Lamborghini Urus: Driven

Do you hear that? "That, Mr Anderson, is the sound of inevitability." In the motoring matrix, inevitability sounds like a twin-turbocharged V8 engine, sitting in the front of an SUV, that's wearing a Lamborghini badge on its nose. Everybody wants a 4x4, so Lamborghini, original purveyor of the world's wildest mid-engined supercars, has given them one.

Here, then, is the Urus, and here's a man talking about it. He's Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini's chief technical officer, who only 12 hours earlier was telling me that the day Lamborghini ceased to make a naturally aspirated engine is a day he would no longer be working at the company. "The trunk can fit two golf bags, easily," he's now announcing. I might be paraphrasing slightly: I was quite taken aback by it at the time. Reggiani is the company's lead engineer, the man at the core of everything Lamborghini currently does, which has, until now, been making some of the most outrageous cars in the world. Non-hybrid, non-turbo supercars like the Aventador SV and the Huracan Performante that use their weight advantage to be amongst the fastest road cars in the world around many, many race tracks.

And now a 2.2-tonne SUV with a turbocharged V8. Funny. I thought the Audi RS6 a couple of generations or so ago would be the apogee of heavy metal. That in future we'd look back on those times as the pinnacle of conspicuous consumption. But no, here's a car so consumptive, so outrageously controversial, a splitter of opinions to the extent that, ah... it'll likely double Lamborghini's sales, to 7,000 cars a year.

You know the score, then. Blah-blah, VW Group's MLB Evo architecture, blah, which means that, underneath, there are big similarities to a Porsche Cayenne or Bentley Bentayga. There are air springs that give an adjustable ride height. The engine is a 4.0-litre unit tuned to 650hp at 6,000rpm and 626lb ft (from only 2,250rpm). It drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox which, usually, puts 60 per cent of torque to the rear, but there's a Torsen centre differential which can allow 83 per cent of power to the back (or 75 per cent to the front; not at the same time, obvs). There's also a torque-vectoring rear differential, which can apportion 75 per cent of rear axle torque to either back wheel - most likely an outer one in hard cornering, to help trim the Urus's line.

"This is the only SUV within the VW group to combine all of those things," says Reggiani, without notable disappointment that this is what differentiates a Lamborghini from a Porsche from a Bentley from a Volkswagen from an Audi. It's presumably a bit easier to say "you'll tell our sports car from VW's by the fact that we've got a V12 in the middle of it", but such is 2018: they've got 16.4 million Instagram followers and some of them are in the market for an expensive 4x4.

I suppose it would be cooler if it had a V12 but, well, today you can't have one. Unlike when Lamborghini put one in the LM002 and kind-of invented the super sports luxury SUV segment (or so it now claims, though I'm not sure it necessarily realised it at the time, because it packed in the endeavour after only a few hundred were sold, what with no militaries being particularly interested in a vehicle that would end up with the option of a 400-litre fuel tank).

The problem is that these kinds of cars thrive on torque, which means you want turbos, and there's the whole issue that this platform/architecture/whatever wasn't created with the V10 or V12 in mind anyway. Would one fit? It doesn't look like it to me. Lamborghini's most visually disappointing engine sits in front of the axle line beneath a plastic cover that, frankly, could have come from anybody, and there ain't a lot of free space around it.

Outside, mind, some Lamborghini cues are there. You decide whether you like 'em or not but to my eyes the Urus looks better than the first-gen Porsche Cayenne did, and that car's visuals did it no apparent harm. There are frameless windows, and some cleverer mixed metal use in the body-in-white than in other MLB Evo cars, hence the kerbweight of 'only' 2,197kg. All of which means the DNA is retained, they say. Honest, they say. It's special, they say. Let's see.

Lamborghini's least visually exciting engine is also its least aurally exciting engine. Turbochargers don't do a lot for the acoustics of many cars, so here they've used some symposing whatnot to amplify the induction noise, reminding you it's a V8. Which it does, with slightly artificial overtones, brazenly so if you turn the drive modes into their more aggressive settings, of which there are six.

In any, though, it gets a flipping move on. The stats say the Urus can hit 62mph in 3.6 seconds and 124mph in 12.8, and if anything it feels even more urgent than that. There's not much lag in an engine that feels racier than the gearbox it's mated too, and yet if you ask it just to mooch, it'll do that too. I drove it on track, on the road, and off-road (which more resembled a rally stage than a tradition off-road course), and in all of its drive modes. The engine is the most exciting to make it into any of these SUVs. But is the least exciting to make it into a Lamborghini.

Reggiani says that the target for the Urus was to be "the best handling car in its class" and, when it comes to SUV ability, to be "within the best class". A pretty broad remit, perhaps as challenging to hit as Bentley's aim with the Bentayga. Shorn of the need to be quite so luxurious as that car, though, and using the active anti-roll bars that the Bentley and Audi SQ7 employ to considerable effect, the Urus contains its body movements extremely well.

On a circuit, where you'd want Corsa (track) or Sport (self-explanatory) drive modes - both of which lower the ride height from 173 to 158mm - there's notable but not excess body roll, but that's fine, because it gives a natural something to lean against. Trademark rapid steering that weights up unnaturally quickly off straight ahead doesn't give a great deal back, but there's considerable agility; a bit of understeer if you're ambitious with your entry speed, a willingness to trim its line as you get on the power on the way out. Is it fast? Ridiculously so. Do the standard carbon-ceramic brakes (440mm with 10-piston calipers at the front, 370mm at the rear) cope? With four laps, no bother. Is it on hooky tyres? Pirelli P Zeroes are standard, with Corsas and off-road tyres an option, albeit not all variants and not on all sizes of wheel, which are from 21- to 23-inches. Is it fun? Hmm. Well. It's surprising on track but it's obviously not a track day car. But driving it well you'd be entertained by the absurdity of flying up to the back of a 718 Cayman and breezing past it down the next straight.

It has to do this stuff. That's essential. On the road, though, is where that character needs to meet daily-driver ability, which it does. On 23-inch wheels and 30-profile rubber, this isn't a car that rides as plushly as you'd expect a 4x4 to, but while it jiggles and fidgets, it doesn't blur into discomfort. And besides, the interior is terrifically well-finished. You can have a four- or five-seat interior, though all the variants I've tried were four-seaters, with lovely leather, and a mix inside of flamboyant Lamborghini touches, only occasionally too plasticky, and elsewhere VW group ergonomics, which are generally first rate. On the road the steering is quick but not hyperactive, the engine fulsome, gear shift smooth, brake feel steady. You can forget the power and the numbers: this is as easy to use as any big 4x4, which means it's very easy until you come to park its 5,112mm length and 2,016mm width (excluding mirrors).

And off-road? Well, there are three modes which raise the ride height by 40mm to 213mm (or to 248mm at a crawl) but I can't tell you much about articulation or how it wades or goes over moguls. I can say it's a riot on what's effectively a short low-grip handling course dug into a hillside: the sort of course for which you'd ideally choose something like a MkII Escort. But it turns well, if you don't push the front too wide on the way in, and because that torque arrives so quickly, and the differential apportions power so deftly, it's a bit of a hoot on the way out of bends. If you're into snow driving or sand dunes, I suspect it'll be terrific fun.

So there we are. An ugly Lamborghini that was driven by marketing, needs artificial noise enhancement, seats five, weighs 2.2 tonnes, tries to be 'sporty' despite offering up to 248mm of ground clearance, has split-fold rear seats, fits two golf bags and yet still somehow thinks it's worthy of having that badge on its nose. It's everything I hate. And I like it.


Engine: 3,996cc V8, twin-turbo petrol
Power (hp): 650@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 626@2,250-4,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Top speed: 190mph
Weight: 2,197kg
MPG: 23
CO2: 279g/km
Price: £164,950














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Comments (279) Join the discussion on the forum

  • alpha channel 20 Apr 2018

    I rather like that, would I buy one if I could afford one? not for myself but then my automotive proclivity lies in low down coupes. As a family car (based on a lottery win) then it's head and shoulders above the same kind of vehicle from the likes of Porsche, Range Rover, et al. Should be interesting to see what Lotus come out with.

  • kambites 20 Apr 2018

    Good or not, that makes the Ssangyong Rodius look like a resolved, pleasing design.

  • sidesauce 20 Apr 2018

    This is gonna sell and sell well. I can't wait for all the disparaging comments on here...

  • smarty156 20 Apr 2018

    That is a hideous looking vehicle, especially from the front.

  • Puddenchucker 20 Apr 2018

    I like it.

    I also think the styling works better because, unlike Porsche (Cayenne) and Bentley (Bentayga), they haven't tried to graft the look/styling of their existing, smaller, lower cars on to a hulking great SUV.
    (But they have kept some familiar/family traits, such as octagonal "mesh" grille).

    Edited by Puddenchucker on Friday 20th April 18:42

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