Going camping in a Urus
Mark Smyth took Lamborghini’s SUV into the countryside to try to make sense of it all
It’s easy to criticise performance SUVs. They make about as much sense as Donald Trump.
Whatever your view on them, the fact is that the SUV market is booming and people still want performance. Yes the laws of physics say that you aren’t going to be able to go around a corner as well in something that’s two metres high and weighs more than two tons, as you will in a low slung sports car, but hey, let's go fast anyway.
And then let’s go faster, like 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds and let’s keep going until we hit 305km/h. And let’s do it while carrying two adults, two kids and a set of matching luggage. You won’t get all that in a sports car.
If I sound cynical it’s because I am, but a few weeks ago Markus Flasch, the boss of BMW’s M performance division, added some perspective when he told me that for some people the X5M makes sense and so they build it for them.
To them, the Lamborghini Urus makes sense, and so will the Purosange when Ferrari launches it.
I took the Urus on a trip into Wales to explore some great roads, take camping and go to the beach. Not just any beach, but Pendine Sands in south Wales, an 11km long pristine stretch where Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the world land speed record in Bluebird in 1924.
We didn’t attempt any records, mainly because the Ministry of Defence was using a large part of the beach for shooting practice and I didn’t want any holes in the R3,495,000 Lambo.
Instead we headed north to the Elan Valley, a site full of well-sighted twisty roads. On the way the Urus burbled along, displaying a surprising amount of comfort in its normal Strada setting.
The occasional downshift on the paddles created a noise like a hibernating bear having a nightmare before settling down again as the V8 maintained its stride. But it’s difficult to stay in Strada mode. The Urus is not happy there, particularly in town. A couple of days earlier I’d kept it on a leash in the urban environment and it hated every minute of it, bucking and complaining as though I’d caged it without its permission.
Ironically on our journey through Wales it almost caged itself when the satnav took us down a country lane that was barely wider than the car. Please don’t let a tractor come the other way, I kept saying to myself.
But if that had happened, the Urus could be driven up the side of the bank using its four-wheel drive trickery and let the farmer pass.
It’s even practical enough to take camping. Not even glamping, but packing in a two-man tent, a few sleeping bags and an inflatable couch; all crammed into the boot with ease.
But back to the winding Welsh roads. The driving position is excellent, visibility great and there’s no doubt that you feel at the helm of something very different indeed. Slot the Tamburo switch into Sport and the twin-turbo V8 increases its volume, but go one further into Corsa and things get even louder as you prepare to tap into the 478kW and 850Nm.
The digital instrument display glows orange as you press on the accelerator and wake the bear. Forget the laws of physics, the Urus launches forward and you quickly flick the right paddle up a gear, then another as the speed piles on. It’s rapid, dare I say it, supercar like. Then hit the brake pedal and the massive 440x40mm carbon ceramic brakes haul the Urus to a stop from 100km/h in just under 38 metres.
The Urus has the same active rear wheel steering as the Aventador which makes it feel more agile than it is. The huge 22 inch wheels provide biblical amounts of grip but there’s no ignoring the feeling that you are in an SUV, albeit a super sports version. Unlike in a supercar, you feel like the road is a long way beneath you. On narrow country roads, it feels like navigating a massive powerboat along a winding canal, the sides closing in as the speed increases. It’s exhilarating of course, but at the same time a little unnerving.
But all the time there’s that sound, the raging bull urging you to push on, to drop another gear and explore the limits of Lamborghini’s engineers. But I can’t, because it’s the school holidays and my testing assistant is my six-year- old daughter, who is complaining because the ridiculously high rear doors means she can’t see anything outside and she’s getting bored.
We park on the top of one of four massive dams that make up the Elan Valley and take in the spectacular Welsh scenery that stretches on for miles. Then it’s time to head home, through little villages where the Urus barely squeezes through between cars parked on narrow high streets and where even with all that power, we still have to sit behind 4x4s towing caravans for mile after mile.
But things are comfortable, more so than if we were feeling every little bump in the road in a supercar. The rumbling of the Lambo’s engine has acted as a lullaby sending my daughter to sleep, leaving me to switch on the active cruise control and cross back into England where a bloke with shaggy hair has just been made Prime Minister.
It’s a different era now, one where the performance SUV makes as much sense to some people as Boris Johnson or Donald Trump being in charge. Not all of it makes sense to me, but there was something to be said for the practicality of the Urus and its ability to throw common sense totally out of the window.
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