For those who do not remember, the first ever Lamborghini 4x4, the LM002 was a larger than life off-road vehicle evolved out of the cancelled military Cheetah project of 1977. Just 328 were built between 1986 and 1993.
The Lamborghini Urus is the world’s first Super Sports Utility Vehicle (SSUV), and looks nothing like its spiritual ancestor. The Urus name comes from the ancestor of modern domestic cattle, and is the tie to the brand’s consistent used of names related to the Taurean birth star of its founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini. The Urus name was in fact trademarked by the company’s lawyers as far back as 2008.
Long and relatively low for an off-roader, and designed with high performance and comfort as its priorities, the Urus sits above the Range Rover and Porsche Cayenne Turbo in the status pecking order, a fact underlined by its projected USD$200,000 price tag. While this puts it in Bentley Bentayga territory pricewise, it is nothing like the Bentayga in either appearance or intent.
Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s R&D Director explained that the main difficulty his team faced in the course of the cars development was the generic height and weight of this vehicle type. After all, a 2,200 kg SUV is diametrically at odds with the low and light super sports cars that normally emerge from the Sant’Agata Bolognese-based company.
“An SUV is totally different from anything we have made in recent years,” he said. “However, we had a clean sheet of paper and a brief that the final result must have Lamborghini DNA through and through, and therefore had to be very fast and good to drive,” he said. “At the same time, as it is the first ever practical family car made by us, it had to be very comfortable over distance with good cabin room and luggage space.”
As it is part and parcel of both the Huracán and Aventador specifications, 4WD was no stranger to Lamborghini’s engineers. However, off-road ability meant that the remit of the system planned for the Urus had to be very much broader.
The choices of 4WD mode available via the ANIMA control on the centre console immediately make this clear, with a range greater than normally seen on even some hard-core off-road vehicles. These cover Sand and Snow and Ice as well as ones that enhance grip in high performance driving on road and race 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 their brief from there.
The 5,112 mm long Urus is based on the VW Group MLB Evo platform, which is shared by the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne. This gives it a long 3,003 mm wheelbase whose wheel at each corner configuration is accentuated by a much lower overall height than the other three.
The result is a very imposing and head turning design that looks spectacular in yellow, classy in metallic blue, and almost understated in metallic grey. The first front-engined Lamborghini since the LM002 and the Espada, the Urus is very Lamborghini in many of its styling details.
Importantly, even without any badges on its sleek and angular bodywork the edgy lines that have been the design signature of the company since Countach days shout Lamborghini.
As seen from above its nose mirrors the pointy shape of the Aventador, while the massive air intakes below bumper level underline just how much cooling air the 650hp 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 motor requires.
Looking like a very large stylised dart on wheels, the Urus cuts a dashing form with muscular rear haunches that give it the stance of a wild animal looking ready to pounce. The rear treatment is arguably a bit fussy, but the designers have a done a good job in minimising its visual bulk by giving the underbody diffuser a silver finish that tones with 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 3,996cc bi-turbo V8 is specifically tuned for the Urus and delivers 650hp at 6,500rpm, with a beefy 850Nm of torque between 2,250 and 4,500rpm. With an 86.0 x 86.0mm bore x stroke, this perfectly square motor has a specific output of 162.5hp per litre. And in typical Lamborghini style the badge on the engine cover states the firing order of the eight cylinders.
Output goes to all four wheels through an eight-speed torque convertor automatic gearbox, and the 4WD system uses a centre torque-sensing differential. The car’s limit handling is enhanced by 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 aid that Lamborghini has embraced, first on the Aventador S and now the Urus, is rear-wheel-steering. The Urus gains low speed agility with an effective shortening of 50 cm in low speed manoeuvres, and 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, 22 and 23-inch diameter wheels in mind. Thus, 21-inch is the standard size and the 22 and 23-inch wheels should keep the SoCal boys happy. The basic wheels are 9.5J and 10.5J x 21-inch, shod with 285/45ZR21 and 315/40ZR21 tyres, while the 23-inch wheels are shod with 285/40ZR23 and 325/35ZR23 Pirellis. All these tyres had to be specially developed for the Urus because of its unique speed rating, handling and comfort demands.
The ceramic brakes behind the 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. Clamped by massive 10-pot callipers in front and six-pot callipers at the rear, these powerful brakes can bring the Urus from 100km/h to a dead stop in just 33.7 m.
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 305 km/h, making it the fastest production SUV.
With its long and low roofline the cabin of the Urus is best described as roomy but cosy. 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 are comfortable and supportive although we will have to wait until we drive the Urus next year to get a feel for how well they partner the air suspension and big wheels in a ride and handling compromise.