Sant’Agata grabs the SUV segment by the horns. Yes, we finally test the Lamborghini Urus...
Named after the large, wild ancestor of domestic cattle sharing a striking resemblance to a modern-day fighting bull, it’s not surprising Lamborghini would eventually be tempted into the lucrative SUV segment with the raised-body Urus. Given the breadth of expertise and hardware at its disposal via the Volkswagen AG family, it’s intriguing just how much of the brand’s proud supercar heritage could be transferred into this application.
It’s built on the group’s MLBevo platform (underpinning the Audi Q7/Q8, Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg) and the brief set out by the engineering department at Lamborghini’s home of Sant’Agata Bolognese was to create a focused and lightweight package harnessing all that is adored about the Italian brand. All this while offering enough versatility and practicality to tempt existing owners with another Raging Bull product, where they may previously have shopped elsewhere.
Unmistakably Lamborghini in its design, the best point of comparison when it comes to the Urus’ coupé-like stance is arguably its Audi Q8 cousin. The Italian model may seem the more compact with its sharp crease lines and suitably aggressive detailing but the Urus is 127 mm longer and 22 mm wider than the Audi with which it shares a platform. A longer wheelbase (by 7 mm) and 67 mm lower roofline indicate performance-driven intent compared with the Q8 (the RS version is on its way).
As with the Huracán and Aventador, Lamborghini’s third showroom model is better for the influence of German engineering within its cabin layout and switchgear. Shared componentry inside the Urus is more obvious than on the two supercars yet, as with the exterior design, it’s refreshing to see the Italian brand has maintained its exuberant identity. This includes an Alcantara-clad parcel shelf in the 400-litre luggage bay and the incorporation of the brand’s trademark hexagonal design motif on the air vents and trim accents, and within the menus of the (haptic) touchscreen-based infotainment system.
The Urus’s transmission paddles are attached to the beautifully crafted steering wheel instead of fixed to the column – as widely decreed by Italian automakers – and this will surely have ruffled a few boardroom feathers. However, other elements of the switchgear remain true to their maker, like a slightly clumsy tamburo (drum) drive-mode selector that curiously allows only one-way scrolling through strada, sport, corsa and neve (snow) drivetrain configurations. An optional off-road package adds sabbia (sand) and terra (off-road) modes to this menu, while a supplementary ego (custom) switch permits a customised mix of steering, dampers and all-wheel-drive settings.
From a supremely comfortable and supportive driver’s seat, the raised shoulder line and relatively narrow glasshouse give the impression of sitting snug within a vehicle built by a supercar maker, rather than a raised-ride SUV. The downside is rearward visibility is compromised. Rear passengers, as comfortable as they may be, would feel more claustrophobic in the Lamborghini than in, say, a Porsche Cayenne.
All five occupants in the Urus will have Porsche to thank for the blistering performance on hand. Mated with a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission, the first turbocharged Lamborghini is fitted a version of the Group’s twin-turbo aluminium 4,0-litre V8 engine. Both the forthcoming Audi RS6 Avant and RS Q8 will feature this same unit but, in the Urus, the wick has been turned up to the tune of 478 kW and a massive 850 N.m of torque between 2 250 and 4 500 r/min (the Audis will offer 441 kW and 800 N.m). In the interest of emissions, this engine features cylinder deactivation under a light load.
Under normal driving conditions, torque is delivered to all corners in a 40:60 front to rear split via a Torsen central differential. Increase the pace and as much as 87% of available torque can be directed to the rear, with up to 70% sent forward as grip levels dictate.
Ironically, it’s usually models from Porsche that match their makers’ claimed 0-100 km/h sprint times on our test strip. With its Stuttgart-sourced powertrain, the 2 304 kg Urus managed a 0-100 km/h launch of just 3,64 seconds. Equally impressive are the overtaking acceleration figures which would embarrass a broad selection of supercars less than a decade old; it powered from 60 to 120 km/h in just 3,05 seconds.
The accompanying (broadly synthesised) soundtrack at full taps induces a smile but it’s not as spine-tingling as the brand’s two naturally aspirated offerings. Fitted with massive 440 mm ventilated carbon-ceramic brake discs up front and 370 mm units at the rear, the Urus dug in its hooves from 100-0 km/h in just 2,66 seconds (an average of 10 stops).
True to its dramatic, unapologetic styling, even the default (strada) setting on the air-sprung dampers offers a firmness that serves as a reminder you are driving a Lamborghini, after all. Acceptably compliant, nonetheless, this ride can be firmed (with the ride height lowering accordingly) through sport or corsa driving modes, or via smooth, medium or sportive settings in the ego configurator.
Via active anti-roll bars and active torque vectoring, the Urus once again defies its mass and raised centre of gravity by maintaining astonishing balance and cornering precision at speeds that would challenge the poise of most modern hot hatches. It’s the quick reaction of the Urus’ electrically assisted steering system that heightens the sense of occasion. Offering a convincing easy-going setting in the Lamborghini, it’s rather the standard fitment of all-wheel-steering in the Urus that keeps its driver alert. The system can virtually lengthen or shorten the wheelbase by up to 600 mm (by moving around three degrees) and works wonders when pushing on. Yet, it adds a level of sensitivity at lower speeds which takes a little getting used to.
The arrival of the Urus has had a positive effect on Lamborghini’s balance sheet, as the Cayenne and Bentayga did for their respective makers. The Urus accounted for 4 962 of the brand’s 8 205 sales in 2019 delivered via a factory floor that’s doubled in size since the introduction of an SUV.
Volume and corresponding profit can only mean good things for all future Lamborghini products – low-slung or otherwise – but what’s most impressive about the Urus is that despite its shared underpinnings, the final product is as close to a true Lamborghini as possible.
It’s an endorsement of both Sant’Agata Bolognese and Volkswagen AG’s skills that a model like the Urus has been afforded a persona, performance and dynamic ability not easily confused with anything else currently offered by the group.
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