Unearthing The First Ever Super SUV In Rome, Italy
Lamborghini have been planning for a third model line for a long time. Back in the 1970’s, the Italian marque dabbled with the idea of an off-road vehicle called the Cheetah which evolved into the LM001 and finally the LM002. ‘LM’ stands for ‘Lamborghini Militaria’ because the vehicle concept was developed with an interest to secure an order from the US Military. While that arrangement did not take off, Lamborghini still decided to repurpose the LM002 for civilian use and managed to sell a total of 300 between the lat 80’s and the early 90’s.
After the LM002 interest in the four door SUV project disappeared until the latest owners, VW-Audi became interested in exploring the rapidly growing SUV market. Even then the Urus project was held back almost immediately after announcing the go-ahead. Finally though, the burgeoning SUV market convinced the big brass that they had no choice but to go ahead.Without the ability to leverage off the VW-Audi empire, the Urus project would certainly have not come to pass beyond the concept stage. This is how and why if studied closely, you’ll see how the the platform of the Urus comes from the same one that goes into the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley’s Bentayga.
To ensure that it stayed true to Lamborghini’s heritage, they had to infuse it with the Italian marque’s DNA and the easiest way to begin this was in the way this SUV was styled. Lamborghini’s new designer Mitja Borkret, formerly of Porsche, was given the reins on this project which was already in the pipeline. His keen eye distilled the essence of Lamborghini’s styling DNA and transferred it to the Urus.
Right off the bat from my experience with the Urus in Italy, I can tell you that it is one of the bigger SUVs around, with a 3003mm wheelbase but, it looks deceptively compact as if it was meant to be the polar opposite of the Bentayga. Its sharp, sporty looks certainly sets it apart from the maddening SUV crowd. The Urus looks muscular and menacing in equal proportions, all hinting at a trademark, exciting Lamborghini drive.
The interior of the Urus is quite interesting. A spruced up interior of a military vehicle may have been acceptable back then but today’s buyers want something more luxurious. Lamborghini may not be familiar with this sort of pampering but they are learning quickly. The theme they chose was a aircraft cockpit and it is not that too far fetched.
Like current Lamborghinis the engine-start button looks like it comes from a fighter aircraft and the generous sprinkling of switches make it look as if Boeing had a hand in designing it. The industrial look is quite a good fit in a SUV that can do 305 km/h.
Still, as an SUV platform, its interior has a lot of potential to be further developed. It does have all the necessary appointments where you’d expect them but overall, kudos to Lamborghini for a great first-time effort in blending luxury with sportiness with this Urus interior.
Where the most important thing is concerned with regards to the Urus, Lamborghini had to find reliable engineering solutions to enable a SUV to behave like a super sports car. To be able to make a 2197 kg behemoth perform like a 1500 kg supercar was going to take some serious horsepower. The new V8 uses turbocharging, a first for Lamborghini and from just 4.0-litres the engineers have managed to extract 650 hp and 850 Nm or torque. Thanks to the all wheel drive, the traction during take-off is massive and this behemoth claws its way to 100 km/h in an impressive 3.6 seconds and reaches a top speed of 305 km/h making this not just the quickest but also the fastest SUV around.
It uses the ZF8HP automatic transmission and a Torsen center differential with an active torque vectoring rear differential to shuffle the torque around to get optimum performance. Lamborghini simplifies this bewildering array of hardware by introducing the ‘Tamburo’ or Lamborghini Dynamics control, which simply is a set of ANIMA (Adaptive Network Intelligent Management) driving modes for Strada (default/normal), Sport and Corsa. And of course, there additional SUV-centric driving modes, such as Neve (snow), Terra (off-road) and Sabbia (sand). Just select the correct mode via a lever on the center console next to the start button and the ANIMA takes care of integrating hardware and software to get the desired result. One’s favourite settings can be stored under the EGO button for immediate recall when desired.
Where our road test section was only good enough to see how it behaves in heavy traffic and on poorly surfaced roads, the track exercise at Vallelunga Circuit was definitely organised to prove a point. The ZF automatic is the perfect solution here delivering smooth, decisive shifts and it dawned upon us, that it also functioned superbly during our track session as well. Even equipped with the 23-inch wheels and the new Pirelli P-Zero tyres, the ride in Strada mode is more than acceptable.
As a testament of their confidence, Lamborghini arranged a track drive just like the Performante and Aventador S before this. I doubt many owners will be doing this to their Urus but to prove a point and perhaps provide a safe area where we could push the Urus to its considerable limits, the Vallelunga circuit was just perfect. All three road modes, Strada, Sport and Corsa could be tested fully to see what each brings. The Strada is the most comfortable but is the most inept on the track where there is too much restraint from the electronic nanny. Moreover the gearbox refused to find the correct gears for the corners. Sport is more interesting because the suspension is lower and it now shifts correctly as you begin braking for the corners. It also has the loosest stability settings to allow the driver to play with the Urus’ handling in relative safety.
Corsa is my favourite setting. Once you click to Corsa the engine note hardens even more than in Sport and the Urus becomes more positive in its response and more serious in its behaviour. Corsa tightens the reins compared to Sport and has the stiffest suspension and damper settings. The electronic nanny keeps the car closer to neutral and does not allow much deviation from the ideal handling, ensuring the quickest lap possible. Lap after lap, with braking from over 200 km/h, the brakes felt as fresh as the first lap, thanks to the stamina of the huge carbon-ceramic brakes.
The Urus also uses an active anti roll system that will resist roll during cornering but disengage when going straight to deliver good ride comfort or maximize traction when encountering bumpy, uneven surfaces so that the suspension can travel freely and independently.The Urus is also equipped with rear wheel steering (Lamborghini Rear-wheel Steering or LRS) that can vary the angle of the rears up to +/- 3.0 degrees. At low speeds it will countersteer (opposite to fronts) by 3 degrees to reduce its turning circle. At higher speeds it steers in-phase with the fronts to create the effect of a longer wheelbase which improves stability.
For our off-road adventure with the Urus, we had expected the usual water filled ditches and artificially sculpted rugged terrain but Lamborghini just laid out a fast, autocross-like circuit on the side of the hill next to Vallelunga circuit and we were let loose for two laps. Very brave and unusual for a launch but much appreciated for being different from the boring sub-10 km/h courses that are meant to be a test of a car’s off road capability.
Of course that might be hiding the fact that the Urus might not be a Land Rover Defender when it comes to extreme ground crossing ability but which owner in his right mind would be subjecting his precious Lamborghini to such abuse? We did it so that you would not have to.
To morph an Aventador into the form of a SUV was probably the most difficult part of the development of the Urus, but I must say that the Urus is commendable. It looks a lot better than we expected and while we might be a tad disappointed that it did not come with a V10 engine, the turbo V8 makes up for it anyway. It really does feel and make this large SUV behave like a SSUV (Super SUV) as Lamborghini claims. But in all objectivity, finally, there is an “affordable” Lamborghini that can ferry the whole family to the country club and is still exhilarating enough that you would not be yearning for the supercar back at home.