What is it?
On first introduction, it’s a recipe for intimidation. It’s claimed to be the fastest SUV in the world (0-100kph in 3.6sec and a top speed of 305kph puts it nearly in supercar territory), and it’s made by Lamborghini – creator of some of the most savage vehicles on the market. Things – as with any Lamborghini, for that matter – would be a lot less daunting if we were driving on a smooth European country road, a wide motorway, or even a race track. But today we’re driving the Urus on a narrow ghat road, as well as through some heavy Pune traffic. Perhaps the intention was to demonstrate that this is the first Lamborghini ever to go on sale in India that truly works in our conditions – but still, I doubt they accounted for rush hour.
It’s requisitely mad to look at, employing as many ‘sporty’ design tropes to an SUV body style as possible – the only thing missing is a massive wing on the back; and somehow, it works. It’s got an immensely raked roofline, more angles and cuts in the bodywork than you can count, and slit-thin head and tail lamps. The angles continue in the shape of the wheel arches and the air dams up front, and there are Y-shaped motifs everywhere – in the LED running lamps, the tail-lamps, the doors; even the spokes of the wheels! Ah, the wheels. Did you ever think you’d see the day when 22-inch wheels were the ‘medium’ size? The tyres on these wheels actually have a good amount of sidewall on them for bump absorption, and while you can currently spec a 23-inch wheel, someone from Lamborghini told us they’re working on a set of 24-inchers!
The Urus also comes with air suspension that alters the car’s ride height from 158mm at its sportiest, all the way to 248mm in its off-road modes. The stance changes accordingly too, from ‘very large hot hatchback’ to ‘Bond villain desert assault vehicle’. All things considered, it certainly does a good job of delivering the shock and awe you expect from a Lamborghini – or, for that matter, a Rs 3 crore SUV.
What’s it like inside?
If the interior of a Huracán or Aventador is meant to simulate the cockpit of a fighter jet, then this one is more akin to the bridge of a battleship. It’s got similar aviation-aping paraphernalia, but it’s spread over the expanse of a full-size SUV dashboard. It all looks deeply impressive, with a wide central console housing a number of toggle switches and levers, and the dual-touchscreen infotainment and HVAC control unit from the Audi A8.
In function, however, some of it is a bit counter-intuitive. The ‘Tamburo’ lever for the ‘Anima’ or drive mode selector might look like the thrust lever on a powerboat, but it only works in one direction, so if you want to go back to ‘Strada’ mode from ‘Sport’ you have to cycle through the remaining four modes until you arrive at the top again. The gear selector is a combination of lever-pulls and button-pushes to get through reverse, neutral, manual and park – but you won’t find drive anywhere on there. That’s because, in proper supercar style, you engage drive by pulling the right gearshift paddle. But unlike a supercar, these paddles are attached to the wheel, not the column, so they move, and in a three-point turn, you’ll find yourself fumbling around trying to find the right one. Perhaps a little less form and a little more function would’ve worked better. This is my first experience with the Audi-derived dual-touchscreen system, and I’m really not a fan. Touch-screens in general require you to take your eyes off the road, and this system has removed all physical buttons and knobs. The haptic feedback is meant to reward your input with a virtual ‘click’ but in practice, you have to prod the screen harder or it doesn’t work, which is incredibly frustrating on the move.
What’s it like as an SUV? From the driver’s seat – really good. You get the commanding view that you’d expect and the seats offer a wide array of adjustment. The digital instrument cluster or ‘Virtual Cockpit’ hardware may be borrowed from a Q7, but you can barely tell, as it’s draped in Lamborghini’s own interface, including – in Corsa mode – the race-car look from the Aventador SV. The view backward is not so great, but with a roof like that, you will have expected that. The roof also takes its toll on rear headroom. Lamborghini says someone who is 6ft3in can fit in the back, but I’d imagine only just about. Legroom, however, is rather good, as is the boot, at 616 litres. There’s even a compressed space-saver spare tyre.
What’s it like to drive?
An SUV with a Lamborghini badge has a lot on its shoulders because it’s saddled with both, the expectation to perform (and thrill) like a Lambo should, yet also to be sensible and practical like Lambos usually aren’t. Luckily, the Urus treads that line rather well. For one, it’s got the appropriate numbers – 650hp and 850Nm of torque from the VW Group’s ubiquitous 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8; the highest output we’ve seen from this motor, yet. That’ll shoot it to 0-100kph in 3.6sec – just 0.4sec shy of the AWD Huracán – 200kph in 12.8sec and on to a top speed of 305kph!
However, in Strada (street) mode, it feels like any big luxury SUV to drive, with a manageable throttle, good refinement, gentle responses and smooth shifts from the 8-speed ZF torque converter automatic (that’s right, the three Lamborghinis currently on sale use three different kinds of gearboxes). It even rides surprisingly well, with only a bit of lumpiness from the wide tyres as you go over bumps; the air suspension and the tyres soaking up most of the rough stuff. Air suspension – perfect for an SUV, but contentious for a sportscar, right? – is set-up a lot firmer than most luxury SUVs (drive an AMG E 63 versus a regular E 350d for a similar contrast) but offers an acceptable amount of comfort in 'Strada'.
The Urus is also an example of driving modes done right, with each feeling truly distinct from the other. Though Strada is best for real-world use, my personal favourite mode is Sport, because here, you can truly get some pace out of the powertrain while still keeping things manageable. The engine note is a lot rortier (a similar sound to what you get from this same V8 in, say, an Audi RS7) in this mode, the steering is heavier, and the power a lot more accessible. This feels perfect for flinging this monstrous SUV (5m long and 2m wide) around a winding road like the one we’re on today. It also weighs 2.1 tonnes (not too bad for a full-size SUV with a V8, actually) but somehow it just carves up corners with no drama. How?
It’s a combination of active anti-roll bars (based on a 48v electrical system), active torque vectoring and, best of all, rear-wheel steering. These come together to trick your brain into thinking you’re in a hot hatchback; you really have to keep telling yourself “it’s an SUV, it’s an SUV”, or you will forget. Turn-in is unbelievably quick and you will not be prepared, first time around, for the aggression with which the nose dips into a corner, or the agility with which the rest of the car follows. The massive carbon-ceramic brakes also haul it down from speed really quickly, and impressively, feel pretty fluid and progressive in everyday use too.
The hardest mode is 'Corsa' or 'track'. This one firms things up even more, the steering becomes heavier still and the engine responses are even sharper. But what lingers most in your memory is the ferocity of the gearshifts (it’s a proper whack to the back of your head) and the sound, which is now in an altogether different dimension of brutal. This feels like a Lamborghini – far more aggressive than any SUV I’ve ever driven before. A bit too aggressive for today, frankly, and something that seems better suited to a race track, as the name of the drive mode suggests. I choose to dial it back down to Sport.
Should I buy one?
Lamborghini’s sold out its first year’s Urus allocation for India, but the real interesting stat is that 68 percent of orders came from people new to the brand. At Rs 3.10 crore (ex-showroom), it is priced way above all other luxury SUVs, save for the Bentley Bentayga and a fully specced-up Range Rover. What that tells us is that there are many who want a Lamborghini (money isn’t an issue, clearly) but don’t want to live with the limitations of a supercar on Indian roads. And since the Urus is based on the MLB Evo platform – same as the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga and upcoming Porsche Cayenne – a lot of the costs have already been absorbed, so the margins on each one sold are likely miles higher than on the Huracán or Aventador. So hate on the concept of such a car all you want, SUVs from sportscar makers are here to stay.
But there’s little to dislike about the Urus. Sure, it’s not beautiful in the way, say, a Jaguar F-Pace is, but it makes up for that with in-your-face aggression. It’s probably not very fuel efficient either, but then you probably want to look at a Q7 diesel instead. And other SUVs probably have more room in the back seat, but it’s superb by modern Lamborghini standards. Jokes aside, the Urus is bafflingly quick. I’ve driven fast SUVs before, but this is on another level – not just of speed, but of agility and handling as well. They’ve thrown everything at it to make it drive like a two-tonne SUV should not, and it’s worked.
The question of the hour is – is the Urus an SUV and yet also a Lamborghini? While it may not be the perfect example of either – it is 90 percent of both, which makes it greater than the sum of its parts.