- What’s Good: Brilliant performance; amazing ride quality; unbeatable image.
- What’s Bad: Minor controls near hopeless; lack of rear window wiper a stunning omission; back-up camera should be hidden until needed.
The unofficial (but true, I’m sure) story behind the founding of the Lamborghini brand is that Ferruccio Lamborghini, an Italian tractor manufacturer, was so upset with his Ferrari that he said, “I could build a better car than that!”
He then proceeded to attempt to do just that.
His first eponymous model launched in 1964.
Such landmark cars as Miura, Countach, Diablo, Murciélago, Gallardo, Aventador and Huracan followed.
The financial history of the company would take up more space than I have here. Briefly, triggered by the global financial meltdown in 1973, ownership changed hands every two weeks it seems, including Chrysler for a while.
It finally ended up as part of the Volkswagen Group, under the Audi umbrella.
This not only gave the company financial stability, but also reduced costs.
How? Because if you go to a supplier and want to buy, say, 2.000 widgets, it would cost a fortune to tool up to make them.
But if the VW Group is buying those widgets, they’re buying several million of them, and the supplier pays attention.
The VW Group also makes various corporate platforms available to Lamborghini, which brings us to today’s topic, the Urus SUV. Prices start at $232,000.
Yes, it’s a Lamborghini truck.
Given that the company was started by a tractor maker, that may not be so far-fetched.
By the way, “urus,” also known as “aurochs,” was a large wild Eurasian ox that became extinct hundreds of years ago. Sounds odd to name a car after an ox, but the Lamborghini emblem has always been a raging bull, so it sort of fits.
Urus isn’t the company’s first SUV. Who can forget the LM002 (1986-1993), hard as I have tried?
The VW Group platform Urus uses is dubbed “MLB Evo,” and is shared by such as Audi Q7 and Q8, Bentley Bentayga, and Porsche Cayenne.
Pretty good bones, as the real estate people say.
Much of the structure is aluminum, with carbon fibre here and there to reduce weight, although Urus tips the scales at darn-near 2,275 kg. That still makes it lighter than most of the direct competition.
Not bad skin either. While the styling is downright modest by Lamborghini standards, the aggressive front end lets everyone know this is not your grandfather’s Grand Cherokee.
It attracts a lot of attention on the road, even with the almost stealth-like gray paint job on my tester — it isn’t a colour that draws the eyeballs. Maybe the cops won’t notice either…
Getting in is obviously easier than the gymnastics needed to get into most Lamborghinis — you actually step up to get into this vehicle.
Once inside, it looks similar to other cars from this brand, except for the four doors and room for more than two people.
Everything is beautifully crafted from high-quality materials.
The front seats are comfortable and multi-adjustable, although they do not have the degree of lateral support that the vehicle’s performance might suggest.
The two rear bucket seats in my tester (a three-seat bench is available) are also adjustable for reach and rake, and they can be folded down to increase the already decent carrying capacity. A rail and adjustable strap in the cargo area allow you to secure your loads.
You communicate with this vehicle via a couple of touch screens. The big central screen is bright and clear. It handles things like SatNav, telephone and audio entertainment.
A second screen below that looks after things like climate control.
But almost everything on both of these is controlled by touch. You cannot operate anything without taking your eyes off the road. Never a good idea, but especially in a vehicle this powerful.
I understand that I have lost this argument, but I still do not know why. I mean, we are not allowed to operate a cell phone while we’re driving; why are we allowed to do this?
The only proper knob in the entire thing is for radio volume, so they know what is correct; they just choose not to do it correctly.
One thing the lower touch screen does offer is the ability to write to the car. Yes; depending on which function you have chosen, you can literally draw letters on the surface with a finger to spell out a command, or a SatNav address. Again, hopefully not while you are driving.
The instrument cluster in front of the driver is apparently lifted directly from Audi, and they could do a lot worse. It changes shape, content and colour scheme as you page through the various drive modes.
If you are a passenger and your driver is playing with these screens while driving, you will really notice the lack of “merde alors” grab handles on the roof. You might just need one…
The push button parking brake and totally redundant “blind spot” warning system are, sadly, de rigeur in modern cars.
One grievous oversight — despite it being a fastback SUV, there is no rear window wiper. In the inclement weather during my test, the rear window got very dirty, very quickly.
The back-up camera includes a bird’s-eye overhead view to make parking this sizeable car easier. But the camera is exposed to the elements when not in use (unlike some VW products, where it hides behind a hinged badge) so it gets equally dirty, equally quickly.
Even more so than most modern cars, Urus demands a long session with the Owners Manual before you do any serious driving.
The engine begins as the Audi twin-turbo 4.0 litre V8, massaged by Lamborghini to increase output to 641 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m., 100 more than this engine makes in Cayenne.
It isn’t the most powerful SUV though — that would be the 707-horse Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.
Urus’s torque plateau (“curve” does not do it justice) is 627 lb.-ft. from 2,250 to 4,500 r.p.m.
To this engine is bolted an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, feeding into a full-time four-wheel drive system with an open front differential, a Torsen (torque-sensing) centre diff, and an electronically controlled torque-vectoring rear diff.
You’d have to work pretty hard to get this baby stuck.
Air springs provide a wide range of capabilities, including variable ride height if you are venturing off-road (on purpose, I assume) and variable spring rates depending on how and where you will be driving.
The various drive modes are controlled by a switch on the centre console labeled “Anima,” translated by my computer into “soul,” by which I assume they mean how spirited you want the drive to be.
The modes are “Strada” (street), “Sport” (well, sport), “Corsa” (race), “Sabbia” (sand), “Terra” (gravel) and “Neve” (snow).
Various mechanical systems are modified to suit each level of enthusiasm or type of terrain.
Ignition, as in other Lamborghinis, is by a push button hidden under a red switch cover, like race cars and aircraft often have.
The mode switch to the left controls the drive mode settings as listed above.
Reverse is engaged by pulling back on a huge paddle above the start button.
If you tug on one of the steering column shift paddles, the car changes to manual mode. But if you leave it alone for about eight seconds, it switches back to automatic, and might upshift the car depending on road speed, engine speed and throttle position. If you are in the middle of a quick corner when it does this, it could upset the handling.
The answer is to push the M button (for Manual) to the right of the central controller when you are pressing on, having a bit of fun. Then the vehicle will hold a selected gear until you approach the red line, when it will upshift automatically.
Likewise, it will downshift if revs drop too low.
So really, it’s only quasi-manual, but still best for quick driving.
In either mode, the transmission shifts imperceptibly, the shifts getting quicker and more positive as you page through the various drive modes.
No complaints about Urus’s dynamics.
First, it’s bloody quick. 0-100 comes up in 3.6 seconds, and it is just winding up at that point, on its way to a top speed of some 300 km/h.
Do not attempt, at home or away, unless “away” means “Germany.”
The engine sounds a bit subdued in the “Strada” drive mode setting. Switch to “Sport” or “Corsa,” and all hell breaks loose. The exhaust opens up; the beast fairly bellows.
The car is fearsomely quick, betraying both its bulk and its weight.
Massive carbon-ceramic brakes do as good a job bringing the speed back down, with a 100-0 km/h distance of 33.7 metres, remarkable for such a big vehicle.
The suspension borders on miraculous. Despite that weight and the Pirelli Scorpion winter tires, the car rides extremely smoothly and quietly, at least in Strada mode.
It firms up considerably as you dial up the other modes, but I never found it uncomfortable, and handling is noticeably sharper.
With this prodigious performance (not to mention prodigious price) you might wonder why they even bother with the fuel-saving auto stop-start function. But rich people didn’t get rich by wasting their money.
This system works very smoothly too, with little of the shuddering you find in some cars’ systems.
In sum then, Urus is an intriguing addition to the rapidly growing ultra-luxury SUV market. My reservations about the digital instrumentation and lack of proper controls don’t seem to matter to those who are buying vehicles like this.
Dynamically, stylistically and image-wise, Lamborghini has created an impressive entry in this segment.
Sure, it would be even better if it were 300 kg lighter and 20 cm lower.
But not as many people would buy it.
So how can I argue?