On an off-road track feathering the Vallelunga circuit just outside of Rome a rooster tail of dirt fills the air as Lamborghini’s twin-turbo V8 behemoth snorts and charges on the most un-Lamborghini launch there has been.
With a quick twist of countersteer, in an instant the all-wheel drive system uses its electronic trickery to shift all that pulling power to where its most needed and the car squats, straightens up and thrusts forward with immense acceleration.
Then, for a split second, it all goes eerily quiet when all four wheels leave the ground as we launch into the air and my stomach is sent into my throat. We land without any drama yet the theatrics continue with sliding, dirt churning, bucking good fun.
Only a millionaire masochist with endless funds and a friendly smash repairer would treat a Lamborghini like this. But this is unlike any other modern Lamborghini - this is the Urus, the Italian car maker's inevitable entry into the luxury SUV segment
Vehicle Style: Performance SUV
Price: $390,000 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 478kW/850Nm 4.0-litre 8cyl twin-turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 12.3 l/100km
Priced from $390,000 (plus on-road costs), it arrives as one of the most expensive cars of its type. And that's before ticking anything on the extensive options list that could easily send the final price beyond half-a-million bucks.
It's a car that shares more in common with the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga - both of which have been equally out-of-bounds brand busters - than just their fundamental underpinnings. Just as the Cayenne did more than 15 years ago, the Urus has been created to not only satisfy a seemingly endless global appetite for high-riding luxury cars, but ensure the Italian car maker has a profitable and sustainable long-term future with big enough cash reserves to invest in expensive future technologies that will make its hallmark sports cars meet future regulations while being faster and more powerful than ever before.
Cynics will no doubt claim the brand is selling out and diluting its pedigree, which Porsche was also accused of, but the significance of the Urus' success can not be underestimated in guaranteeing Lamborghini survives deep into a tumultuous next decade that threatens to eliminate traditional, indulgent supercars such as its flagship Aventador.
In any case, the Urus can't be ignored, highlighted by an impressive set of numbers that immediately places it at the summit of SUV-land.
It can carry more than two people, which is something the Huracan and Aventador cannot do. Available as a conventional five-seater or with an optional four-seat configuration that features a pair of business class seats in the back, Lamborghini has countered the fact the Urus has the lowest roofline in its class by dropping the hip points of the front and rear seats as much as possible, claiming that adults up to 190cm tall can still fit comfortably in the back. And they won't go without their luggage either, with more than 600L of cargo capacity in the boot that is big enough to fit two full-size golf bags or up to eight overhead cabin bags.
Breaking more boundaries, it is the first car from the Italian car maker to feature the latest semi-automated driving systems, including automated emergency braking, lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control.
The end result is a car that is right up to date with modern demands and regulations, but still continues to ask the question of whether it is a legitimate Lamborghini.
The cabin carries the jet fighter theme from the Huracan and Aventador, including the signature flip-top starter button, but fuses it with a sense of modern convenience and connectivity thanks to two high-resolution displays in the centre console - the top one being a comprehensive multimedia system with Bluetooth, smartphone mirroring, audio controls, digital radio and sat nav that's compatible with Google Earth, while the lower display features haptic buttons for the ventilation, seats and light settings.
There is also a sense of space unlike any other Lambo, with a commanding view from the driver's seat, decent small item storage and more than enough room in the rear seats to entertain friends or family without too much compromise.
The cabin is lavishly appointed enough to justify its price, with sumptuous leather, soft touch faux suede and plenty of carbon fibre highlights. But look past the glamour and you'll find enough shared components and switches from the Volkswagen parts bin, some of which diminish its exclusivity.
Again, those elements quickly disappear when you're actually driving the Urus. Even in its most comfortable Strada setting, it feels like a Lamborghini should - like a mad bull waiting to meet a Matador.
ON THE ROAD
It’s the most powerful vehicle in its class (at the moment), with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that delivers 478kW and 850Nm to the ground through a complex all-wheel drive system with torque vectoring and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The end result is the kind of performance expected from a car wearing the Raging Bull badge, with the ability to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds and maxing out with a top speed of 305km/h - making it both the quickest and fastest SUV on the planet.
Lamborghini says it spent considerable effort in ensuring the Urus is not only powerful, but also overcomes the physical compromises of a high-riding SUV to handle like a sports car should. While it is hardly a featherweight machine, it is the lightest of the new breed of uber luxury SUVs, tipping the scales at 2135kg, has the lowest centre of gravity and, with rear-wheel steering, electrically-controlled anti-roll bars and standard carbon ceramic brakes, it is the most agile of its type.
More than that, it can go where no other Lambo has gone before thanks to a multi-stage drive controller - configured in a device within the centre console called the Tamburo - which tailors elements such as the engine, gearbox, stability control and air suspension across six settings, Strada (street), Sport, Corsa (track), Sabbia (sand), Terra (gravel) and Neve (snow).
On a smooth road, it is surprisingly refined; the engine effortlessly uses its low-end pulling power to lope along with the tacho barely ticking over and the exhaust emitting a subtle V8 burble; the gearbox shifts through to the tallest gears without any interruptions; the steering is light; and the brakes feel more natural through the pedal than other carbon ceramic stoppers.
But, as soon as the road turns patchy, the stiff suspension can be a little unbearable and rattles the cabin.
On the flip side, when the road turns twisty and you unleash the Urus' full performance it all makes sense. For starters, it is phenomenally fast thanks to the engine's monstrous torque output. It is loud too when you switch to either Sport or Corsa settings, which opens-up the exhaust system to produce a bellowing soundtrack under acceleration that is amplified through the audio system. It's a gorgeous, guttural growl at low to middle revs, but then it sounds whooshy when the revs rise under full throttle acceleration.
It's nothing like the Huracan's V10 or the Aventador's V12, which spin upto 8000rpm with a rising crescendo. But then again, neither of those engines can produce the kind of thrust from the turbo charged V8 that makes the Urus feel just as thrilling to drive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Beyond its straight-line speed, the combined effect of the Urus' chassis trickery - the rear-biased all-wheel drive system, rear-wheel steering, electric anti-roll bars, tightened air suspension and huge 23-inch Pirelli P Zero tyres - certainly makes it the most dynamic SUV out there. The steering is fast and fulsome, pointing it towards apexes without delay, and it sits flat through the bends, hangs on with amazing mid-corner grip and has plenty of stopping power. It's like a monster truck met a rally car; intimidating and playful at the same time.
Ultimately though, it doesn't completely alter the laws of physics as it can't entirely escape being an SUV but it certainly lives up to the pedigree of the Raging Bull badge with a character like no other high-performance soft roader rival.
That it can also be a decent bush basher and head off the beaten track with a fair degree of competence showcases the Urus' broad depth of talents.
In the end, the Urus is a real Lamborghini and a genuinely practical and comfortable SUV in equal measures, which simply makes it, both literally and metaphorically, the Lamborghini of SUVs.
- Interested in buying Lamborghini Urus? Visit our Lamborghini showroom for more information.