The Lamborghini Miura is often credited as being the world’s first supercar. Now the firm has created the Lamborghini Urus, in its own words, the world’s first super-SUV. That’s a term destined to infuriate traditionalists as much as it will excite both existing customers of the firm asking for a practical Lambo to add to their stable, and new customers looking for the boldest, brashest, fastest SUV on the market.
While it’s easy to drift off into imagining an Aventador V12-powered SUV in the spirit of the outrageous LM002, the Urus is far more pragmatic in its approach. Based on the VW Group MLB-evo platform that also underpins the current Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, it’s powered by the now ubiquitous combo of a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 with an eight-speed auto gearbox. The engine has been developed by Lamborghini to produce 478kW and 850Nm, thanks to new turbos, cams and cylinder heads amongst other items, which is enough to blast the 2197kg Urus to 100km/h from rest in just 3.6 seconds. The top speed is also fairly spectacular for an SUV, the Urus topping out at 305km/h.
As the firm’s head of R&D, Maurizio Reggiani, points out, Lamborghini gets to cherry-pick what it wants from the VW Group inventory, and to achieve its aims – best performance of all; within the top group for comfort and off-road ability, apparently – it has thrown everything it can at the Urus. In practise this means not only the extra-strong tune of V8, but rear-wheel steering, active anti-roll bars, torque vectoring on the rear differential to go with a centre Torsen diff and ceramic brakes.
The torque split from the centre diff is 40:60 front:rear in normal driving, with up to 70 per cent able to be sent to the front axle or 87 per cent to the rear. Lamborghini says it chose the Torsen differential because of its reliability and lack of inertia, while the rear diff can distribute up to 75 per cent of the torque it is receiving to one side. Wheel sizes range from 21 to 23 inches, with gargantuan 440mm carbon-ceramic discs behind them. A broad choice of Pirelli rubber is offered, from Corsas all the way through to dedicated off-road tyres.
The air suspension offers up to three different ride heights, and there are also three settings each for the steering, powertrain and damping. All of this, including the rear-wheel steering – which offers +/- 3 degrees of movement and gives the effect of shortening the Urus’s long three-metre wheelbase by up to 600mm – is controlled by the Tamburo, a collection of stylised levers and switches at the base of the centre console. There’s Strada, Sport and Corsa modes, plus Neve (snow), with the further options of Terra (gravel) and Sabbia (sand). Or you can flick the EGO switch for quick access to your preferred mix of steering, powertrain and damping.
You soon discover the Urus is one of those cars that feels even more powerful than the numbers suggest. Throttle response is sharp, particularly once you’ve advanced up from Strada mode, and it piles on speed with almost comedic keenness. The V8 is present but relatively subdued in normal driving, but in Sport and Corsa there’s a boisterous blare and crackle on the overrun as accompaniment; sturdy paddles behind the wheel allow you to shift gears manually. The steering is light but very accurate, and as changing its setting alters the effect of the rear-wheel steering, you rarely need to use more than a flick of the wrists to take a curve.
Our car for the road route features 23-inch rims with a P Zero tyre, and the crumbling roads around the Vallelunga circuit soon expose the Urus’s weakness, at least in this spec. On smooth tarmac it glides along nicely, but as soon as the surface is broken, the ride deteriorates, with plenty of noise from the suspension as the air springs fail to deal adequately with the workload being asked of them. On smaller wheels, with a taller tyre sidewall, the ride may improve – we shall see.
On track the Urus – on 22-inch wheels with Corsa tyres – is a freak, storming down the straights and able, at least for small numbers of laps at a time, to brake late into corners. There’s more agility here than seems ought to be possible, and if you were so inclined to take a Urus on a trackday you’d embarrass many a hot hatch or sports sedan. It’s all about weight management, though: not overloading the outer front tyre on turn-in.
The Urus arrives in Australia mid-year wearing a $390,000 sticker, making it considerably more expensive than the Cayenne Turbo, though it offers next-level performance to its cousin. Adam Towler
Engine: V8, 3996cc, twin-turbocharged
Power: 478kW @ 6000RPM
Torque: 850Nm @ 2250-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 3.6sec (claimed)
Top speed: 305km/h (claimed)
Weight: 2197kg (218kW/tonne)