Lamborghini Reinvents the SUV
XOJET’s President of Commercial Operations, James Henderson, recently had the chance to test-drive the world’s first-ever Super Sports Utility Vehicle, the Lamborghini Urus. Its unprecedented blend of functionality, design, and performance inspired him to recap the exclusive experience for XOJET Arrivé:
Christmas for me has always been about skiing in the mountains on fresh white powder and ending the day sitting by a crackling fire with a fine single malt. Though as an Englishman living in San Francisco, December is often more about grey skies, horizontal rain, and windswept afternoons. So, when Lamborghini invited me to Palm Springs in mid-December, I jumped at the chance to be warm and dry, not to mention the opportunity to be one of the first people behind the wheel of Lamborghini’s new Urus SUV.
The beautifully landscaped La Quinta Resort at Christmas in December is in full swing and a magnificent, lavishly decorated 80-foot Christmas tree stands as the centerpiece juxtaposed against the desert hills. Surrounding it was a plethora of Lamborghini’s new SUVs in assorted colors. I am not quite sure what I felt was more out of place: Christmas in the desert or an SUV from Lamborghini.
Winter in Palm Springs is always spectacular: clear blue skies, cool dry temperatures, and long light that brings out the warm hues and dramatic contours of the mountains. The Urus is equally spectacular; with its aggressive stance and dramatic lines, it combines the performance of a supercar with the comfort and practicality of an SUV.
This, however, is not your typical SUV. In fact, Lamborghini has coined a new term referring to the Urus as the world’s first Super Sport Utility Vehicle, or “SSUV.” Lamborghini has always been an innovator and non-conformist and the Urus follows this tradition.
After a wonderful evening with the Lamborghini team hosted by North American CEO, Alessandro Farmeschi, the following morning I was taken to The Thermal Club, a private race track on the desert floor outside of Palm Springs to put the Urus through its paces.
The Urus clearly looks at home on the track. The design cleverly blends styling cues from the LM002—Lamborghini’s original off-road vehicle built for the Italian military—with quintessential Lamborghinis of past and present. The lines evoke the iconic Miura and Countach with numerous elements and themes from the modern-day Huracan and Aventador. The distinctive silhouette and roof line make the Urus seem less like an SUV and much more like a coupé.
Inside, the Urus feels distinctively Lamborghini, with the hexagonal themes beautifully and subtly integrated in the design elements. Italian style and craftsmanship resonate through the carefully curated combination of Italian leather, Alcantara, aluminum, carbon fiber, and wood. The seating is low and supportive, as you would fully expect, and technology is seamless across the fully digital TFT displays with intuitively located switchgear.
The centerpiece of the cockpit is the ‘Tamburo’ driving mode selector on the center console, which controls all the dynamic vehicle systems. It makes the Urus feel very much like sitting in the cockpit of a jet, from the beautifully machined aluminum cover for the engine start / stop to the ergonomic levers for the ‘Anima’ and ‘Ego’ systems that enable the driver to select the vehicle driving dynamics. ‘Anima,’ which is literally Italian for ‘soul,’ changes the entire personality of the Urus to switch between road, sport, and track modes, as well as snow and sand.
Flipping the aluminum cover and pressing start unleashes the 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbo engine that was specifically designed and built for the Urus. In Strada mode the Urus is comfortable, compliant, and a pleasurable daily driver. Switching into Sport and Corsa modes, the personality of the Urus transforms into that of an incredibly capable performance machine, with the sounds and performance characteristics you would expect from a thoroughbred Lamborghini.
On track the combination of speed and agility is formidable and the Urus is as exhilarating to drive as an ultra-high performance sedan. The power seems limitless, delivering 650 hp at 6,000 rpm and an incredible 850 Nm of maximum torque as low as 2,250 rpm; the acceleration, grip, and seemingly endless pull out of corners is exceptional. At 4,800 pounds the car is clearly not light, but with the best power-to-weight ratio in its class, it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, reaches a top speed of 190 mph, and is the fastest SUV available on the market today. Its carbon ceramic brakes—which come standard—are the largest and most powerful in class, bringing the car to a standing stop from 62 mph in just over 100ft.
The automatic eight-speed gearbox is tuned to provide very short low-gear ratios for optimal acceleration, and longer high gears for high speed at low engine revs for enhanced fuel consumption and lower emissions. The Urus also features the 4-wheel steering introduced in the Aventador S; at low speeds the rear-axle steering angle is opposite to that of the front wheels for increased agility and a reduced turning circle. At high speeds the rear axle steering angle is in the same direction as the front wheels to improve ride, stability, and driving dynamics. The Urus also features active torque vectoring via a rear differential, enabling propulsive power to be instantly distributed to each individual wheel for enhanced traction, depending on the driving mode, driving style, and the road grip.
After a fine Italian lunch atop the Thermal Club with the Lamborghini team, followed by a technical briefing and the obligatory doppio espresso, I had an opportunity to switch from the track to terrain and take the Urus up into the Desert foothills. Lamborghini had conveniently laid out an off-road circuit with a mix of sand and rocky terrain in the Joshua Tree National Park. True to Italian hospitality, the nice people from Sant’Agata Bolognese had also set up fire pits and an espresso and beverage bar in the middle of the desert for some light refreshments in between desert sorties–very civilized indeed.
On the uneven surfaces, sand, and gravel in the desert, having 850 Nm of torque on tap can really be felt. The Neve (snow), Terra (off-road), and Sabbia (sand) modes increase the ride height and the anti-roll bars enable asymmetric movement during cornering to ensure optimal traction. These adjustments transform the Urus into a very capable vehicle on a variety of mixed surfaces; it is grippy but, with the power throughout the rev range, it is a huge amount of fun to play with the traction and the car easily drifts across the sand.
While the track environment is where the Urus really shines, it is unbelievably agile in a multitude of different environments and surfaces. As such, it is easy to forget that it is such a large vehicle, particularly when surrounded by the beautiful leather and Alcantara of a luxury sports car.
Lamborghini expects to double vehicle production with the Urus and after driving it you can see why. This car is reinventing the SUV category; it is as much at home on track, in the desert, or on the daily school run. Lamborghini has created a multi-dimensional vehicle that is both a pleasure for the daily commute and an exhilarating, formidable track machine. They have set the bar to a new height with the ultimate Super Sports Utility Vehicle.
Next Christmas, I hope they invite me back to drive the Urus off-road in the snow. Perhaps Colorado, or even better Cortina. That way I can combine the best of all worlds—the Urus, white powder, and I might even switch out the single malt for a fine Italian grappa.
*All photos courtesy of Lamborghini via Extension PR
James Henderson is President of Commercial Operations at XOJET. He is an automotive and aviation enthusiast, and has spent his career in a range of industries that include luxury goods, Formula 1, the yacht industry, and private aviation. He lives in San Francisco and in his spare time can be found flying his vintage tail-wheel airplane around the wine country.