How the Urus is a first for Lamborghini
Remember the opening scene from The Italian Job? The 1969 original, not that turgid 2003 remake. The Roger Beckermann character, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, hustles a red Lamborghini Miura up and over a snaking Alpine pass as Matt Monro’s silvery baritone lounges over Quincy Jones’ lush strings, tinkling piano, and muted trumpets: On d-a-a-y-s like these, dee-dah, dee-dah, dee-da-da-dah … The 2019 Lamborghini Urus has almost twice the horsepower of that Miura, and with a top speed of 189 mph (304 km/h), it’s faster. It’s also a 4,900-pound (2,223-kg), four-door SUV you can powerslide down a gravel road. Forget Matt Monro. We’re talking Sex Pistols meets Nine Inch Nails, with a dash of Devo thrown in for good measure, right?
An angry wedge of a thing, hunkered down on massive wheels, with four rocket launcher–sized exhausts out back, the Urus looks ready to rip the roof off a passing Fiat. But inside is a cabin that’s more Prada than punk rock, a modernistic mélange of leather and Alcantara, soft-sheen aluminum, and carbon fiber. And there’s ample room for four 6 foot-plus adults and their luggage. Ferruccio Lamborghini may have created seminal supercars—the Miura, the Countach—but he had a passion for fast, powerful, comfortable gran turismos. He would have loved the Urus.
Jonny Lieberman drove a prototype of the Urus late last year, so we only need a quick recap of the technical highlights. It’s built on the same MLBevo hardware that underpins the Bentley Bentayga, Porsche Cayenne, and Audi Q7. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 under the hood punches out 641 hp at 6,000 rpm and 627 lb-ft of torque from 2,250 rpm, and it drives all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Default torque split is 40/60 front to rear, though the system can send as much as 85 percent to the front wheels and almost 100 percent to the rear, if needed.
Rear-wheel steering and active torque vectoring help the big Lambo—it’s 201.6 inches long overall and rolls on a 118.2-inch wheelbase—turn crisply into corners at low speeds and stay stable through fast sweepers. Air suspension allows the ride height to drop 0.6 inch in Sport and Corsa modes and rise 1.6 inches in the off-road modes, which also decouple the active rollbars to improve wheel articulation. Base wheels are 21 inches, with 22s and 23s available as an option, and Pirelli has developed seven new P Zero tires to suit, including a sport-oriented Corsa, an off-road-capable Scorpion, and a snow tire.
Back in the ’80s, when Lamborghini built the bonkers LM002, off-roading was all about the mechanicals. Now it’s all about the electronics. Something Lamborghini calls the Tamburo dominates the Urus’ center console. It looks a high-style Game Boy controller, and in a sense it is. This is how you get to play games with the Urus.
On the left of the Tamburo is a lever labeled Anima that switches the Urus’ electronic brain through six modes. Strada is the default street mode, while Sport and Corsa sharpen the engine, transmission, and chassis responses for fast road and track work, just as they do in a Huracán or Aventador. Beyond those are settings that are new territory for Lamborghini: Sabbia, for sand, Terra, for gravel, and Neve, for snow. On the right is a lever labeled Ego—very Lamborghini—with which drivers can mix and match settings for powertrain, steering, and suspension to suit themselves.
The Urus feels casually fast. Lamborghini claims a 0–60 time of under 3.5 seconds, with 124 mph (200 km/h) arriving in 12.8 seconds, but it all happens without the hair-on-fire shriek of an Aventador V-12 or barrel-chested boom of a Huracán V-10. Oh, there’s engine noise, and progressively more when you switch through Sport and into Corsa modes, but it’s mostly artificial and all rather mellow by comparison. What impresses more is the Urus’ cool composure as it monsters a winding road—or, as we did on the launch program, the quick and technical 2.5-mile (4 km) Autodromo Vallelunga, 20 miles (32 km) north of Rome.
Although sporty and low-slung by SUV standards, the Urus is still a relatively tall and relatively heavy piece of machinery to hurl around a racetrack, which made the absence of roll, dive, squat, or diagonal pitch at Vallelunga all the more remarkable. The big Lamborghini stayed flat and stuck hard, even through the daunting fifth-gear change of direction into the gentle left immediately after the Curva Grande right-hander.
You know you’ve reached the dynamic limits when the front tires cry uncle; not even Pirelli can overcome the engine-forward configuration of Audi’s MLBevo architecture. Breakaway is smooth and progressive, however, a gentle warning rather than a sudden tangential shift. It’s best to be patient with the Urus, especially on slow to midspeed corners, washing off the speed before the apex and squeezing on the power once past it, letting the AWD system distribute the torque. The carbon-ceramic brakes—giant 17.3-inch rotors with 10-piston calipers up front and 14.6-inch items at the rear—are unquenchable, hauling the Urus down from triple-digit speeds without a hint of fade, corner after corner.
Quibbles? There’s not a ton of feel from the front tires, though the steering is as sharp as a tax lawyer. And the eight-speed automatic isn’t as polished as the rest of the powertrain. Upshifts thump home urgently in Sport and Corsa modes, momentarily upsetting the Urus’ composure, an annoying characteristic that has been deliberately dialed in to make customers who don’t know any better feel like they’re driving a supercar. Yet the downshifts feel curiously slow and lazy, like an old Mercedes.
Few owners will ever take their Uruses off-road, apart, perhaps, from wealthy Middle Eastern buyers indulging in a little sand surfing in the desert dunes. But Lamborghini had carved out a bijou rally stage at Vallelunga, and, well … it would have been rude not to. Unlike the cars selected for road and track duties, which rolled on Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires—285/40 front and 325/35 rear—mounted on the optional 22-inch alloys, the dirt track Uruses had the standard 21-inch wheels fitted with 285/45 and 315/40 P Zero Scorpions front and rear. A flick of the Anima level to select Terra mode, increasing the ride height and changing the powertrain mapping, and we were good to go.
What did we learn? The long wheelbase makes it tricky to flick the big Lamborghini into a tight turn like a Scandinavian rally racer, but you can boot the gas and get the tail out pretty much whenever you feel like it. It rides big bumps very well, the suspension feeling suppler than you’d expect. The ABS calibration could be improved, as there were a couple of moments when the pedal went numb. But this is arcana most owners will never experience. Suffice it to say the Urus is more capable off the blacktop than many modern SUVs.
Perhaps the most illuminating section of the Urus drive program was the 20-mile (32-km) road loop around Lago di Bracciano near Vallelunga, on open, occasionally gnarly tarmac awash with weekend traffic and pelotons of Lycraed cyclists. The Urus loafed along at 30 mph to 60 mph (48 km/h to 97 km/h) with insouciant ease, the long wheelbase and wide track calming the primary ride motions, the torquey V-8 burbling off in the distance. The secondary ride got busy in places—an inevitable side effect of 22-inch wheels and low-profile tires—but the comfy, supportive seats soaked up most of the jitters.
It’s fast on the track and fun on the dirt, and at $200,000 USD, it’s the least expensive new Lambo you can buy. But the real appeal of the Urus is it’s the first Lamborghini in history that’s a genuine daily driver, a raging bull you can take anywhere, any time. As we slouched past Lago di Bracciano, glassy smooth in the warmth of a glorious Italian spring morning, the temptation to point the Urus down the next road to the right and blast 400 miles (644 km) up the Autostrada toward the Alps was almost overwhelming. On d-a-a-y-s like these….