Does the Lamborghini SUV make sense?by Andrew Frankel on 5th December 2017
Lamborghini is peddling the Urus as 'the world's fastest SUV', but is there any more to it? Andrew Frankel questions the point
Lamborghini has not felt the need to abandon its striking design language just because its newest product happens to be a hulking great 2.2 tonne SUV. The wraps officially came off the Urus on Monday evening though, in truth, almost everything that there was to know about Lamborghini’s second SUV (remember the LM002?) has been in the public domain for months and what little remained could easily have been guessed.
This is because for all its edgy lines, the Urus is, in fact, an entirely conventional sports luxury SUV in the modern vogue, clothed by Lamborghini but sitting on the same platform as the Audi Q7 (and Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga) and powered by a 4-litre twin-turbo V8 motor already found in various Porsches and Audis. Of course, this being a Lamborghini, it has been persuaded to cough up a load more power – 641bhp in fact – to enable Lamborghini to call it the world’s fastest SUV once more, even though its 190mph top speed is not only academic but also just 3mph ahead of the Bentayga’s maximum velocity. That said the Bentley’s engine is half as big again so if I were betting on which would be the first manufacturer to produce a 200mph SUV, it would be towards Crewe rather than Sant'Agata that I would turn my attention.
Ridiculous, isn’t it? Except for one thing: these cars sell. Lamborghini has taken 54 years to get its production up to 3500 units per year, but thanks to the Urus, if that number does not double in its first full year on sale something will have gone badly wrong. The Bentayga is in the process of doing exactly the same thing, albeit at a rather higher level, taking Bentley from a 10,000 unit per year manufacturer to one that knocks out 20,000 units by the end of the decade. Likewise, Aston Martin’s forthcoming DBX SUV and derivatives will likely near enough double the company’s volumes.
Of course manufacturers have known the draw of the ostentatious wealth statement since the dawn of the industry. What it has been less quick to twig is that if that statement can be turned from a recreational plaything into something that can be used, and therefore shown off all the time, the purchase is not merely desirable but far, far easier to justify. So a Lamborghini with space for five and am enormous boot would appear to combine the best of both possible worlds.
But will it still drive like a Lamborghini? Well, I shouldn’t prejudge such things but all I would say is that if it does, it will have done something never achieved in all of history, and found a way of defying the laws of physics. It won’t sound like a Lamborghini because every previous Lamborghini has been normally aspirated, and it won’t handle like a Lamborghini because it’s as high as a house, the engine is ahead of the driver, it has a three metre wheelbase, it needs enough wheel travel to go off road and it weighs 2.2 tonnes. So it will handle like a 2.2 tonne SUV, albeit one set up by Lamborghini chassis engineers. That means there’s every chance it will drive very well by the standards of such cars, but like a Lamborghini? No more than a Porsche Cayenne drives like a 911. It doesn’t, because it can’t.
Will that matter? To those who need a large SUV but stay awake at night dreaming of the looks on the faces of friends, family and neighbours when they turn up driving a Lamborghini, this will be all their Christmases come at once. They’ll go out of their way to be seen in it and delight in being able to smile indulgently and say ‘Let’s take the Lambo.’ And they will get very annoyed indeed with anyone who calls it the Audi.
Me? All my life Italian supercars manufacturers have been different. I don’t mind Bentley doing an SUV because that’s just a more practical version of what it’s always done. Likewise Aston Martin had been primarily a manufacturer of luxurious Grand Touring cars rather than all-out sports or supercars for longer than I’ve been alive. An SUV is a step for sure, but not a giant leap into a void. But Lamborghini and Ferrari are something else: they are supercar manufacturers and, as such, creators of cars as far removed from the world of the SUV as it is possible to be. And now one has just shown its first SUV while the other’s is surely not far away.
To me the only justification is the business model provided by Porsche, itself now primarily an SUV manufacturer. Which is to take the enormous profits provided by these high margin, high volume cars and use them to make their slower selling, more traditional models better than ever before. These then provide the credibility and associations required to keep the SUVs selling and the money rolling in.
So while I don’t much like the idea of once pure Italian supercar constructors turning into SUV manufacturers, if those cars end up financing the greatest generation of thoroughbred Italian supercars, we must acknowledge that there’s a bigger picture here, and one that should be welcomed with open arms.
2018 Lamborghini Urus specifications
Engine: 4.0 litres, V8, twin-turbocharged petrol
Power: 641bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque: 627lb-ft @ 2250rpm
Transmission: eight-speed dual clutch automatic
Top speed: 190mph