From mid-en­gined su­per­cars to this. Has Lam­borgh­ini pulled off the seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble by cre­at­ing an SUV that doesn’t di­lute ev­ery­thing the brand stands for?


Does it di­lute ev­ery­thing the mi­dengined su­per­car maker stands for?


AMBORGHINI’S CHOICE OF HO­TEL for the launch of the Urus is all mar­ble­and-gold Ital­ian lux­ury. A tow­er­ing and for­mi­da­ble ed­i­fice of ’60s ex­trav­a­gance on the out­skirts of Rome, its grandiose en­trance, com­plete with de rigueur foun­tain, must have looked lit­tle dif­fer­ent when it was newly con­structed, com­ple­mented by some suave play­boy pulling up to the concierge in his fac­tory-fresh Miura. Trans­port your­self back to stand­ing in the still heat of a Rome morn­ing 50 years ago, and imag­ine sug­gest­ing to our Per­so­ladorned lothario that the same com­pany which cre­ated the first, true man­i­fes­ta­tion of the su­per­car would one day cre­ate a ve­hi­cle like the Urus. What would Dal­lara, Biz­zarrini and Gan­dini, young men burn­ing mid­night oil to re­alise an im­pos­si­ble dream, have made of this de­sign brief?

To­day, you can probe Mau­r­izio Reg­giani, Lambo’s charis­matic en­gi­neer­ing chief, over whether a mod­ern­day Es­pada might have made a more au­then­tic ‘prac­ti­cal’ Lam­borgh­ini, but he’s too pol­ished at deal­ing with the me­dia to com­ment out­right, even if the twin­kle in the eye and the ex­pres­sive shrug of the shoul­ders sug­gests he’d be carv­ing up that Panam­era mule and putting an Aventador V12 on an en­gine crane faster than you can say Sant’Agata Bolog­nese.

Quite sim­ply, if we are to talk sen­si­bly about this car, we need to park the die-hard en­thu­si­ast hurt. I feel it. I know many of you do, too. But Lam­borgh­ini’s cus­tomers – both cur­rent and those wait­ing in the wings – have spo­ken. They had the choice of a four-door saloon, pre­miered by the Es­toque con­cept in 2008, but they chose the SUV, and the rea­sons are straight­for­ward. In a world that gives the im­pres­sion of spi­ralling into con­flict and so­cial un­rest, the high net worth in­di­vid­u­als that form the Urus’s cus­tomer base want to feel safe. They want to look down on other road users, ei­ther for a lit­eral sense of su­pe­ri­or­ity, pos­si­bly, or more likely for that sub­con­scious feel­ing of se­cu­rity that look­ing down on the world brings. Many will be driven by women, with their chil­dren on board. They want use­ful lug­gage space, and five seats that are easy to ingress and egress.

These are not my words

– these are words di­rect from Lam­borgh­ini’s se­nior team; what its cus­tomers have told them they wanted, and ex­actly why.

So the chal­lenge has been to take such a ve­hi­cle, com­plete with all the en­gi­neer­ing com­pro­mises the SUV brings, and make it feel like a true Lam­borgh­ini. How do you do that? For Reg­giani it’s about mak­ing it un­equiv­o­cally the fastest SUV on the mar­ket, whether in a straight line, down a B-road, or around a cir­cuit – asphalt or rough – while re­tain­ing all those prac­ti­cal at­tributes. Not a small job, then.

The other key rea­son Lam­borgh­ini can do this is be­cause it is part of the VW Group, and that means, inevitably, plat­form shar­ing. A com­pany that sells only 3500 cars a year can’t hope to de­velop some­thing as ad­vanced as a lux­ury SUV, and that’s also why you’re un­likely to see an SUV wear­ing a McLaren badge any time soon. Urus sales will dou­ble Sant’Agata’s pro­duc­tion vol­ume, which is why Lam­borgh­ini has in­vested in dou­bling the square footage of its fac­tory and hir­ing 500 new staff. But it also re­moves a lit­tle of the mys­tique sur­round­ing the Urus, for its raw con­stituent parts are noth­ing if not pre­dictable.

It’s based on VW’s MLB-evo plat­form that un­der­pins cars such as the Porsche Cayenne and Audi SQ7, and its en­gine’s roots are res­o­lutely Teu­tonic. It’s the ubiq­ui­tous 4-litre twin-turbo V8, its twin-scroll tur­bines lo­cated within the vee for im­proved re­sponse and a bur­geon­ing torque curve that made it the only re­al­is­tic choice for a ve­hi­cle such as the Urus. Nev­er­the­less, Lam­borgh­ini has gone its own way with the V8 to achieve the fi­nal num­bers of 641bhp and 850Nm, de­vel­op­ing new cylin­der heads, cool­ing sys­tems, tur­bocharg­ers, camshafts and so on.


The V8 sends drive to the usual eight-speed torque­con­verter gear­box, but from there the Urus charts its own path. It soon be­comes clear that to meet its ob­jec­tives Lam­borgh­ini has had to pull all the toys out of the cup­board, from the four-wheel-steer set-up first em­ployed on the Aventador S (and a reg­u­lar on Porsches), to the ac­tive anti-roll bars (think Ben­tayga) and adap­tive air sus­pen­sion and vari­able damp­ing. Where it dif­fers to say, a Cayenne, is in the driv­e­train, be­cause the Urus fea­tures a Torsen dif­fer­en­tial at the cen­tre (not the Porsche’s ‘hang-on’ vis­cous clutch) with an ac­tive torque-vec­tor­ing diff on the rear axle. In num­bers, this means the Torsen runs at 40:60, front:rear, in a steady state, but can send up to 70 per cent to the front axle and 87 per cent to the rear, while up to 75 per cent of torque can go to ei­ther rear wheel.

With so many elec­tron­i­cally man­aged sys­tems, the key, as usual, is in­te­gra­tion. The driver can in­flu­ence this via the Tam­buro (that’s ‘drum’ in Ital­ian), a cylin­dri­cal-shaped col­lec­tion of levers and but­tons at the base of the cen­tre con­sole. On the left is the ANIMA (Adap­tive Net­work In­tel­li­gent Man­age­ment) switch, of­fer­ing the choice of Strada (road), Sport, Corsa (race) and Neve (snow), plus, op­tion­ally, Terra (gravel) and Sab­bia (sand). To the right are the ‘Ego’ but­tons for steer­ing, pow­er­train (en­gine and ’box) and damp­ing. Each of these has three set­tings – Smooth, Medium and Sport. You are ei­ther in one of the ANIMA modes, or mix­ing and match­ing your­self, not both. There are three ride-height lev­els, too.

At over 5 me­tres long, 2 me­tres wide and with a wheel­base of over 3 me­tres, the Urus is in­tim­i­dat­ingly large. But it’s also ob­vi­ous it sits lower than the tra­di­tional SUV (it’s wider, longer but lower than a Cayenne), an im­pres­sion bol­stered when you clam­ber aboard. Re­call­ing the Aventador S from the 4WD megat­est in evo 246, it seems im­pos­si­ble that the same com­pany now also makes this, such is the ramp-up in qual­ity and so­phis­ti­ca­tion. The broad cen­tre stack houses the lat­est flush-fit Audi-Porsche-style touch­screen, while ex­ten­sive use of leather and an Alcantara head­lin­ing cre­ate the re­quired lux­ury am­bi­ence. The driv­ing po­si­tion is most un-SUV­like in its sporti­ness, but a glance over the shoul­der shows there’s plenty of legroom re­gard­less of whether the three-seat bench or twin ad­justable rear seats are fit­ted, al­though the slop­ing roofline means that for those over six feet tall (me), head­room is a lit­tle tight.

Right, enough of the prac­ti­cal­i­ties: we drive the Urus at Val­lelunga cir­cuit first. Frus­trat­ingly, re­ally, for it’s ob­vi­ously of limited rel­e­vance, but Lam­borgh­ini is de­ter­mined for us to ex­pe­ri­ence what the car can do.

Quite sim­ply, it has cre­ated a mon­ster. A freak­ish ma­nip­u­la­tor of physics which, while you’d never take it to a track­day, would em­bar­rass many with its pace if you did. The ini­tial over­rid­ing sen­sa­tion is of ac­cel­er­a­tion: raw, un­end­ing for­ward thrust that grabs hold of 2.2 tons and forces it through the air with all the bovine strength the Urus name sug­gests. Gearchanges are crisp enough, and the brakes hold out – for a few laps of pun­ish­ment, at least. Just how long those calipers and discs – ten-pis­ton with 440mm car­bon-ce­ram­ics at the front – can last be­fore wilt­ing re­mains to be seen, but the fact they aren’t jud­der­ing by the sec­ond lap is some­thing of a mir­a­cle.

What you re­ally no­tice is the agility, the crisp­ness in how the Urus changes di­rec­tion. Yes, it is a oned­i­men­sional ex­pe­ri­ence, an ex­er­cise in re­straint and weight man­age­ment – over­com­mit to a corner and the out­side-front tyre makes that truck-rac­ing whur-whur­whur noise – but it’s hugely im­pres­sive all the same.

Fi­nally we’re let out onto the road, and the Urus feels in­her­ently right. The steer­ing is ef­fort­less but ut­terly ac­cu­rate, and with nicely lin­ear weight­ing. Switch­ing to a sportier set­ting in­duces more rear-steer ef­fect, vividly ramp­ing up the sense of agility. It can’t hide the width of the car, though: on nar­row lanes you’re

acutely aware that the Urus is tak­ing up an aw­ful lot of space, just as it feels even more po­tent now than it did on the wide-open spa­ces of the track.

What dis­ap­points is the ride qual­ity. All the ‘road route’ cars on the launch are shod with the op­tional 23inch rims and P Ze­ros (on track it was 22s with P Zero Cor­sas; for off-road it’ll be stan­dard 21s with Pirelli Verde Scor­pi­ons). These gi­ant al­loys give the Urus a Tonka toy-like visual qual­ity, but there’s a good chance the weight of the wheels and the mea­gre side­walls con­trib­ute to the knob­bly ride. The Urus’s over­all de­port­ment is re­laxed, but it’s ag­i­tated by pot­holes. True, the roads around Val­lelunga are un­remit­tingly aw­ful, but the air sus­pen­sion strug­gles to iso­late the cabin from the con­stant bat­ter­ing, too much noise and vi­bra­tion mak­ing its way through. This is a pity, for the Urus has the core el­e­ments to be a fine every­day or long-dis­tance com­pan­ion. How the car rides on smaller wheels re­mains to be seen.

And off-road? We’re of­fered a drive on some­thing re­sem­bling a ral­ly­cross track. It’s fun kick­ing up sand like a Dakar truck, but it doesn’t re­ally tell us much.

Cards-on-the-ta­ble time. As some­one pas­sion­ate about old 911s, flimsy hot hatch­backs and cars in gen­eral that re­ward at real-world speeds and on real roads, I am im­me­di­ately sus­pi­cious of the Urus. It is an en­gi­neer­ing con­jur­ing trick – the ap­pli­ca­tion of power and tech­nol­ogy to an­swer a ques­tion that pos­si­bly need not have been asked. But, I ad­mire it be­cause rel­a­tive to the brief, Lam­borgh­ini has done a very de­cent job.

Where Bent­ley has strug­gled with the Ben­tayga, which doesn’t ride as it should given its lean­ing to­wards lux­ury and com­fort, and seems poorly pack­aged for space, Lam­borgh­ini has come much closer to nail­ing its ob­jec­tive, blend­ing many dif­fer­ent at­tributes un­der a Lambo-like skin. If the Urus does ride bet­ter on smaller wheels, it de­serves to suc­ceed. But given the first two years of pro­duc­tion are al­ready sold out, there no doubt that it al­ready has. ⌧ ‘We wanted to have the fastest SUV. I think you will be im­pressed with the car on the track. You will also see the off-road course we have here at the launch. It is gravel. My in­ter­pre­ta­tion is this – speed on gravel, not off-road like a Land Rover!

‘We can choose what we need from within the group – the tech­nolo­gies that en­able us to re­alise the per­for­mance we need. The V8 en­gine was the only en­gine choice we could make, for ex­am­ple, be­cause you need the torque avail­able at very low rpm. How­ever, while we work within the plat­form, if any­one [brands within the VW Group] wants some­thing spe­cific, such as we need with the cool­ing of the en­gine – oil, wa­ter and the gear­box – then we can take re­spon­si­bil­ity for this.

‘It’s the same with the en­gine: we have de­vel­oped at Lam­borgh­ini a new in­take man­i­fold, cylin­der head, camshafts, air fil­ter, new twin-scroll tur­bos and the ex­haust sys­tem. It is a Lam­borgh­ini en­gine. The sound is very im­por­tant with a Lam­borgh­ini, but with a tur­bocharged en­gine you lose the sound, so we have a res­onator in the ex­haust to take the har­mon­ics and sound into the cabin.

‘To de­velop the car we have taken on many more en­gi­neers. When I started at Lam­borgh­ini [in 1998] we had maybe 40, 50 en­gi­neers at the time of the Mur­ciélago, whereas now we have hun­dreds – and this is to re­alise the Urus. We have tested the ve­hi­cle all over the world. Yes, we have tested it at the Nür­bur­gring, where we have had a big de­vel­op­ment with the tyres: there are so many types of bumps, sur­faces, cor­ners and high-speed sec­tions, it is so much eas­ier there. I said dur­ing de­vel­op­ment that the Urus would set the fastest time, but yes, at the mo­ment there is not so much com­pe­ti­tion in this class.’

Above left: ‘Tam­buro’ of­fers a myr­iad of driver set­tings. Left: Urus feels big on pub­lic roads. Be­low left: In­te­rior is a step-up in qual­ity and so­phis­ti­ca­tion over other Lam­borgh­i­nis’

Above left: Plenty of room in the rear. Left: Urus man­ages its 2.2 tons sur­pris­ingly well. Be­low left: Op­tional 23-inch rims don’t help the ride qual­ity

Lam­borgh­ini Urus En­gine V8, 3996cc, twin-turbo Power 641bhp @ 6000rpm Torque 850Nm @ 2250-4500rpm Weight 2200kg (296bhp/ton) 0-100kmph 3.6sec (claimed) Top speed 306kmph (claimed) Price `3 crore (ex-show­room In­dia)evo rat­ing ★★★★ 2

Chief en­gi­neer Mau­r­izio Reg­giani on re­al­is­ing the Urus

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