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Lamborghini’s big SUV gamble undergoes the toughest test in the business. Massively capable wherever it goes, while being extremely conspicuous and costly while it does it

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Many years from now, when historians are chronicling Lamborghini’s rise and fall, they may very well split the company’s annals with a dividing line labelled ‘Urus’.

Up until the introduction of the firm’s third showroom model, the controversial new Super Sport Utility Vehicle that this week’s road test is focused on, Ferruccio Lamborghini’s eponymous company had built mainly mid-engined supercars – and in numbers that only began to exceed 2000 units a year earlier this decade. The dark days of 1980s Mimran brothers ownership and of receivership, and the Volkswagen Group’s 1990s resurrection of the company, didn’t seem that long ago.

Bi-polar Urus asks you to suspend your disbelief as it goes from track-guzzling berserker to refined road car, with the practical trappings of an SUV, at one flick of the lever

After the Urus, however, Lamborghini has become a different company entirely. The site of the firm’s Bolognese headquarters has doubled in size, and it expects to produce more than 8000 cars in 2019 – enough to comfortably outstrip upstart McLaren’s success, and to finally put it on a level footing with eternal rival Ferrari in global volume terms.

But what might Ferruccio himself have made of the decision to turn to a car like the Urus to finally realise his ambition of getting even with Enzo? Well, by getting into the usual exhaustive detail, we should shortly be in position to make a good educated guess.

The current management certainly seems to approve – much as that should hardly come as a surprise. Chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali claims it is “a true Lamborghini in terms of design, performance, driving dynamics and emotion… and a perfect fit within the Lamborghini family”.

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Time to find out if – and if so, exactly how – a 2.2-tonne SUV built on a shared platform can hope to deliver in those rarefied terms.

Price £167,000 Power 641bhp Torque 627lb ft 0-60mph 3.3sec 30-70mph in fourth 5.1sec Fuel economy 19.0mpg CO2 emissions 335g/km 70-0mph 43.3m

The Urus range at a glance

Lamborghini’s SUV line-up currently comprises of one stand-alone model. As such, there is no need to choose engines or trim levels for your Urus: it’s a 4.0-litre V8 with 641bhp or nowt. That said, the options list is a fairly extensive one: wheel sizes range from 21in to gigantic 23in affairs; there’s a range of gaudy interior upholstery colours to choose from; and there’s plenty of optional carbonfibre panelling. More sensible options include a handsfree tailgate and additional active safety systems.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Lamborghini

DESIGN & STYLING

Lamborghini Urus 2019 road test review - hero nose

So does this self-proclaimed ‘super-SUV’ look super enough? On balance, our testers thought so, even if all were in agreement that the Urus is no modern-day LM002 in terms of raw presence.

The silhouette is most similar to that of an Audi Q8 – hitherto comfortably the most striking car of this ilk – though the roofline tapers much more dramatically and is considerably lower in general. The Urus is also wider than many full-size SUVs such as the Range Rover, and its aluminium bodywork wears enough creases and gaping air intakes to remind onlookers that Lamborghini is, above all else, a maker of shamelessly brash supercars.

Door handles seem like an untidy afterthought. Much neater are the doors themselves, which are frameless front and rear. Note also the aggressive glasshouse, which tapers to a point. Very supercar.

Mechanically, there is less scope for debate: the Urus is unquestionably super, and equipped with a more powerful derivative of the ‘hot-vee’ twin-scroll, twinturbocharged 3996cc V8 found in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. It is a wildly potent engine, delivering 641bhp and 626lb ft, with the latter arriving as soon as 2250rpm and helping the 2285kg Urus accelerate from rest to 62mph in a claimed 3.6sec and on to a top speed of 190mph.

Downstream sits a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with lock-up clutch, its lower ratios clustered for maximum performance. Torque is then split between the front and rear axles by a central Torsen differential, delivering 60% rearwards in normal driving but increasing that to as much as 87% when needed.

Meanwhile, in the car’s Neve (snow) and optional Terra (off-road) and Sabbia (sand) driving modes, up to 70% can be delivered to front axle, to maximise traction. There are six modes in total, including Ego, which is borrowed from Lamborghini the Aventador and allows the driver to combine different settings for steering, gearbox and engine response, exhaust note and the suspension. At 13.3:1, the electromechanical steering is also almost supercar-quick.

Elsewhere, the chassis technology on offer is much as you might expect of a product with class-leading aspirations. There is active torque vectoring via the rear differential, and four-wheel steering is said to effectively either shorten or lengthen the wheelbase to the tune of 600mm, depending on cornering speed.

The Urus is also the first Lamborghini to feature active anti-roll bars, and carbon-ceramic brake discs measuring 440mm at the front are standard-fit, gripped by 10-piston calipers. Consequently, the Urus (which wore optional Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres for our track testing) should stop as well as it goes – which is to say better than a 2.2-tonne SUV has any right to.

INTERIOR

Lamborghini Urus 2019 road test review - front seats

The Urus’s interior is comfortable, accommodating, tech-laden and versatile. It has great visibility, a yawning boot with more than 600 litres of storage space, and can carry five adults without a serious squeeze. In fact, it has all of the practical, convenient qualities you’d expect of a big SUV – and which, until this car, you’d have expected to find in a Lamborghini about as much as a flight yoke and rudder pedals.

If the car’s cabin has a failing, it may only be that Sant’Agata has underestimated the sort of detailed material richness that it needed to put into a £160,000 luxury car in order to lure people out of certain rivals and hold onto their deposits. Or perhaps it overestimated the lengths to which it needed to go to make the Urus feel like an authentic, exciting Lamborghini at the expense of other factors.

Parking brake and auto-hold buttons aren’t the only examples of Audi switchgear in the Urus. Perhaps a bit more could have been done to jazz such controls up.

You can choose between electric memory sports seats (standard and 12-way adjustable), as fitted to our test car, and more luxurious 18-way-adjustable front chairs as an option. Even the former offer an effective blend of comfort and support, although one tester noted that a little bit more lumbar support wouldn’t have gone amiss.

A thin-spoked, flat-bottomed steering wheel sits in front of a driving position that, though clearly much higher and less recumbent than the Italian firm’s norm, still feels more swept back and sporting than you expect it to. A relatively slim glasshouse, a lowish roofline and ‘fast’ A-pillars also tell you that this isn’t the average utility car. Just in case you miss any of the above, though, the car’s dashboard has the same Lamborghini-trademark hexagonal design motif recurring from its air vents and cupholders to its instrument binnacle – all there just to add supercar flavour.

The variety and sensory appeal of the trim materials to be found on the car’s various consoles could both be slightly better. Our test car’s mix of black leather with piano black and brushed aluminium trim was pleasant enough but little different than you might find on an Audi at half the price. Other material options are available, but Lamborghini clearly doesn’t have the in-house expertise in colour and trim of its sister brand Bentley – and, in this kind of car, you can tell.

That the Urus makes use of what is effectively a reskinned version of Audi’s latest MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system will come as no disappointment to anyone who happens to already own one of Lamborghini’s more ‘traditional’ models.

The Lamborghini Infotainment System III (LIS III) is made up of two high-resolution touchscreens, one positioned directly above the other. The top screen is used to operate the vast majority of the system’s features – think sat-nav, radio, vehicle settings, telephone etc – while the secondary screen predominantly controls the climate settings and a handful of other shortcuts.

While the system might benefit from the same slick software and sharp graphics (albeit in a different style) as the Audi set-up, it also comes with the same pitfalls – namely that a lack of physical buttons can make it a touch tricky to interact with on the move. Still, it’s light years ahead of the system you’ll continue to find Lamborghini in an Aventador.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Lamborghini Urus 2019 road test review - 48v battery

Defining the style in which you want the Urus to make its way forth means engaging first with the car’s ‘tamburo’ driving mode selector: a slightly plasticky edifice of a lever at the base of the centre stack that, annoyingly, only allows you to cycle through the car’s set menu dynamic calibrations (Strada, Sport, Corsa, Sabbia, Terra and Neve) in one direction.

Select Strada and that 641bhp turbo V8 remains surprisingly muted, the gearbox progressive in its step-off, and the car generally fairly comfortable and refined, and no more imposing to use than many other luxury SUVs. You suspect one key part of the Urus’s dynamic brief was to be the Lamborghini that anyone could drive, and it’s an undeniable success in those terms.

The pure savagery of the way in which the Urus shoots off the line under a full launch control start is something to behold. I don’t mind admitting that it actually made me squeal.

Flick down into Sport mode and the ramping up of the car’s control weights and its response rates, of the vocality of its engine, and of the gearbox’s prevailing state of alert are all stark. All of a sudden, the Urus wants you to be excited. And even though the exhaust starts to bellow at twice the volume than it was before, you can’t miss the sheer quantity of digitised V8 warble that’s coming from the car’s door speakers, or the impression that your level of sensory arousal is being manipulated in quite heavy-handed fashion. Moreover, as suited as it may be for service in a heavy SUV, that turbo V8 engine doesn’t quite have the extravagant charismatic swagger to seem perfectly at home in a Lamborghini – with or without the digital modification.

It certainly has the minerals, mind you. The Urus’s accelerative potency is nothing short of staggering. You won’t know whether to laugh or scream when you first witness what 2285kg of jacked-up metal, leather and glass feels like when it rockets to 60mph from rest in a frankly preposterous 3.3sec, and then hits 100mph in less than 8.0sec: more than a second quicker by that latter measure than was the last BMW M5.

Suffice it to say, the Urus is a quite formidable thing to witness in full flight, fully deserving of its ‘super sporting’ description. Given that breathtaking outright performance potential, however, the car’s drivability and tameness in daily use may be an even greater tribute to its creators.

RIDE & HANDLING

Lamborghini Urus 2019 road test review - on the road front

The Urus’s handling character presents itself to you in layers. At first, you’re pleased to find that a car so tall and heavy, with the Urus’s extra-high performance level, grip level and response rate, can be so easy to engage with. Surprisingly light at the wheel in Strada mode but also wieldy-feeling and manoeuvrable, the Urus makes itself very unobtrusive to simply potter about in.

Get up to everyday travelling speeds and you access the next layer of its dynamic identity, where the car surprises every bit as vividly for its fleet of foot and agility as it does for its sheer straight-line grunt. Around tighter bends and junctions, the crisp instinctiveness and keen precision with which you can guide the car really are striking; a step above even what most performance SUVs at lower price points can do.

Out-lapping a lower, lighter Merc-AMG GT63 isn’t a bad way for a fast SUV to impress. Lambo felt as fast through the faster bends, and quicker still down the straights.

Body control can be adjusted through three particular adaptive damping settings using the dedicated Ego (read custom) driving mode. It’s always impressive for lateral control, so you rarely get the sense that roll will be allowed to figure at all as part of the car’s cornering composure, let alone penalise it. Vertical tautness is quite marked at all times, and makes for ever-present composure on better surfaces, becoming slightly reactive over uneven A- and B-roads – but smoothing out nicely and becoming more fluent as you add a bit of pace and switch to the firmer damping modes.

The last layer of the car’s handling repertoire is only accessible on a track – and preferably one with plenty of room for experimentation. Here you feel as if you have to overdrive the Urus slightly to get peak grip, performance and poise; and, with so many active handling and drivetrain systems in play, you’d be lucky to realise exactly when you were about to ask that bit too much of the tyres or chassis. Here, the Urus feels a bit brutish – and it falls short of the last word in truly absorbing handling balance, adjustability and control feedback.

But just witnessing the sheer pace, grip, cornering stability and handling composure that something so large and heavy can generate will still make your eyes pop out.

It isn’t great at making plain exactly how it’s clinging on so hard – but you do wonder if, with so many active chassis systems in play, clearer communicative facets wouldn’t actually make handling less natural, and the car less drivable overall at the limit of grip, rather than more so.

The standard carbon-ceramic brakes offer good bite and a level of retardation that didn’t deteriorate much during our circuit laps. Grip is evenly distributed and turn-in remarkably sharp, so that you seldom miss an apex on a balanced throttle even at really high pace. Pick up the power early when cornering and there’s only a limited amount that you do to adjust the car’s outbound cornering attitude, though – as well as only a slightly filtered and vague sense of the grip level remaining at each axle.

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

The Urus adopts a different ride and handling compromise than most fast 4x4s; so much we’ve already described. Few will be surprised to read, then, that it doesn’t have the capacity of an Audi Q7, a Bentley Bentayga or a Range Rover to throw a silken blanket over the road surface, or to take its occupants to a level of on-board luxury they might find in a big car with much less sporting priorities.

As we’ve already detailed, the car’s ride is certainly more than averagely comfortable, even over quite tricky B-road topography. But its clever anti-roll bars, dampers and air springs aren’t clever enough to prevent a little bit of head toss at times – particularly in the softer damper modes, or when you’re perhaps under-utilising the capacity for outright body control that’s bound up in the suspension.

The ride seems a little bit noisier than the luxury SUV norm, owing to those 22in alloy wheels and the relatively firm load pathways through which the vibrations they make can travel up into the cabin.

Interestingly, though, it was a factor that didn’t show on our noise meter – according to which the Urus generates 65dB of cabin noise at 70mph, which is precisely as much as we recorded in both a Bentley Bentayga and an Audi SQ7.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Lamborghini Urus 2019 road test review - hero front

As we’ve discovered, the Urus is unlikely to cause its owners too much anguish in purely practical terms. Even on British roads, rolling refinement is impressive and, rear head room notwithstanding, the sound interior ergonomics are broadly comparable with more mainstream rivals, including the Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

As the world’s fastest SUV, the Urus is also priced quite keenly. Costing around £160,000, it significantly undercuts not only the existing entry point to Lamborghini ownership – the Huracán supercar now costs near enough £200,000 – but also the W12-engined Bentley Bentayga Speed, which is the only SUV of comparable performance and eccentricity. On the other hand, the Cayenne Turbo, which shares much of the Lamborghini’s driveline and chassis hardware (if not quite the same dynamic prowess), costs almost £60,000 less, and the same will likely be true for the upcoming Audi RS Q8.

Residual forecasts appear strong but, with no bona fide rivals, its performance is a mite difficult to gauge

But unusually for a Lamborghini, the Urus also looks set to cling onto its value more doggedly than rivals – notably the Porsche and Bentley, whose respective residual values of 55% and 50% after three years and 36,000 miles can’t touch the 62% managed by the newcomer. The recently announced Coupé version of the Cayenne Turbo is forecast to manage just 48%. In relative terms, it makes the Lamborghini a surprisingly rational purchase.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Lamborghini

VERDICT

Lamborghini Urus 2019 road test review - static mud

The Lamborghini Urus was always going to be a car to inspire greater esteem with use. Even so, we weren’t quite prepared for how our regard for the Urus would be transformed by driving it as widely, and as hard, as an Autocar road test allows.

You might not like the idea of this car, and most testers agreed that its particular design would have benefited from a freer and more imaginative hand.

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But once you accept that companies such as Lamborghini aren’t to be blamed or scorned for building the cars their customers ask for, you can only really applaud what the Urus does. And, although there could be more really telling bull-brand DNA at this car’s combustive core and perhaps a few more really convincing luxury touches, once you’re fully versed in everything the Urus does, it’s very hard to maintain quite as much circumspection about what it is.

For the affect it has on your notions of how fast and agile an SUV can be, this car is like the original 2002 Porsche Cayenne all over again – just positioned at a higher price point.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Lamborghini

Lamborghini Urus First drives