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Review: Lamborghini Urus

What is it?
One of the world’s fastest SUVs. The Lamborghini Urus is what happens when the maker of the planet’s most outlandish supercars turns its hand to a large five-door family car with proper ground clearance and off-road ability. On paper it’s a clash of purposes, in reality it’s a mouth-watering prospect. Can Lamborghini inject some real supercar DNA into a 2.2-tonne SUV that shares its underpinnings with the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne? And can someone tell us why it put the rear door handle where it did?

It’s been an agonising six year wait for the 2012 Urus concept to turn into the production car here, but Lamborghini is a tiny company don’t forget, selling just 3,500 cars a year (a figure it hopes to double with the Urus). Getting this car right could catapult Lamborghini into a different orbit - with more money to build more hairy-arsed supercars we know and love. It’s why there’s a tangible feeling, at the launch event in Rome, that this car matters, deeply, to each and every employee. Failure is not an option.

The Urus arrives surfing on the wave of an SUV explosion. Bentley has taken off-road luxury to a new level, the Rolls Royce Cullinan is just around the corner, Jeep is busy shoving Hellcat engines into the Grand Cherokee and even Ferrari is exploring its options. But, for now at least, the Urus stands alone as the world’s first and only true Super SUV. Let’s hope it can live up to the billing.

What is it like on the road?
Let’s cut to the chase. Yes we’re all sad that Lamborghini hasn’t plumbed in either its psychopathic V10 or operatic V12, but we’re told they will live on in the replacements for the Aventador and Huracan, albeit with hybrid assistance. And let’s get some perspective here, a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 641bhp and 852Nm torque (from just 2,250rpm) is an able substitute. What it lacks in revs (the redline is 6,800rpm), it makes up for in rib-crushing torque, whenever you need it, whatever ratio you find yourself in the eight-speed auto.

Out on the Vallelunga circuit, it’s barely believable the way this high-riding two-tonne family car flings itself out of corners, fast and flat. I honestly don’t think it would be too far behind a regular Huracan if you got the stopwatch out. The key, of course, is technology. Mass-masking, physics-battering, driver-flattering technology. Much like the Porsche 911 began its life with an inherent weight imbalance that has been engineered out over the years, the fast SUV is an intrinsically flawed concept in itself – but Lamborghini has thrown everything the VW Group can muster at it to ensure it drives like something its size and shape really shouldn’t.

Four-wheel steering, for example, that turns the rears by +-3 degrees. This means at low speeds, where they turn opposite to the front tyres, the virtual wheelbase is shorter than a Huracan – handy for hairpins and tight parking spaces. In higher speed situations, where they turn with the fronts, it means rock solid stability – like the flat fifth-gear right hander at the end of the Vallelunga start finish straight. Twitch your wrists and it goes, instantly, never wavering from its line. The steering is sharp, not with any useful feedback, but slack-free.

Then there’s the active roll stability control, which firms up the outside suspension in fast corners keeping you flat with the horizon, but can also decouple each wheel when you’re hammering down a dirt track. It’s possibly the most impressive piece of tech on display – virtually negating the higher centre of gravity. Close behind is the torque vectoring combo of a centre Torsen diff (chosen for its reliability and speed, says Lamborghini), and a proper active rear differential. Floor it out of a tight corner and the way the car squats and drives you out, rather than tweaking the brakes to stop you from understeering, is witchcraft.

Credit must go to the Urus’ tyres. Pirelli P Zeros are standard, but we were using the optional super-sticky Corsas on track. Then there’s Pirelli Scorpions if off-road is your thing… and full winters if it gets chilly. And let’s not forget the standard carbon ceramic brakes – the largest fitted to any production car – and boy do you need them. Hauling 2.2-tonnes down from 240kph is quite a task, but they were never anything but mighty. Admittedly the pedal has a rather squishy feel, to make them easier to modulate on the road, but keep it buried and the stopping power is there.

If there’s a weak link, it’s the gearbox. In full-fat Corsa mode it fires home upshifts with an unnecessary torque spike that delivers a kick in the back, plus it can be a bit lethargic on downshifts – noticeably more so than the Huracan’s twin-clutcher. The payoff is smooth, slurred progress when you dial everything down in Strada mode and just cruise along. We realise that hooning around a track isn’t necessarily how the Urus will be used, but we did drive at saner speeds, on public roads, too and can confirm it’ll do the school run and long-distance stuff with consummate ease.

We should talk about the noise. Put any notions of the Urus sounding remotely like its V10 and V12-engined brothers to bed right away, because where the Huracan barks and shrieks, the Urus woofles and rumbles. It’s not an unpleasant sound, an ominous thunder building to a harder edged blare as you approach the limiter, it’s just a shame its siblings sound so damn good. There are cracks and pops on downshifts, a flare on start up, but the drama feels synthesised, not built in. Still, may I refer you to the paragraph describing its rabid acceleration. Yeah, there’s always that.

Your engines modes are fairly self-explanatory. In increasing levels of aggression there’s Strada, Sport and Corsa – the latter two firming up and dropping the air suspension by 15mm, while weighting up the steering, sharpening up the throttle and gearbox and opening up the pipes. Alternatively you can reach for your ‘Ego’ lever and select your parameters individually. Let me save you the time: on the track you want Corsa, on the road you want maximum attack for the powertrain, the middle setting for the steering and the softest suspension. The one annoyance is that the volume increases with the powertrain settings, not on a separate button. So, if you want full volume, you have to put up with a gearbox doing a dodgy impression of a WRC sequential.

Three further modes are reserved for off-road shenanigans: Terra, Sabbia, Neve (gravel, sand, snow). Select any of these and the suspension rises 40mm higher than in Strada. Whether it can rock crawl like a Range Rover remains to be seen, but Lamborghini did lay on a dirt rally stage to prove that the Urus can manage big bumps at speed and adopt some amusing angles while doing it. If you live on a farm, you’re in for a treat.

Layout, finish and space
You might imagine that in the pursuit of sportiness and a low roofline (the Urus is 100mm lower than the Q7 or Bentayga) interior space would be completely compromised, but it’s not, not entirely. Despite that sloping roofline and pumped rear wheel arch space in the back is surprisingly accommodating. We’re talking a six-footer behind a six-footer with a bit of head and elbow room to spare, and a 616-litre (1,596-litres with the rear seats down) boot behind that.

In the front, there’s just the right amount of claustrophobia. Although the view out is marginally compromised by the high window line, you sit low, snuggled inside the belly of the car rather than perched on its shoulders. The seats are comfortable, not the skeletal instruments of torture you get in sportier versions of the Huracan and Aventador. In fact, we hunted high and low and couldn’t find one ergonomic nightmare. It’s all a far cry from the day Countach owners had to swing open the door and sit on the sill to reverse.

Surrounding you is a high-tech interior with all the quality marks of an Audi, but skinned to be a Lambo. Everywhere you look there’s hexagons, angles and Alcantara. The main switchgear, especially the starter button under a flip cover and the gear selector, are designed to feel chunky and industrial, as is the Anima lever that lets you toggle through your driving modes. It’s the Yorkie bar centre console of the car world.

The centre piece is a three-screen architecture lifted from the Audi A8 – catapulting the Urus to an electronic generation ahead of the Bentayga and Q7. Behind the wheel is the now familiar digital instrument cluster, while in the centre console the upper screen takes care of navigation, infotainment, your telephone and car settings. The lower screen is your interface for climate control, heated seats and a virtual writing pad if you’d rather scribble your destination in rather than scrolling and clicking.

Final thoughts
Tricky one this, because there’s a big difference between love and admiration. We can admire what Lamborghini has achieved with the Urus. It has successfully beaten physics into a bloody pulp with the application of the very latest technology, and blended it all together to masterful effect. The way it tears up a racetrack has to be experienced to be believed. It’s not playful or subtle, but brutally effective in a way your eyes tell you it shouldn’t be. And then there’s actual space inside, and the fact it does the boring everyday stuff with ease.

However, finding that ultimate connection with the car is hard. It’s an engineering achievement to be applauded, but it’s what this car represents, more than what it is, that’s got us at Top Gear excited. A full two years of production is already reserved, which means 3,500 cars a year at Lamborghini’s recently-enlarged plant. If this thirst for the car continues then it will finance a new and even more outrageous generation of supercars, hypercars and – further into the future – electrified Lamborghinis that will keep us titillated well into our old age, while simultaneously gripping a new generation of supercar fanatics.

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