“Why would Lamborghini build an SUV?” That tired refrain has been constantly thrown around the automotive journalist community since the Urus was announced some years back. But I don’t know why so many of my peers would be even remotely surprised. The demand is there, the technology is there and it’s not as if ever-passionate Italians need a particularly good reason to do anything in the first place.
It’s what I love so much about Italian vehicles and motorcycles: often they’re built simply because it’s possible to. A V8 motorcycle? Sure why not?! A wedge-shaped sports car that you can’t really see out of in any direction other than straight ahead? Sounds like a great idea. Take decades of boundary-pushing exotic supercar design principles and apply them all to an SUV platform? Not only will that work, but it’ll create a whole new segment.
The Good: Yes the Urus is fast as all get out and makes great noises. Shockingly, those aren’t its best qualities. The fact that it’s a legitimate luxury SUV is what I found most impressive. Lamborghini’s four-wheel steering, first seen on the Aventador S, is paired with an excellent AWD system with active rear torque vectoring, an adaptive air suspension and an anti-roll stabilization system. The result is a nimble and highly capable off-roader with a cabin that you simply don’t want to leave. The combination of beautiful natural leather with either carbon fiber, aluminum, hardwood or Alcantara trim options makes the interior a really, really nice place to be. While I’ve enjoyed stints in the Huracan Performante and Aventador S Roadster, I wouldn’t say their cockpits are particularly inviting. The Urus is completely comfortable and surprisingly roomy given its tightly hewn exterior.
I expected a Lamborghini SUV would bring the sportiness, but it also delivers on the utility.
Who It’s For: Monied individuals who already have a Huracan but occasionally get the urge to drive up a mountain or across a desert. A sense of humor and a sense of adventure will help.
Watch Out For: A ticket for this ride doesn’t come cheap. And the Urus also suffers from being… not pretty. I personally found a number of angles I liked visually, but few vehicles lean into the subjective part of beauty as much as the Urus does.
Alternatives: At the moment the Urus has no true direct competitor. It sits alone in the segment it created, the “Super Sports SUV”. I can say from personal experience that the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk delivers similar mind-warping and stomach-churning sensations, as does the Range Rover Sport SVR, but neither match the Urus when it comes to driving dynamics. Be it on winding mountain roads or on a track, the Urus shrinks around you, making it easy to forget you’re driving a vehicle with enough ground clearance to go off-roading and not whose front splitter you have to worry about scraping on a driveway. When Aston Martin’s SUV arrives it may well be a contender, but for now, there is nothing like the Urus on the market.
Review: Following several minutes of marveling at the Urus’s deep metallic grey paint (dubbed “Grigio Lynx”) and subsequent fawning over its gorgeous brown interior, I concluded that the Urus isn’t beautiful, but it certainly is compelling. Its looks are one thing, and under the skin, its tech is mostly the latest and greatest borrowed from Audi. But the packaging – dual center screens, switchgear and digital dash – certainly looks much more special here. My co-driver remarked at the intimidating amount of bits and bobs, but I always easily found the right controls.
The Urus rides on the same tried and true platform – VW’s MLBevo architecture – that underpins the Bentley Bentayga, Audi’s Q8 and Q7, the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen’s Touareg. Having driven all five, I can confidently say Lamborghini has taken the platform to new heights.
My time behind the wheel began with a brisk run up one of my favorite roads in Southern California. When I say brisk, I mean it. The last time I’d driven Highway 74 I was in an Audi R8 V10 Plus. As it consists of a rapid and dramatic climb from the desert floor to peaks above the Coachella Valley, driving this road never gets old. While the Urus certainly can’t match the accurate turn-in prowess of a lithe mid-engine supercar, it was equally thrilling to run down the brief straight sections before gliding around sweeping corners, especially on our ascent. Of the seven available drive modes, three are intended for asphalt, three are for variable-terrain surfaces and one is fully customizable.
I’d had enough of STRADA (street) mode en route to Highway 74, so the first portion of my ascent was spent in SPORT mode. After just the first corner, that lower and stiffer suspension setting makes a huge difference and all the low-end grunt via dual twin-scroll turbochargers is available much earlier in the go pedal. In this application, the proven ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is tuned to provide nice short ratios in lower gears and long ratios up top.
I didn’t have room to find out on this trip but mark my words, I’ll get a chance to see if Lamborghini’s claimed 189 mph top speed is legit.
If SPORT mode more than piqued my curiosity, CORSA (race) mode demanded my full attention. Ratcheting the Tamburo (drive mode selector) to that particular notch delivers track-ready performance characteristics via Lamborghini’s ANIMA system (the questionably named central computer brain). ANIMA makes precise changes to suspension settings, throttle response, gearbox mapping and the four-wheel drive system. I didn’t find CORSA to be too harsh, though some surely will. Everything about it is harder, faster, stronger. Drivers can dial in the best of both worlds with EGO mode, which debuted in the Aventador S. Instead of utilizing predetermined setting, EGO allows the driver to mix and match settings for different vehicle components. My favorite combo: CORSA for the drivetrain, SPORT for the dampers and SPORT for the steering.
Following our descent from the peaks, we crossed the Coachella Valley floor and arrived at a quiet corner of the Colorado-Sonoran desert where the San Andreas Fault snakes through the crust. Even on rough terrain, barring any truly stupid moves by the driver, a Urus shouldn’t get stuck. Granted, we swapped rides for a Urus set up specifically for off-road use. First up was a lower speed, technical section for which we would use SABBIA (sand) mode. The four-wheel steering system borrowed from the Aventador S made avoiding obstacles and executing tight turns a cinch. Next up, a trial for TERRA (off-road) mode. Having recently spent significant time in a Ford Raptor, I was all too happy to once again play in a big sandbox.
As much fun as the Urus is on the street or on the track, it’s on dirt that it really makes its case. Its center locking differential features a standard 40/60 split, but can deliver a maximum of 70 percent to the front axle or 87 percent to the rear. Its rear differential delivers active torque vectoring. In tandem, those systems combine to give the Urus serious off-road handling chops. With full confidence in the electromechanical active roll stabilization system, I giddily tossed the Urus around in soft sand and flogged it down trails. Were the Urus shod with smaller wheels, more aggressive tires and serious underbody protection, I can’t think of a vehicle I’d rather use to tackle desert landscapes. Who will be the hero to enter a Urus in the Baja 1000?
Track activities at The Thermal Club were next on the schedule. There, I tackled a braking and obstacle-avoidance demo that put the full capability of the 17.3” carbon ceramic front rotors and their 10-piston (!!!) calipers on display. No point in having all that power if you can’t erase it in a damn hurry. Keeping in mind that the last vehicle I lapped Thermal Club in was a Cayman GT4 – a potentially super unfair comparison – I found the Urus ate up track asphalt up with impressive composure. It’s a hell of a thing Lamborghini has accomplished, making an SUV that hardly feels different from a big sports sedan on the track. Especially considering what I had just done with it out in the desert.
Verdict: Lamborghini answered a question nobody asked and delivered a product nobody was expecting. It would have been easy enough for them to stick a big, naturally aspirated engine in a re-worked Audi Q7 and call it a day. Instead, they went above and beyond, creating something truly unique. The Urus is the first Lamborghini with a turbocharged engine, the first super-performance SUV that actually drives like a car (albeit a large one) and the first Italian vehicle in years that I can confidently say I would drive across the US. If the Urus does for Lamborghini what they Cayenne did for Porsche, it may clear the way for the most insane specialty Lamborghini cars in the brand’s history.
What Others Are Saying:
• “It’s very spacious in here. Actually really comfortable both in the front and back seats. The design of the interior is very cool: simultaneously Lamborghini and a little bit of Audi influence as well. Let’s just say [the inside is] a lot better than how the outside looks.” — Matt Farah, The Smoking Tire
• “All these tires, all these drive modes, and all this cabin space do a few things for Lamborghini. First, geography. The Urus works in a lot of places that no other Lambo would. Snow, for one, and the parking lot at CVS for two. This Lamborghini, now a daily driver for real, works great in either place” — Eric Gores, Motor 1
2019 Lamborghini Urus Key Specs
Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8
Transmission: TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters; all-wheel-drive
Torque: 626 ft-lbs
Weight: 4,850 lbs
0-60: 3.6 seconds
Top Speed: 189 MPH
Lamborghini hosted us and provided this product for review.
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