Auto123 test-drove the 2019 Lamborghini Urus, the second SUV ever produced by the renowned supercar brand. Can you name the first?
Just my luck. As fate would have it, the first Lamborghini I got the opportunity to test-drive was a… truck! Of all the fantabulous creations to come of the Italian firm’s Sant’Agata design centre, I had to get my baptism in the most rational of the current trio of Lamborghini products, the other two being the Huracan Evo and Aventador S.
The 2019 Lamborghini Urus is actually the second utility model produced by the brand, after the more-military – and much rarer – LM0002 in the 1980s. And on top of being the most “rational” of the company’s products, it’s also the most important commercially. The mission of the Urus is simple: it must single-handedly double Lamborghini sales worldwide. And according to Bernard Durand, sales representative at Lamborghini Montreal, it has already attained that objective.
The Lamborghini arrives like the cavalry for a brand forced to adapt to an era marked by the ascent of the sport utility vehicle. My goal was to determine if this rival to the likes of the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga, among others, was worth the $232,000 or more buyers need to fork over for the privilege of owning a high-sitting Lambo. Not exactly a bargain, you’ll agree…
No doubt this is a Lambo
I described the Urus as the most rational member of the Italian carmaker’s lineup, and this is in part because the model’s format and look are necessarily saner than those of the brand’s exotic cars, which show much more of the DNA of the 1971 Countach LP400 prototype.
Not that the Lamborghini Urus is likely to be confused with any other ride currently out on our roads – and that’s just fine! The purposeful lower front end, the grille that seems to have been borrowed from the R&D department of a razor company, the asymmetrical wheel arches, the shrunken fenestration, the enlarged rear position lights – all of it breathes Lamborghini.
One of the most beguiling visual elements of the Urus was actually necessitated by the badge that rides on the front, which obliged the designers to come up with a distinctive cut for the front hood. It’s a design element also found on Lamborghini’s two other current products. And what to say about the 22-inch alloy wheels (included as an option for the modest sum of $5,817), which so ably fill out the space under the wheel arches?
Despite its off-roading capabilities (yes, that’s right!), the Urus is so aerodynamic in shape that it almost looks like a wagon on steroids more than a proper SUV.
Shades of Audi inside
A quick glance at the dashboard makes clear this is a Lamborghini product, evidenced by the trapezoidal air vents, flat-bottomed steering wheel and the red lever cover in dead centre, which when lifted up reveals the start button. As with the other models in the lineup, the two levers located on either side of the lever cover (which looks like a gear shifter but isn’t) serve to adjust the many parameters of the 4X4 system.
Those familiar with Audi vehicles will quickly spot the several components borrowed from that partner-brand, which is a must in 2019 when economies of scale are essential to keep the price of the vehicle from ballooning even higher. So the inclined touchscreen that provides access to all climate control-related commands comes straight from recent Audi sedans. Ditto for several commands on the steering wheel and on the doors, as well as the gauge display behind the steering wheel (though the graphics on that display are typically Italian).
This heavy borrowing is not such a bad thing, since Audi has a well-deserved reputation for putting together high-quality vehicle interiors. And since the environment is still very “Lambo” aboard, occupants get to enjoy a unique, multi-faceted interior.
Like all coupe-style SUVs, the Lamborghini Urus offers reduced visibility out the back, both because of the thin rear window and due to the large C pillars. As well, the trunk space is pretty mediocre at 616 litres, barely more than what you get from a Mazda3 Sport.
The brand’s smallest engine… and the industry’s biggest brakes!
The old Lamborghini LM002 came standard with the Countach model’s V12 engine, believe it or not, and a manual gearbox to boot! The Urus is not that extravagant (rational, remember?), and it has to “make do” with a 4.0L twin-turbo V8, a unit already seen in Porsche and even Bentley vehicles.
Fortunately Lamborghini’s in-house engineers made some savvy adjustments to what is the smallest engine ever to feature inside one of the brand’s models. Honestly there’s nothing lacking with this twin-turbo V8, which after all musters 641 hp and a gargantuan 627 lb-ft of torque.
Wedded to this engine is an 8-speed automatic transmission that takes care of sending power to the four wheels. The central differential sends a bit more torque to the rear axle (in a 40-60 ratio, front-back) to optimize the sportiness of the vehicle’s behaviour. Then there’s the rear active steer function and vector control which further help make this an SUV that’s manageable on even the twistiest roads.
And while the size of the engine is (relatively) small, the carbon-ceramic brakes are the biggest to be found anywhere on a production vehicle; the front calipers have 10 pistons, the back 6.
A four-seasons Lambo?
Technically you could apply the all-seasons designation to the Huracan Evo and Aventador S since both those models have all-wheel drive, but the Urus has many other features that make it well-suited to handling the rigours of our Canadian winter, starting with a much higher ground clearance.
Make no mistake, though: the Lamborghini stands apart from other utility vehicles on the market thanks to the driving pleasure it delivers. That vivacious twin-turbo V8 is part of it, of course, as is the firm suspension and frankly stunning road grip, which comes courtesy the over-sized tires ad well as the four-wheel directional steering that turns sharp corners into gentle curves.
To be clear, the significant weight of the vehicle and the fairly heavy steering make for a more full-bodied drive than what you get in a run-of-the-mill compact SUV, but it’s precisely this explosiveness that fans of the Lamborghini brand love and want.
The lever to the left of the central console is the gateway to change the character of the beast. For my part, I stayed mainly in Sport mode, which for me represented the best compromise between the Strada and Corsa model, the latter delivering the sharpest parameters. The other three modes address off-roading needs, which are not likely to be felt all that often in this type of expensive luxury ‘ute.
In any case, while Sport mode is the porridge that’s just right for daily driving, the Corsa mode gives the SUV back its exotic-car bonafides, transforming every acceleration into an adrenaline rush. To the point where putting the pedal right down to the medal might be taking things too far…
The last word
As expected (though it could have turned otherwise, I suppose), the Lamborghini Urus is an exceptional vehicle in every sense of the term. It’s designed to please a clientele that’s demanding that doesn’t mind drawing attention on the road. The performances are pretty stunning, and the quality of execution is faultless, with the exception of the unsightly, cheap-looking running board, and if you don’t mind the presence of some Audi components.
The comfort level, meanwhile, is directly related to the drive mode you choose. To get a higher level of driving excitement, you’ll have to trade in a bit of plush ride smoothness – unless you’re willing to plunge into the menus to customize the parameters according to your preference.
The 2019 Urus SUV drives like you would expect a Lamborghini to drive, but I could never quite get out of my head those two other cars that are part of the brand’s lineup, which fully, truly incarnate what the marque is all about in the popular imagination. Maybe an even spicier Urus will lift this SUV closer to that ideal in a year or two, who know…
Excellent handling, speed and road grip for such a hefty SUV
Quality of finishing
A front end that’s all sport-minded business
We like less
The firmness of the suspension can chase you from the sportiest drive mode
It’s tough when you’re competing with two genuine supercars for buyers’ love
That running board
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