2019 Lamborghini Urus Prototype First Drive Review: Magic Bullet


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Let’s dispense with the elephant in the room. The Lamborghini Urus has as much to do with the LM002—aka the Rambo Lambo, the amazing Countach-powered stud of an SUV favored by oil sheiks and sold by Lamborghini in the 1980s—as I do with Gal Gadot.

Thing is, because of the legitimate off-roading heritage given to the brand by the LM002, Lamborghini has more of a right to build an SUV than any other supercar maker.  However, I’ve now driven both Rambo’s Lambo and the Urus, and there’s only the most tangential of relations. Namely, the badge.

The three-ton body-on-frame LM002 was developed from the rear-engine Cheetah military vehicle built to woo the U.S. Army (Uncle Sam eventually went with AM General’s HMMWV). The Urus is purely civilian, based on the Volkswagen Group’s MLBevo architecture, which underpins the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, and—in short-wheelbase form—the Porsche Cayenne. Actually, if you dig a deep enough, the current Audi A4 is also MLBevo. Shhh.

As mentioned, the LM002 featured a torqued up version of the Countach’s 5.2-liter V-12. Does the Urus sport a low-down, gruntier version of the Aventador’s 6.5-liter V-12? Sad to say, nope. As you might imagine, especially given the MLBevo roots, the newest Lamborghini uses a variant of Audi’s venerable 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, which in Urus guise is good for 650 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque.

Why no 12-cylinder, like the Urus’s platform mate, the Bentayga, which comes packing a 600-hp, 664-lb-ft twin-turbo W-12? “China,” says Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s director of research and development. That nation’s rather arbitrary tax policy goes exponential based on displacement. Anything above 4.0 liters comes with crippling luxury surcharges.

The Urus is Lambo’s only shot at the massive Chinese market, which now has as much say over automotive product planning decisions as the U.S. or Europe. As a result, there will be no 12-cylinder Urus variant. This single-bullet theory is also the reason why the Urus comes packing an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission with a (gasp!) torque converter, a first for the brand. Remember, the LM002 had a long-throw five-speed manual, a fact I’ll never forget. Anyhow, because of that torque converter, the Urus doesn’t have the pissed-off bovine kick of the Aventador’s single-clutch transmission with independent shifting rods, nor even the frenzied, half-violent snap of the Huracán’s twin-clutch box. It can change gears quickly and authoritatively, but I prefer how Audi tuned the same transmission in the S8, for instance. Also, because of some (horrible) new noise homologation rule in the U.S., even in Sport and Corsa mode, the exhaust isn’t as nasty and ill-repute-tinged as it could and should be. Remember, one bullet.

With those caveats out of the way, I assumed the Urus would be quick but not really feel like an SUV or a Lamborghini. I was right about the first part and wrong about the other.

Lambo is claiming a 0–62-mph time of 3.7 seconds. One Urus we played around with had a Vbox data logger in it, and using launch control I was able to pop off a 3.59-second 0–62-mph run. Reggiani managed a time of 3.43 seconds, and the day before, a British journalist friend of mine hit 3.34 seconds, though obviously he was cheating (kidding/not kidding). Reggiani assured me the conditions were much less favorable the day I ran. Sure.

When our test team gets its hands on an Urus, expect to see 0–60 time in the 3.2-second (or less) range. Metric-loving European manufacturers don’t understand the quarter mile, but I’m guessing we’ll be able to hustle the Urus in less than 11.5 seconds with a trap speed above 120 mph. Call it a hunch. Lamborghini is quoting a top speed at greater than 186 mph. I got pretty close.

Lamborghini let us play with two Uruses (yup, Uruses) at the legendary, Porsche-owned Nardo Technical Center. The 16-corner, 3.9-mile handling circuit is one of my favorite tracks, and all doubts about whether the Urus is a proper Lamborghini were erased by lap two—we barreled down the front straight at over 165 mph and ever so slightly brushed the brakes to make Turn 1, running the big left-hander at 155 mph. In an SUV. Insane.

And what brakes! The new Urus comes with the largest brakes in the world: 17.3-inch carbon-ceramic rotors up front get squeezed by 10-piston calipers. Yes, 10. Out back, 14.6-inch disks are clamped by four pistons. Reggiani explained to me that they would have liked even bigger brakes, but the rotors had to fit into the base 21-inch wheels. If you aren’t the base-model kind of guy, the Urus also comes with 22-  and 23-inchers shod in a quite special Pirelli P Zero Corsa tire stamped with an “L” for Lamborghini—like the ones on the $2 million-plus Centenario.

Each Urus went out for about 20 hot laps, and both the brakes and tires were totally up to the task of slowing the big bull each and every time. Rear-wheel steering and a torque-vectoring rear end (the outside rear wheel is mechanically accelerated through turns to help eliminate understeer) almost made me forget I was flinging a big SUV around a high-speed track. I only remembered I was driving a giant crossover when I spotted the other two Uruses running around with me. Days later, I’m still amazed at what a great driver’s contraption the Urus turned out to be.

How much does it weigh? Reggiani claims about 4,750 pounds, which would be extremely light for such a large thing. That said, Italians weigh vehicles differently than you and I. So I’m going to guess it’s a bit heavier. For some perspective, the chubby Bentley Bentayga W-12 plops in at 5,653 pounds, whereas the comparatively lightweight BMW X6 M flattened our scales with 5,187 pounds of fun. I’m thinking the Urus will be right around 5,000 pounds, give or take.

Little white lies about weight aside, the Urus is that shatteringly good. My opinion of this super SUV went up even higher when the Lambo folks turned us loose on a high-speed, almost rally stage-esque, dirt course. Now riding on the puny 21-inch wheels shod in Pirelli Scorpion SUV rubber, I had the opportunity to try out one of three new off-road modes. On the Urus, in addition to the usual Strada (street), Sport, and Corsa (track), you have Sabbia (sand), Terra (dirt), and Neve (snow) modes, accessible via a little lever to the left of the gear selector. Lamborghini is calling this lever Tamburello, Italian for tambourine. Why? Because Reggiani made it up. Some things in life are simple.

In the dirt, I felt like I was driving Hennessey’s version of the Ford Raptor, the VelociRaptor, only much more hunkered down. The gobs of torque were even more apparent on the rally stage, where—I never got the thing out of third gear and spent the majority of it in second. There were even a couple of ultra-tight first-gear corners. Despite the all-wheel drive, a heavy right foot produced magnificent tail-out drifts, and the steering was quick enough to easily catch the slide. Then the Urus just rocketed down the busted path. What a beast.

But will Urus owners ever actually take their super-expensive super SUVs into the rough stuff? Lamborghini is thinking some will. That’s why they’re offering two body styles: the regular sporty one and the Dune version. The latter will feature revised front and rear bodywork for increased approach and departure angles. In fact, Lambo is thinking that it might only offer all three off-road modes on Dune models and ship the regular Urus only with Neve. Maybe. They’re still deciding.

Truth be told, they’re still deciding a few things. The Urus won’t be finalized until May or so. Our drive of these development mules (some of which had obvious Audi components as placeholders) was to pick our brains about what—if anything—they can do to improve the Urus before it goes on sale.

My to-do list? One, make it louder for markets that allow it. Two, there needs to be a shift-alert beep in Corsa mode. Three, tighten the variable steering ratio in Corsa mode. Four, create a Sport/Off-road mode—I suggested they call it TerraVeloce—to quicken shift times in the rough stuff. Beyond those four things, I’m pretty dang smitten with Lamborghini’s all-new attack SUV.

When Porsche introduced the Cayenne, the original sporty SUV, certain people who self-identify as “purists” insisted the sky was falling. But Porsche insisted healthy SUV sales would fill their R&D coffers with cash, thereby ensuring that future 911s would get better and better. Which they did. I’m sure the same catcalls will echo for Lamborghini. But the cash flow from Urus should ensure that whatever replaces the Aventador and Huracán will remain the type of cars that make little kids and grown men and women jump up and down with joy. If you like Lamborghini, you’re going to love the Urus.

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