Urus brims with Lamborghini flair
At the press of a button the SUV turns from urban-friendly commuter to Mike Tyson with a toothache
Although the Urus is a latecomer to the modern super-SUV game, it has its roots in the Lamborghini LM002 that was produced from 1986 to 1993. Nicknamed the “Rambo Lambo”, the LM002 was an all-terrain offroading brute powered by a Countach 5.2l V12 or optionally an even more muscular 7.2l V12 powerboat engine.
Subtlety has never been a Lamborghini trait, and so it is with the Urus which returns the Italian brand into the SUV game nearly three decades on. As per Lamborghini’s tradition of naming its cars after famous bulls, the Urus was a wild ancestor of today’s domestic cattle, and likewise this vehicle is capable of feeling both wild and domesticated.
The vehicle is based on other Volkswagen Group products on the VW MLBevo platform like the VW Touareg, Audi Q7/Q8, Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne, but gets its own Lamborghini skin and distinctive driving characteristics.
The outside is all sporting aggression with its flared wheel arches and sloping coupe-style roofline, and the body adopts the two-thirds body, one-third window ratio of Lamborghini’s sports cars. The hexagonal rear wheel arches are a nod to the LM002, while modern Lambo traits include Y-shaped front air intakes and daytime running lights.
The flamboyantly Italian theme is echoed inside the cabin which for the most part is distinctively Lamborghini, though subtle signs of its family origins include the VW-style buttons on the steering wheel.
Nitpicking aside, it’s a very exotic-looking cabin with top-notch luxury materials and aeronautical flair. Nestled between the front seats are three aircraft-style control levers: one for the auto transmission, and the other two for selecting between the vehicle’s driving modes.
The interfaces are all right up to date with a digital instrument panel that adapts its look to the selected driving mode, and a touchscreen infotainment system. I’m not a big fan of the infotainment’s haptic feedback, which requires you to press rather than just touch an icon to select it, but doesn’t give enough of a distinctive "click".
The business end of the Urus is a 4.0l twin turbocharged petrol V8 which punches out 478kW and 850Nm, a lot more than the LM002’s old V12.
Like many modern cars of a certain price, a large part of the Urus’ character is determined by software. Using the aforementioned aircraft-style levers, it can be set from a relatively mild-mannered urban-friendly commuter, to Mike Tyson with a toothache.
There are five modes affecting factors like the engine, steering, suspension firmness and transmission responses, while an optional offroad package adds two more dirt-focused modes and additional underfloor protection and metal-reinforced bumpers.
My test drive in the Western Cape didn’t involve any offroading — not on those 22-inch low-profile tyres — but a few hundred kilometres on both straight and twisty tar did give plenty of opportunity to play with those modes.
While the Strada (road) setting does make the Urus more comfortable-riding and urban friendly, it’s never meek, as attested to by its ability to do the 0-100km/h shuffle in just 3.6 seconds and race on to a 305km/h top speed. This makes it the world’s fastest SUV, says Lamborghini, although its cousin, the Audi RS Q8, holds the official SUV lap record around the Nurburgring.
When you switch the Urus to either Sport or Corsa (track) modes, the V8 roars more intensely and the suspension firms up to make the experience distinctly more loud and livid.
It’s not a supercar. If you want a true-blue Lamborghini experience, please look up Aventador or Huracan in their price list.
But if you want your speed served up with space, practicality and a high ground clearance, the Urus is on the distinctly athletic side of the SUV scale.
It uses every ounce of modern technology, including torque vectoring and four-wheel steering, in a bid to cheat physics. For a vehicle weighing nearly 2.2 tons the big Lambo cavorts through corners with plenty of grip and impressive composure.
Electromechanical roll stabilisation prevents this big boy from lolling about or feeling too top heavy, and the steering feels direct for an SUV. With the rear wheels helping with the steering, the heavy Urus nips into turns without the nose running wide prematurely.
The all-wheel drive system usually splits torque 40/60 front to rear, but to reduce understeer an active torque vectoring system can divert up to 87% to the back, or more torque to each individual wheel for enhanced traction when powering out of corners.
The big Urus really came into its own on twisty roads with uneven tar, where its adaptive air suspension ensured it stayed settled, and mid-corner bumps failed to nudge it off line.
The big carbon ceramic brakes bite ferociously and are fade-free, and the athletic character is rounded off by an eight-speed auto gearbox that shifts very slickly on its own, or gears can be yanked by big paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
The Urus is available in a single model priced at R3,495,000, including a three-year/100,000km Driveplan, from Lamborghini Johannesburg and Lamborghini Cape Town.