What is it like to drive?
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 at least those engines live on in the Aventador and Huracán. And let’s get some perspective here, a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 641bhp and 627lb ft of 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.
What's it like on track?
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. We honestly don’t think it would be too far behind a regular Huracán 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 plus or minus three degrees. This means at low speeds, where they turn opposite to the front tyres, the virtual wheelbase is shorter than a Huracán – 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 150mph 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.
Sounds good, any flaws?
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 Huracán’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 siblings to bed right away, because where the Huracán 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 stablemates 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 we refer you to the paragraph describing its rabid acceleration. Yeah, there’s always that.
Presumably it's not full-bore performance all the time?
Your engine 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 us 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.
But what happens if you want more performance, more of the time?
Then you need to get yourself the Urus Performante. This legendary moniker that’s a synonym for harder, faster Lamborghinis has only ever been reserved with ones that have their engines in the middle. Now you can have it on your Lambo SUV for the grand sum of £209,000.
What do you get for that? Power from the 4.0-litre, twin turbo V8 rises modestly to 657bhp and it's slightly more rapid: 0-62mph takes 3.3 seconds (the regular Urus manages 3.6s) while 0-124mph is seen off in 11.5s. So make sure your kids have sick bags stuffed in the back if you want to show them what it’s made of.
Surely there must be more changes?
Oh, there are lots. Steel springs over the standard air suspension, a 48-volt anti-roll bar, quicker steering and throttle responses, more aggressive shifts from the gearbox, a Torsen central differential, active torque vectoring at the back, more downforce from the spoiler, plus a ride height that's 20mm lower than before. And that's only the tip of the iceberg: read our separate review for the full picture.