Forget what you thought “SUV” meant. It’s time to welcome the world’s first “Super Sports Utility Vehicle.”
Mention the Lamborghini V12 engine to a group of car enthusiasts, and you will likely get a myriad of replies ranging from the soundtrack of this engine in the orange Miura in The Italian Job movie, to the fact that a highly developed version of the same basic motor is still used in today’s Aventador S. Less people will tell you that this iconic V12 motor is versatile enough to have powered sleek hulls to podium places in offshore powerboat racing, and was also the motive power behind the tough looking LM002 off-roader of the 1970s.
The LM002’s distinctly military bearing comes from the fact that it was originally developed for that use, but the contract was cancelled. Rather than waste all that work, Lamborghini decided to release a civilian version for wealthy people who wanted to make a very big statement. It would probably not be wrong to say that many year later this line of thinking might even have given Arnold Schwarzenegger the idea of converting a US Army surplus Hummer H1 for civilian use. Fast forward to December 2017 and the second Lamborghini 4x4 is nothing like its spiritual ancestor.
Long and relatively low for an SUV, with plenty of the disruptive angular lines that form Lamborghini’s signature styling cues, welcome the URUS, the world’s first Super Sports Utility Vehicle, or SSUV as Lamborghini are calling it. Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s R&D Director explained that the main difficulty his team faced with the whole concept was the height and weight of this vehicle type, which is at odds with the super sports cars the Sant’Agata-based company normally produce. “An SUV is so different a vehicle from anything we have made in recent years, but we knew that the final result must be steeped in the Lamborghini DNA and so be fast and good to drive,” he says.
“At the same time, as it is the first ever practical family car made by us, it had to be comfortable over distance.” While 4WD is no stranger to Lamborghini, being part and parcel of both the Huracán and Aventador specifications, the range of talent of the system for the Urus had to be very much broader. In the end this encompasses settings for sand, and low grip surfaces like snow and ice as well as the normal use of all-wheel-drive to enhance grip in high performance driving on road and track. The engineers took their usual spiders web diagrams, looked at where the respective charts for the top level SUVs and super sports cars overlapped, and then extended the brief from there.
The result is a very imposing and head turning design that looks spectacular in yellow, classy in metallic blue, and rather understated in grey. The first front-engined Lamborghini since the LM002 and the Espada, its nose treatment with big air intakes both mirrors the shape of the Aventador nose at bonnet level, while showing just how much cooling air the powerful twin-turbo V8 motor requires. Even if you strip away the styling lines you are still left with a dashing form that mimics a wild animal with muscular rear haunches that looks ready to spring into action.
The rear treatment is arguably a bit fussy, but the designers have a done a good job in minimizing the visual bulk of the rear by giving the underbody diffuser a silver finish that matches the four exhaust tail-pipes. “The heart of every Lamborghini is its engine,” Maurizio explained. “In this case we needed a lot of torque to move the car effortlessly on and off-road, so there was no way our high revving V10 or V12 sports car motors could be adapted. The first ever turbocharged motor in the history of Lamborghini, the Audi derived 4.0 liter bi-turbo V8 is specifically tuned for the Urus and delivers 650 hp, with 480 lb ft (650 Nm) of torque.” That incidentally, gives it a specific output of 162.5 hp per liter.
For maximum smoothness and tractability in everyday use this powerhouse motor sends its output to all four wheels through an eight-speed torque convertor automatic gearbox. The 4WD system uses a centre torque-sensing differential, and handling is enhanced with an electronically controlled torque vectoring system that sends power to the axle and wheels with the best traction. “To guarantee maximum comfort and ground clearance over all terrain and speed variations air suspension was the logical choice,” Maurizio continued. “This gives us the ability to drop the ride height at speed for best handling and aerodynamic efficiency on road or track, and raise the ride height for off-road use where necessary.”
The other chassis trick that Lamborghini has embraced as seen by the Aventador S and now the Urus, is rear-wheel-steering. In this case, the Urus, which already has a long wheelbase for good interior space and stability gains low speed agility with an effective shortening of 50 cm in low speed maneuvers, and gains extra stability at speed through an effective lengthening of its wheelbase by the same amount. A car of this size and image needs big wheels, and Lamborghini developed the Urus with 21-inch diameter wheels in mind as the standard footwear. The factory option of up to 23-inch wheels should keep the SoCal boys happy.
The ceramic brakes behind those big wheels are equally impressive. The largest brakes ever to grace a production car, these huge vented discs measure 440 mm in front and 370 mm at the rear. And the brakes need to be large because the Urus is a seriously quick car. The stopwatch numbers the factory quotes are 0-62 mph in 3.6 sec and 0-124 mph in 12.8 sec with a top speed of 191 mph, making it the fastest production SUV. Thanks to its long and low roofline the cabin of the Urus is best described as cozy. The driving position is excellent, with the adjustable steering column and electric seats allowing most people to quickly find the ideal driving position.
The seats themselves are comfortable and supportive although we will have to wait until we drive the Urus next year to get a feel for how this works as a set with the air suspension and big wheels. The view of the dashboard could not be more Lamborghini with the angular binnacle and dashboard treatment. That said we see a lot of Audi in the new touchscreens on the centre console, and it is easy to see where the hardware for the infotainment system, down to the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system comes from. Legroom in the back is good for people of average height as is headroom, and even if you are over six feet tall, headroom in the rear is better than it looks from the outside.
From this first look, build quality seems fine and the doors close with a solid thunk and the fit and finish of the door trims and dashboard appear solid and well anchored. The Audi influence helps here as well as the pride of the factory staff, who lined up on stage as the new car was presented to the press, dealers and VIP guests this evening. Just how important the Urus is was shown by the presence of the Italian Prime Minister, Paulo Gentiloni, who made an emotional speech outlining his sense of national pride in Lamborghini, the new factory, and all the people who work there.
On that score, the brand new factory where the Urus is built took 18 months to build and covers 80,000 square meters. We were told that it has the capacity to produce up to 3,500 cars a year, a number that Lamborghini hopes will be made up of both existing Lamborghini owners and many conquest sales.