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If the thumbs up, waves and smiles I’m getting as we cruise through Trevignano Romano on the shore of Lago di Bracciano on the outskirts of Rome are any indication, the 2018 Lamborghini Urus is indeed a ‘real Lamborghini’. There’s been plenty of speculation, the styling has polarised, it’s Lamborghini’s first SUV (it isn’t) and it has turbos – how the hell then can it be a real Lamborghini?
Now, CarAdvice is in Italy’s capital to test it on the track, on the road and on dirt. As always, read our pricing and specification guide for the details.
As usual, most of the criticism has come from people who haven’t driven the Urus, and almost certainly haven’t even seen it in the flesh. You know what they say about opinions…
It’s hard to quantify what makes a ‘real Lamborghini’ anyway, but a few factors are pretty much non-negotiable. An authentic Lamborghini has to look outlandish, different, eye-catching and sharp. It has to be fast. And it has to feel exclusive. Historically, those factors have identified a new Lamborghini more than anything else.
So, is the styling hitting the right notes? There’s no doubt the Urus is eye-catching, regardless of whether you like the lines or you don’t. Some people hate it, but some people thought a Countach was ugly too, and there’s no accounting for taste.
The reality is that it’s never going to be easy for a sports car manufacturer (or super sports cars in Lambo-speak) to deliver a tall-riding SUV that still bears resemblance to the family lineage. Lamborghini has, however, done what I would consider to be an admirable job – people notice the Urus on the street, and that’s before they even register that it is a Lamborghini.
Is it fast? You'd better believe it is – maniacally so. On the twisty, technical Autodromo di Vallelunga, the speeds at which you can manhandle a family-size SUV are genuinely difficult to comprehend. The adaptive suspension keeps a heavy platform flat, balanced and responsive unlike any I’ve ever driven.
Having just tested the Range Rover SVR on the track, it pitches and wallows like a container ship in rough seas compared to the flat-as-a-tack Urus. The rear-wheel steering, incredibly sharp front end, and flexibility of the chest-beating twin-turbo V8 combine to provide a track weapon so far beyond what the user will ever need, it’s actually funny.
And lastly, it feels exclusive. There’s a cockpit-like sense to the cabin, while the switchgear, the controls and the execution of the cabin all feel decidedly exclusive. The materials used, especially Alcantara, evoke thoughts of any other Lamborghini you may have been lucky enough to sit in.
The cabin is user-friendly too, with room for 6ft 7in occupants up front, and 6ft 3in passengers in the second row, four or five-seat configuration, and plenty of luggage space – this is definitely an SUV that does more than pose.
Is it a case of mission accomplished then?
Designers know they are never going to please all the people all of the time, and perhaps that’s the focus of their work – they’d rather deliver a polarising car than a bland vanilla offering that generates no emotion.
Mitja Borkert has an impressive résumé, but despite that, he respects the history of Lamborghini, and reveres the legendary Marcello Gandini in the same way a rabid Catholic might revere the Pope. As such, he was critically aware of the way in which the Urus needed to capture attention.
Lamborghini boss Stefano Domenicali furthers the Urus's case with this statement: “Nearly 70 per cent of Urus buyers, 68 per cent to be exact, will be new to the brand,” he said. “It is critical to understand that the Urus is a new Lamborghini for new buyers, and it needs to appeal to them”.
Most Lamborghini buyers probably never even stretch the legs of their Huracan or Aventador, so the fact that the Urus is so fast and so effortless is perhaps moot. It makes a statement, as any Lamborghini does, and that’s the point.
After a full day spent exploring both the outer limits of the Urus’s capabilities and trundling through quaint little Roman towns at vastly more sedate speeds in Comfort mode, the only thing that even feels remotely ‘un-Lamborghini like’ is the whoosh of the turbos as they spool into action. Low down, the V8 sounds tough as nails, and it’s actually quiet in ‘Strada’ mode too, so it’s just the turbos that give the game away when you really nail the throttle.
I’m staggered by how easy it is to drive the Urus quickly on either the racetrack or the simulated dirt rally stage. You’re constantly reminding your brain that you can in fact keep pushing harder in a big SUV, when it’s telling you this isn’t possible. Lamborghini has used much of what it has learnt with the Huracan especially in this platform, and it’s all the better for it.
The engine is a sensation, the eight-speed gearbox sharp too, and the steering (both traditional and at the rear) is so much more direct than you expect, but I think it’s the dynamic suspension and active torque vectoring that most define the capability of the Urus. It remains flat under loads where other SUVs would be about to roll over, such that you feel confident to keep pushing harder.
The numbers are impressive enough as you’d expect too – 478kW, 850Nm, 0–100km/h in 3.6 seconds, 0–200km/h in just 12.8 seconds and a top speed of 305km/h. Other numbers define the Urus, and for the first time, a Lamborghini of any kind.
Occupants as tall as 6ft 7in can fit comfortably up front, and despite the heavily sloped roofline, 6ft 3in passengers in the second row. There’s also 616L of luggage space that expands to 1596L with the second row folded flat.
Let's not gloss over the following fact either. The Urus accelerates and stops faster than a Gallardo did just on a decade ago. That's a truly staggering materialisation of technology.
The cabin is a work of art in terms of comfort and flexibility, and chief engineer Maurizio Reggiani is most enthusiastic that we appreciate his team’s efforts to allow the driver to sit low into the cockpit. “That is a factor you expect with Lamborghini,” he told me. “We couldn’t have a seat position that felt like you were sitting high, up on top of the car. You had to be able to sit low into the cabin, so it feels more like a sports car.”
There’s the familiar ‘Tamburo’ drive mode selector, which allows you to toggle between the various drive modes – four standard, with extra off-road modes optional – and the infotainment system, which features haptic touchscreens, is set up for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
I love the thunderous soundtrack lower in the rev range when using maximum attack mode, and while I don’t love the noise when the turbos start working, I’ll cop it in the Urus so that I don’t have to deal with them when I drive a Huracan or Aventador – there’s sacred NA ground to be respected there.
The reality, though, is that Lamborghini set out to build the world’s fastest internal-combustion-powered SUV – the brief was that simple. And to deliver the necessary torque to get an SUV up and kicking as quickly as Lamborghini required, turbocharging was the only way, and to the tune of 850Nm no less. Don’t worry, there’s no chance the Huracan or Aventador will have huffers any time soon – there’s electric assistance for them.
The Urus won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it has delivered exactly what Lamborghini said it would, and the way in which it needed to do it. It’s super fast, exotic, different and exclusive. You could ask why Lamborghini needed to build it in the first place, but if the sales volume of these SUVs allows sports car brands to keep developing cars like the Huracan and Aventador, you’re going to have to live with it.
Sick of Nespresso coffee pods at the racetrack, I divert from the road drive and pull into a small petrol station on a country road with a bar attached to it. I disappear inside, dispatch my coffee standing at the bar and reappear a few minutes later to find the Urus surrounded by locals.
They’re asking me a million questions in Italian. How many horses? What does it cost? Can I look at it? Can I sit in it? Can we take photos? I spend the next few minutes taking photos of them standing next to it, sitting in the driver’s seat, smiling like they’ve just had the best experience of their life.
“So do you like it?” I ask one of the guys standing a bit further back, admiring the front-end styling. He gives me that classical Italian shrug and raise of the eyebrows. “Like it? Of course I like it. It’s a Lamborghini,” he says with a smile.
The Urus is creating exactly the kind of attention Lamborghini owners have always been accustomed to.