Fast SUVs, prolific as they may be, have always been genetic freaks, a product of scientific hubris and a blatant affront to the laws of physics. To fling a machine with a high centre of gravity and a higher kerb weight into a corner with race-like abandon is, for the purist, an exercise in counter-intuition. And purists have been the only breed of motorists that Automobili Lamborghini caters to. So when news broke out in 2012 that Lamborghini had decided to cash in on the SUV explosion, much brouhaha ensued. Sure, this wasn’t the first time the Italian car-maker had taken a crack at making a super SUV, but the LM001 was more of a cautionary tale, something that kept manufacturers from stepping too far out of their comfort zone. Could Lamborghini give the world its first true super SUV? The answer is a loud, thundering yes. Six years on, the production-ready Lamborghini Urus has finally broken cover, and I find it standing tall at the Vallelunga Circuit pit lane in Rome, Italy. Not too tall, mind you – it’s considerably more hunkered in its stance than any other performance SUV, its genealogy making itself evident in that wedge-inspired nose and its muscular wheel arches. Before we talk about how this thing drives, the spec-sheet: The Urus gets a twin-turbo V8, the first-ever in Lamborghini history. With 641bhp on tap, its power levels eclipse most supercars, let alone super SUVs, and the slightest dab of the throttle will unleash unholy levels of torque, permanently throwing an invisibility cloak on its 2.2-tonne kerb weight. But what’s expected of the Urus is a lot more than that of a standard supercar. To qualify as a Lamborghini, it’s got to have proper track-driving capabilities; to qualify as a proper off-roader, it’s got to learn to play in the dirt.
As soon as the Urus exits the pit lane, its dynamism is inevitably going to be measured against thoroughbreds like the Huracán and the Aventador. It’s one thing to dress up an SUV for blistering, linear speed; it’s wholly different to make it a G-force-thrashing gymnast on the track. Fire up the V8 and the forced induction makes its presence felt aurally: It’s still a fairly invigorating growl, one that gets louder as the revs rise, albeit only till 6,800rpm. No matter, because one hot lap and you’re no longer conscious of the fact that this is an SUV. It’s a supercar that sits unusually high. It’s not something any performance SUV can boast of. And then there’s the way this thing corners: For a car that shares its underpinnings with Audi’s Q7, the Urus just shouldn’t allow you to take corners flat out, and yet, somehow it does. All four wheels remain completely unfazed by monstrous G-forces, while you marvel at how it manages to remain so planted. The most remarkable feat accomplished by the Urus is that it makes you forget that it’s an SUV. You may get the occasional reminder upon hard braking, but its track mannerisms and reaction times make it an apex-clipping, sharp-handling Lamborghini, thanks in no small part to the four-wheel steering system. Switch to Corsa mode and the car girds its loins, screaming towards the redline, upshifting fast through its 8-speed auto gearbox. Sure, the steering could benefit from greater feedback, but its overall precision makes it a natural around the track.
Underneath it all, the Urus purports to be a four-seater, family-friendly SUV. Lamborghini’s gone so far as to describe it as the most generous of its fleet, allowing a greater number of people to partake in the Lamborghini experience. And despite its coupé-like design and sloping roofline, it offers plenty of head and leg room. Put it in Strada mode and it’s school-run ready, with softer suspension and restrained power. Inside, there’s just enough alcantara and fighter-jet graphics to distinguish this as a Lambo, but ultimately it’s a place of warm comfort. It’s also highly kitted-out, with a three-screen set-up that takes care of your infotainment, navigation and telephone needs – easily a generation ahead of the competition.
Sun, Sand and Beyond
To stare at the Lambo logo on the steering wheel, and then look up to see a total absence of tarmac usually means you’ve ended up wrapping the car around a tree. In this instance, however, we were headed down a special off-road course designed to demonstrate the full extent of the Urus’ off-roading abilities. Taking a Lambo onto a gravelly, mud-swept pathway requires a certain courage only brought on by the lack of ownership. Switching to Sabbia (sand) mode, the Lambo test pilot gave me free rein to leave a wall of dust in my wake. With foot-deep sand pits, huge gravelly crests and sharp turns, the Urus turned into a proper hooligan. Thanks to effective torque vectoring and an active rear differential, which brings it back in line when accelerating hard out of a particularly sandy pit, the Urus feels like a rally car. Thus far, performance SUVs, despite their claims, have had limited applicability off-road. The Urus walks its talk, no matter where it chooses to walk. With torque levels kicking in early, the Urus changes direction like a cricket. It’s easy to see why Lamborghini has put everything into the Urus, its most ambitious project yet. Its success is aimed to increase the brand’s overall production levels, which in turn will fund more scissor-doored, mid-engined madness in the future. Given that a lot of performance will be extracted from SUVs in time to come, Lamborghini’s created a new benchmark. And according to the pre-booking ledgers, it’s set to be its biggest seller yet.