I’m sure you’re all familiar with that timeworn adage about not comparing apples with oranges. I’m well versed with it, too, yet I find I’m doing exactly that — equating two fruits that grew in the same orchard, yet which are entirely different. I’ve got Lamborghini’s all-new Urus SUV by the scruff of the neck at the Autodromo Vallelunga on the outskirts of Rome, and I’m subconsciously demanding that it respond like its Huracán and Aventador siblings as I brake heavily for the ‘Cimini’ corner and pitch it into the double-apex right-hander. But how can a 1.6m tall, 2.2-tonne box on wheels react with the hair-trigger urgency of a waist-high supercar whose taut dimensions leave room only for two occupants and some small items of luggage? It’s plain impossible.

The Urus stretches the Lamborghini envelope like never before, and it will take the Raging Bull into the hands of owners who would never before have contemplated buying one of the Bolognese marque’s offerings. According to company suits, 60 per cent of Urus orders thus far are from those who have never previously owned a Lamborghini.

But why did they build it at all, ask many critics? The Urus doesn’t even look like a Lamborghini, they wail. Here are the facts: Lamborghini currently builds around 3,800 cars annually (split between Huracán and Aventador), and while the company currently turns over a tidy profit, things may not necessarily stay that way as we march steadfastly into an era of electrification/hybridisation and changing buyer tastes.

 

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Like it or not, SUVs are where it’s at these days, as buyers around the world are snapping these up by the millions. It’s why every brand under the sun has at least one of these leviathans in their line-up, with Rolls-Royce next in the queue. Even Ferrari, which for many years was adamant it wouldn’t go down this path, is now making noises about building an SUV — albeit its own interpretation of the genre.

Hence, we have the Urus, which, for all intents and purposes, is Lamborghini’s first genuine foray into the SUV segment. Yes, there was the military-focused LM002 that Lambo rolled out in the Eighties, but they built only 328 units of that block-like chariot, so it hardly made a dent on the market or the public psyche — except as a cool oddity that now has a cult following. Unlike the LM002, the Urus will be a volume seller, eventually finding more buyers annually than the Aventador and Huracán combined.

Lamborghini didn’t need to start from scratch in developing the Urus as it shares its MLB Evo core architecture with the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga and Audi Q7. That said, a lot of bespoke tuning and engineering went into the Urus to make it drive like you’d expect of a Lambo — at least in theory.

Lamborghini needed to make a statement with its SUV debutant and it’s done that with the stats alone. Try this for size: The Urus can hit 305kph flat out, leap from 0-100kph in 3.6sec and 0-200kph in 12.8sec. Massive carbon-ceramic discs (440mm with ten-piston calipers at the front and 370mm at the rear) ensure it wipes off speed just as effectively, braking from 100kph to standstill in 33.7m. Just a decade ago, these are numbers that would have done an apex supercar proud, let alone a cross-terrainer that can seat up to five occupants and stash 616 litres of luggage.

Every possible bit of tech wizardry has been thrown at the Urus. Nestled under its pointy snout is the first force-fed engine in a Lambo. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is also used elsewhere in the VW Group (such as in the Bentayga and Cayenne Turbo), but the Bolognese brand’s 640bhp/850Nm iteration is the most powerful version. The Urus also gets a torque-vectoring rear differential, active anti-roll bars and four-wheel steering whereby the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds, and in the same direction at higher velocities. This boosts manoeuvrability in tight confines (the Urus’s turning radius is allegedly tighter than the much smaller Huracán) while providing greater stability on open roads.

From behind the wheel, it takes a while to attune to the Urus’s subdued exhaust note vis-à-vis the screaming V10 and V12 atmo engines in its supercar stablemates. But the fact is, the massive low- and mid-range torque of the blown V8 is better suited to an SUV than the rev-happy V10 and V12. Vocally restrained it may be, but the turbo V8 delivers massive straight-line punch, walloping your spine when you pin the throttle to the firewall.

However, few road cars feel in their element on a racetrack, and this is even more the case if the vehicle happens to be an SUV. In this context, the Urus fares relatively well around the technical Vallelunga circuit, which comprises a mix of slow hairpins and fast flowing corners. As you’d expect with something this tall and heavy, the Urus pitches and rolls when you really wring its neck, and its basic tendency is to understeer once you find its limits. The trick is to work with all that mass — allow the weight of the car to settle on the outside wheels as you turn in and be patient in getting on the gas as you fire towards the exit of the corner. Drive it smoothly and the Urus can still hustle around a track with decent rapidity.

 

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As an aside, Lambo R&D boss Maurizio Reggiani confides over dinner that some of his team members are already at the Nurburgring Nordschleife to have a crack at the SUV benchmark around the perilous 20.8km circuit nestled in Germany’s Eifel mountains. The record is currently held by Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio Quadrifoglio, which blasted around the Nordschleife in a sizzling 7min 51.7sec. Having driven Alfa’s SUV hotshoe at Jebel Jais a few months ago, I can confirm it’s an electrifying performer that feels even more agile than the Lambo. But this again is not a fair comparison as the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a much smaller vehicle and weighs more than 350kg less than the Urus.

Not surprisingly, the Urus feels far more at home on a subsequent road loop across tight, winding tarmac through the countryside that neighbours Vallelunga. The Lambo SUV comes with an ‘Anima’ drive mode selector that provides no less six modes — Strada (Comfort), Sport, Corsa (Track), Neve (Snow), Terra (Off-road) and Sabbia (Sand).

As for the last of these settings, engineering boss Reggiani says he and his team spent ample time with a Urus prototype in the UAE dunes to ensure the vehicle is up to the heat and rigours that this terrain presents. His face lights up when describing this experience, and he says the Urus, when equipped with the Off-road Package (comprising 21in rims with Pirelli Scorpion tyres and bumpers that offer greater front and rear clearance) can tame the tallest of dunes. We’ll obviously have to wait before verifying these claims as the Urus doesn’t land here until July/August, with prices starting at just under Dh790k.

But, back to the Italian countryside, and the Urus is making brisk progress across the sinuous route, even though its 2,016mm girth isn’t ideal on these narrow roads. The four-wheel steering really helps here, helping the car rotate through tighter corners and enabling mid-bend adjustments to line when necessary. The Urus’s performance is mighty in real-world conditions, so much so that opportunities to fully exploit the oomph of the twin-turbo V8 are few and far between. It may not ride with the suppleness of a Bentayga, but the Urus still glides over most road-surface imperfections without pulverising your organs — especially in Strada mode.

 

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The grand finale of the media drive program is a thrash across a gravel course carved into the hillside adjoining the Vallelunga circuit, and this element is for all the world like a rally special stage. It’s tight and bumpy, with lots of elevation changes — there’s even a ‘yump’ to add to the drama. Unlike the cars we used on track — which were equipped with the Carbon Package and 22in rims with sticky P-Zero Corsa rubber — the vehicles we’re using here are fitted with the Off-road Package and 21in rims with heavily treaded Pirelli Scorpion boots.

With the Anima slotted in ‘Terra’, it’s time to blast around the impromptu course, and the Urus proves surprisingly wieldy and entertaining as we kick up plumes of gravel and adopt some amusing drift angles on the loose surface. If you do wind up being one of the few who can afford to purchase a Urus, I highly recommend you head for some gravel at least once. You’ll drive away with a massive grin on your face… and you can always make a beeline for the carwash afterwards to ensure your Urus is pristine again.

But I can hear your nagging concern as I write this. “It doesn’t really look like a Lamborghini,” you’re mumbling to yourself. Styling is always a subjective area, so I’ll just say two things here: firstly, the Urus looks better in real life — out on the road — than it does in pictures. Secondly, there’s only so much you can do aesthetically with a vehicle that’s almost as tall as the average male, and which is proportioned like a wardrobe to accommodate five occupants and their cargo. To my eye, Range Rover’s Velar is the only SUV that truly manages to look “wow!”.

The Urus’s interior has some nice design elements, with Lamborghini’s trademark hexagonal motif cleverly repeated throughout the cabin. The styling theme and layout is largely as per the Aventador and Huracán… it’s just that the Urus has vastly more space. It’s cavernous by comparison with its mid-engined supercar brothers, although the rear seats aren’t the most comfortable you’ll find in this segment.

So, dud or delight? My preliminary impression is that Lamborghini has done enough with the Urus to ensure it will have no problem in finding the 3,500 buyers a year that it is targeting for the vehicle. The Lamborghini badge alone will be a magnet for many, while the styling (polarising though it may be) has enough uniqueness about it to separate it from the rest of the uber-SUV horde.

There’s also the fact that its performance stats are beyond those of any other competitor in its segment. The Urus has undoubtedly raised the performance SUV bar, but I was hoping it would rewrite the rulebook.

 

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