► On track and off road in Urus SUV
► First drive in pre-production car
► First impressions? Very promising
This isn’t the first Lamborghini SUV. But where the 1986-1993 LM002 ‘Rambo Lambo’ was a crazy one-off funded by firm orders from the Middle East, the new Lamborghini Urus is a car with a sound business case in a growing segment.
Its angular headlights are trained directly on the likes of the Range Rover Sport SVR, BMW X6M, Mercedes G65 AMG, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
We’ve been for a drive in the still-disguised pre-production Urus at Nardo, the Italian test track owned by Porsche since 2012. Here are a few things we learned…
1) It has the stats to win any game of Top Trumps
Namely, 641bhp and 627lb ft, and 0-62mph in under 3.7sec (that’s the official PR version; 3.35sec is what the digital in-dash read-out tells me).
Yes, that’s on the grippiest piece of tarmac in the Roman empire, and in perfect weather. But, hey, 3.35sec is even quicker than a Huracan and only half a second slower than the Aventador.
Top speed is at least 188mph, which speaks volumes for its aerodynamic efficiency, the work of Filippo Perini (who has since moved on to Italdesign). The ground-effect body is virtually immune to axle lift at any speed.
The new Cayenne Turbo can do 0-62mph in 3.9sec. Its top speed is 179mph. Impressive numbers, but the Urus shreds them.
For now, there’s no choice in terms of engine or equipment pack, but there is a V6 plug-in hybrid in the works for China, and we also expect a lighter Performante version rated at 700bhp-plus.
2) It borrows bits from the Bentayga, but still feels like a Lamborghini
Urus uses the VW Group’s MLB evo architecture, but a major part of the development work has been focused on making it look, feel and sound like a Lamborghini.
The most obvious difference between the Lamborghini and its German siblings is the extended wheelbase it shares with the Bentley Bentayga. But while Bentley’s goal was to create more cabin space, the Italians put an emphasis on enhanced directional stability at speed, be it on a long straight or through fast sweepers.
It spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel, and wears more drag-cutting and downforce-increasing addenda than a NASCAR racer. But instead of opting for adaptive aerodynamics, the R&D team under Maurizio Reggiani saved weight by fitting a battery of spoilers, splitters and diffusers in fixed positions. It’s seriously effective, with an unfortunate side effect of reducing the rear view to a narrow slit.
Part of the package is a 48 volt system which powers the fully adjustable anti-roll bars along with the air conditioning. Another item included in the list price (expected to start just below the Huracan) are huge 430mm carbon-ceramic brake discs. Completing the high-tech DNA is the adaptive air suspension and the rear-wheel steering. The maximum steering angle of 3deg reduces the turning circle by 0.6 metres while extending the virtual wheelbase at speed by one foot.
3) The interior’s still hexagon-crazy (or bits of it are, anyway)
The dashboard is a busy blend of trademark hexagonal air vents, the usual carbonfibre and leather treatment, and loud instrument graphics which glow red in Corsa mode.
Despite the sloping coupé roof – optionally made of carbonfibre – there’s plenty of head- and legroom. But oddly, given Lamborghini’s experience with cocooning cabins, the standard front seats lack support in just about every direction.
4) It feels as fast as a Huracan
There is no doubt about it: this is a high-roof sports car with four doors and four seats. A look at the official Nardo lap times proves the point: on the handling circuit, the Urus is every bit as fast as the Huracan.
In our drive the digital speedo briefly read 250km/h (155mph) at the end of the long straight, after drifting through a fast fourth-gear right-hander. Although it’s eager to rev, the 4.0-litre V8 cuts out a nanosecond before the analogue read-out in the head-up display hits the limiter. The eight-speed automatic is correctly spaced, but even in the more sporting drive mode it shifts up more leisurely and smoothly than the sequential wham-bang box fitted to the sports cars.
This remarkable achievement required plenty of extra work in the chassis department. The all-wheel-drive system uses a Torsen centre differential for a wide front-to-rear torque split range and a mechanical rear diff lock for a subtle left-right distribution. In other words, there is no brake-induced torque vectoring like in the Cayenne, and no conventional self-locking centre diff.
Two thirds through the morning, a 575bhp BMW X6M joins the fray – and isn’t flattered by the comparison. Introduced by Reggiani as ‘our emotional reference car’, the BMW seems twitchy, short of grunt, leans and rolls too much, quickly develops serious grip problems, and spins its wheels too readily when the stability control is set in S in Sport. It also runs out of brakes after only two laps, by which time the Lambos have cleared off into the distance. True, the soon-coming Cayenne Turbo S would doubtless have put up a fiercer fight, but hard to imagine it beating the Urus for all-round dynamic ability.
While the Cayenne is more chuckable and playful, the Urus is firmly anchored and yet totally agile.
5) It’s fast off-road, too
We also tried the Urus on the Nardo off-road piste. The surface is a mix of sand and sealed gravel, admittedly without any serious climbs nor descents, deep ruts nor potholes
We’re still on road tyres, ESC is fully active, and I’m advised to use only the bottom three gears. A Cayenne prototype did surprisingly well in similar conditions, but the Urus is even faster as well as more composed.
6) It’s not perfect
Complaints? I already mentioned the unsupportive seats and the over-leisurely eight-speed auto ’box, and I’m going to add to the list the mildly irritating front-end pitch through very fast corners, the not exactly superfast tip-in, the generous measure of brake dive and acceleration squat, the messy ergonomics and the puerile exhaust note in Corsa. And the brawny 4.0-litre V8 is of course in no way as special as Lamborghini’s charismatic naturally aspirated V10.
7) It’s been a long time coming
The Urus took almost 10 years to materialise because Lamborghini kept proposing alternative projects like the new Miura, an Espada replacement and the four-door Estoque.
It considered V10 and even V12 engines for the Urus, and even had a V8 with a desmodromic valvetrain and a 13,000rpm redline in the works. But in the end, it was synergies, easy evolution and masses of low to mid-range torque that favoured the 4.0-litre engine twin-turbo V8 (although the hybrid will use a 2.9-litre V6).
The car would have been even more radical had Audi freed the funds. As it is, it’s quite close in performance to the upcoming Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and to the next BMW X6M. But there is, potentially, much more to come: a hot Performante version, hotter Competizione, knobblier Fuoristrada and greener Elettrica…
Lamborghini expects the Urus to find 3500 customers a year, thus doubling the marque’s sales and giving it a useful presence in the most profitable segment of a booming market. Some of those sales will be on the strength of its image, but the Urus is actually a splendid motor car.
It can do things no other SUV would even attempt to achieve – at least, not until Ferrari’s SUV arrives – and it does so with the rare pace and agility previously only available in Lamborghini’s cramped and compromised coupé-shaped packages.
The Urus has many talents, but its key assets are the totally involving handling and the raw sports car-like performance all the way to the limit.