on first ap­pli­ca­tion of de­cent throt­tle, like a hot-air bal­loon bas­ket strapped to the bot­tom of Fal­con Heavy. In fact, pretty much any mun­dane use of an Urus tow­ball feels a lit­tle… im­plau­si­ble. Like find­ing a con­ve­nient car­ry­ing han­dle on a bomb. Why does a Lam­borgh­ini have a tow­bar? What would you tow with a Lam­borgh­ini su­per-SUV? Un­less you have a press­ing need to yank a trawler into dry dock, or drag the Moon from or­bit, there’s a de­li­cious amount of overkill here, the kind of thing that makes you won­der if any­one makes track tyres for trail­ers.

But then it dawned like the yawn of a lazy cat – the most ap­pro­pri­ate thing to tow with a Lam­borgh­ini would be another Lam­borgh­ini. The ul­ti­mate sin­gle-man­u­fac­turer rig. You can see

how we got on, on page 76. But one thing led to another and a few other tow­ball op­tions were dis­cov­ered. Very fast tow­ball op­tions, for a dif­fer­ent kind of drag race. The kind of things that beg for a TopGear shake­down of the most OTT tow rigs in ex­is­tence.

Which is how I come to be driv­ing a Porsche with seven axles, 14 wheels, an en­gine in the front and one in the rear, 14 cylin­ders and 1,055bhp. Mind you, next to me, editor-in-chief Turner is ca­su­ally pi­lot­ing a Merc with 16 cylin­ders – a pair of iden­ti­cal 4.0-litre V8s – the same 14 wheels and 1,154bhp. Tom Har­ri­son has 1,159bhp, Ol­lie Mar­riage has turned up with “some­thing like” 1,050 horse­power and enough wing to hum­ble Boe­ing, and Jack Rix has missed the memo com­pletely and speared off into an in­tel­lec­tual space all of his own.

We have be­come a rolling af­front to ef­fi­ciency, each ridicu­lously pow­er­ful sports SUV tow­ing a racier prod­uct of the same man­u­fac­turer, on a mas­sive, gleam­ingly gal­vanised trailer. And the list is prop­erly bizarre, and ut­terly bril­liant: Porsche Cayenne Turbo mated to GT3 RS, Mercedes-Benz G63 al­lied to AMG GT R, Land Rover SVR wed­ded to Jaguar Project 8. Then comes a Bent­ley Ben­tayga V8 tow­ing Bent­ley’s new­est GT3 racer (of which there will be a full test in the next is­sue) and Ariel’s sort-of SUV No­mad tow­ing an Ariel Ace mo­tor­bike. Which just goes to show you can’t trust Ol­lie Mar­riage or Jack Rix to play by the rules.

Of course, the tow­ball op­tion on most of these things is more likely to be used as a mount­ing point for a car­rier for some ob­scenely ex­pen­sive car­bon-and-di­a­mond-dust pedal bike, but on first im­pres­sions, peo­ple are miss­ing out not tow­ing with up­wards of 500bhp. Be­cause, un­sur­pris­ingly, it is re­ally, joy­ously easy. Even with the big­gest of race trail­ers on the back – ex­cept for the No­mad, which we’ll get to later – ev­ery sin­gle tow car here makes short work of pulling their re­spec­tive charges. Which they should, re­ally, see­ing as the least pow­er­ful of them (the Range Rover Sport SVR) still musters well north of 500lb ft. In fact, our tra­di­tional-type tow cars all fea­ture forced-in­duc­tion V8 en­gines, man­age 62mph in 4.5 sec­onds or less and have top speeds on the very far side of il­le­gal. When tow­ing, there­fore, they act like there re­ally isn’t much hold­ing them back at all. Which isn’t true, be­cause these are the kind of rigs you need to pass a test to drive, or be suitably old to have the cor­rect licence for.

The trail­ers them­selves are Brian James T-Trans­porters, es­sen­tially a five-grand-plus-VAT triple-axle race trailer with­out a shell. The high-end way to trans­port some­thing pre­cious and car-shaped. With a hy­draulic bed-tilt and proper space, they hold up to 3,500kg, weigh around 900kg and haul pretty much any­thing you can imag­ine – the only dis­ad­van­tage be­ing that they are not small, and you’d bet­ter be pretty con­fi­dent on the re­verse. Ac­cord­ing to the DVLA, in the UK, if you passed your driv­ing test be­fore 1 Jan­uary 1997, you can drive with one on your car, as long as the com­bi­na­tion of ve­hi­cle and trailer doesn’t ex­ceed 8,250kg MAM (max­i­mum autho­rised mass). Post ’97, you’re lim­ited to a trailer of 750kg (towed by a ve­hi­cle up to 3,500kg) or a heav­ier trailer, as long as the to­tal rig weight is no more than 3,500kg. Oth­er­wise, you’re look­ing at the of­fi­cial trailer test. And things get heavy quickly when you’re talk­ing big SUV+trailer+sports thing. The Mercs, in com­bi­na­tion, weigh in at over five tonnes (G63 at 2,560kg, GT R at 1,630kg, plus the 900kg trailer), the Range Rover and Project 8 just un­der five, the Bent­leys – even with the ‘light­weight’ racer – 4.6 tonnes. The light­est, Jack’s de­cid­edly not

OEM tow­ball-shod No­mad and Ace bike, weighs just over a tonne, bike trailer in­cluded. Told you he was cheat­ing.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, it’s the G-Class, Range Rover and Bent­ley that im­me­di­ately feel the most com­fort­able with a loaded trailer, mostly to do with the in­her­ent weight of the tow car. With a big trailer, some mass to the tow ve­hi­cle re­ally does help, and al­though the Cayenne isn’t both­ered – the GT3 RS be­ing rel­a­tively light in this com­pany – it just doesn’t feel as dense and solid as the other three. Rolling around the TopGear test track in a wholly un­sci­en­tific test of per­for­mance, the Range Rover bel­lows blue mur­der – it’s by far the loud­est thing here, in­clud­ing the sports cars – the G63 emits a kind of saw-toothed bur­ble and the Bent­ley, even in V8 for­mat, feels a bit like an EV, solid torque and church quiet. The Cayenne is re­lent­lessly ef­fi­cient and sur­pris­ingly rapid once it gets go­ing. But they all, with­out pause, tow like ab­so­lute cham­pi­ons, stop like they aren’t con­nected to any­thing at all, and pro­vide neat lit­tle re­vers­ing cam­eras that al­low you to hook the rigs up solo. This mat­ters if you have to do such things reg­u­larly.

Div­ing child­ishly into Ham­mer­head, you can feel the weight and mo­men­tum of the com­bi­na­tions try­ing to force you wide. But, to be quite hon­est, the only real is­sue with tow­ing us­ing a mas­sive sports SUV is that you com­pletely forget you have a trailer on the back and start fir­ing down the mo­tor­way. And ev­ery time you look in your rear-view mir­ror and see a sports car nailed to your back bumper, it can be… un­set­tling. Even the No­mad, the only man­ual tow car here, feels docile enough, and that’s with the less solid sin­gle-bike trailer (and higher cen­tre of grav­ity) of the Ace strapped to the back.

Inevitably, once the var­i­ous rigs are de­con­structed, things get faster and brak­ing dis­tances re­duce con­sid­er­ably. Jack ca­reers off on the angular Ace, wrestling with a 1,200cc V4 and

173bhp on a bike that weighs just 230kg and looks un­err­ingly like the artis­tic scaf­fold of the No­mad that de­liv­ered it. The GT3 RS and Project 8 spear off to­gether, the 9,000rpm flat-six free-breath­ing howl of the 911 un­der­cut by the bassy thrum of the XE’s su­per­charged V8. Cor­ners are taken via wildly dif­fer­ent lines, the Porsche neatly slid­ing, the Jaguar bul­ly­ing its way through with just a smidgen of over­steer and four­wheel-drive cor­ner-exit punch, while their re­spec­tive at­ten­dant SUVs do their thing. It has to be said, al­though the Range Rover Sport SVR is hi­lar­i­ously the­atri­cal – mostly due to that noise – and sur­pris­ingly flat through cor­ners, noth­ing here swivels around a track like a Cayenne Turbo. It’s more like a 911 than you’d be­lieve. Af­ter that, the Mercs seem to be con­tent on their own, the same song sung at slightly dif­fer­ent pitches, the new G63 night-and-day ca­pa­ble com­pared to the old G-Wa­gen – al­beit like watch­ing a tower block at­tempt­ing a lap time, the AMG GT R lazily set­ting fire to its rear tyres as it arcs around it. It’s all lightly hi­lar­i­ous and em­i­nently point­less.

Or is it? Be­cause the weird thing is, what­ever brand as­so­ci­a­tion you have, what­ever in­nards they might share, there’s a def­i­nite feel­ing from each of the prod­ucts that they come from a spe­cific man­u­fac­turer, even though the prod­ucts are po­lar. And we’re not nec­es­sar­ily just talk­ing about switchgear and styling. Both Porsches are clin­i­cal, nim­ble and ut­terly self-pos­sessed. The Jaguar/Land Rover prod­ucts are loud, en­ter­tain­ing and slightly brutish. The Mercedes brawny, mus­cu­lar and hewn. Even the Bent­leys feel of a piece, engi­neered into a place all of their own, and the Ariels could only be from that man­u­fac­turer, even though they are, both con­cep­tu­ally and lit­er­ally, com­pletely dif­fer­ent things.

There is, there­fore, a se­ri­ous point to be made here. And it’s about di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion. When dis­cussing the idea of a tow-rig fea­ture, it be­came clear that there were sev­eral man­u­fac­tur­ers ca­pa­ble of field­ing cars from very dif­fer­ent sec­tors, neatly demon­strat­ing the need for mar­ques to of­fer a broad range of ve­hi­cles to re­main suc­cess­ful. A man­u­fac­turer will not sur­vive on ex­trem­ity alone, and yet needs the ‘halo’ cars to in­ject the kind of brand aware­ness that drags peo­ple in. Think about the Porsche Cayenne – a car widely ridiculed by tra­di­tional en­thu­si­ast me­dia at the time of launch in 2002, for not be­ing a “proper Porsche”. No mat­ter how ca­pa­ble it was as a stand­alone SUV, it of­fended those who felt kin­ship with the tra­di­tional ide­ol­ogy of the brand. And yet… And yet, the Cayenne over three gen­er­a­tions and 16 years of pro­duc­tion has un­doubt­edly propped up the pro­duc­tion of the RS mod­els ev­ery­one loves, in­di­rectly given birth to the be­winged spe­cials that adorn bed­room walls. If his­tory is to tell us any­thing, it’s that the Cayenne hasn’t spoiled Porsche’s sports car of­fer­ing, it has pre­served it.

Sim­i­larly, while Land Rover might be con­cep­tu­ally based in things like the full-fat Range Rover and de­funct De­fender, it’s the

“Al­though the RRS SVR is hi­lar­i­ously the­atri­cal, noth­ing here swivels around a track like a Cayenne Turbo”

RR Sport and Dis­cov­ery Sport that sell, and while Jaguar is tra­di­tion­ally fa­mous for sports cars, spread­sheets are mo­ti­vated by more pro­saic of­fer­ings (even if the SVR F-Pace was un­avail­able for test). Even Ariel, a com­pany fa­mous for its sin­gu­lar­ity of pur­pose with the Atom, has broad­ened its of­fer­ing to three prod­ucts: Atom, No­mad and Ace, all us­ing sim­i­lar skillsets and shar­ing an ethos.

And that’s why these cars have tow­balls. Not be­cause there’s a huge de­mand to tow a trailer down the Au­to­bahn at 150mph, but be­cause they are the prod­ucts of mod­ern au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing. A place where plat­form shar­ing and parts com­mon­al­ity, mar­ket­ing and niche-fill­ing is part of the game you need to play to be sol­vent. Big man­u­fac­tur­ers sim­ply can­not sur­vive on a sin­gu­lar prod­uct, and even an en­tity like Lam­borgh­ini – DNA deep in the sports car sphere – needs to pro­duce cars that will sell, and in num­bers. Ariel needed to ex­pand on the rel­a­tively lim­ited ap­peal of the Atom, and big­ger man­u­fac­tur­ers noted that many of their sports-car buy­ers had at least one big, ex­pen­sive SUV in their fleet... and they needed a piece of that pie. The Ben­tayga cur­rently makes up about half of all Bent­ley sales, and the Urus is al­ready pre­dicted to dou­ble Lam­borgh­ini’s to­tal fig­ures, bring­ing with it sta­bil­ity and prof­itabil­ity. Crossovers and SUVs ac­count for two thirds of all US car sales, and we’ll see sim­i­lar moves from As­ton with the DBX, the re­lease of Rolls-Royce’s Cul­li­nan later this year, and even Fer­rari with its 2019/2020 “FUV”.

The truth is that you can be as iconic as you like, have brand iden­tity and eq­uity pour­ing out of your ears, but if you don’t sell enough cars, in enough vol­ume, you will end up sell­ing noth­ing at all. Which is how this to­tally point­less test turned into a se­ri­ous one, and proves that we should all be glad that cars like the Lam­borgh­ini Urus have tow­bars. It’s to se­cure for the fu­ture the ones that don’t.

When CT and Wook started hitch­ing up this trailer, they both had a full head of hair

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