At some point during my lap in the 2019 Lamborghini Urus at the Thermal Club in Southern California, I hit 131 mph. That alone wasn’t terribly noteworthy—I was on a race track, after all. It was the fact that it had happened so quickly, so easily and so casually that I briefly forgot that I was at the wheel of a 4,800-pound crossover. And the engine still pulled like it had way more to give. This was somehow legal?
(Full Disclosure: Lamborghini wanted me to drive the 2019 Urus so badly that it flew me out to Palm Springs, California, paid for my hotel, fed me and let me drive its crossover around a race track.)
I know you don’t get it right away.
I was in the same boat as you. I, too, was overwhelmed with skepticism when I first saw the Urus. What does anyone need with yet another fast SUV or crossover, especially one that markets itself as a “Super SUV”? It sounded like just more exhausting PR jargon. And why from Lamborghini, of all places? How sacrilegious is that?
But what the Urus felt like to drive was something else altogether. The thing is fast. The thing is powerful. The thing is an utter superlative, just as a supercar should be.
I suppose before I get further, I should define what a supercar means to me.
A supercar is meant to be over-the-top in every sense of the phrase. Sky-reaching performance figures. Dramatic styling. Mind-boggling hardware. Doesn’t matter where the engine is. A certain, tangible degree of ruggedness, rawness and animalistic fervor.
This last item usually translates into good noise and some kind of violent jolting of the driver. Modern supercars are praised for their practicality and comfort. The days of poorly built supercars that skimp on luxury, like the Countach, are long over.
Though the Urus technically isn’t the first SUV that Lamborghini has made, it is the first mass-produced one, as the company says that it only built 300 of the “Rambo Lambo” LM002s. And in the context of today’s car-buying habits, it makes perfect sense. (Also, weirdly, that design has been around since 2012 now when it debuted as a concept, though it finally just went on the market this year.)
Lamborghini says that the Urus, with its daily driver-capabilities, will double the volume of the company. Already, it’s seen a huge increase of new-to-Lamborghini buyers because of the Urus, many of whom are women. So it’s obvious: The Urus is here to print some damn money.
And despite being a crossover, it still somehow gives off a supercar aura. Visually, everything about it feels big and over-exaggerated. The massive, gaping front grille that looks like it could swallow a small child whole. The huge wheel arches to house the enormous wheels (23-inch wheels optional!). The hexagonal design language that gives it a very wide and stretched look. The body plates that make it look like it’s wearing armor.
The Urus does not use Lamborghini’s naturally aspirated V10 or V12 offerings. Instead, it has the 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 found in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Panamera Turbo that’s been punched up to make 650 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 100 km/h (about 62 mph) happens in just 3.6 seconds and top speed is a claimed 305 km/h (189.5 mph).
There six different drive modes: Strada (street), Sport, Corsa (race), Sabbia (sand), Terra (land) and Neve (snow). Between all six modes, the car will vary its ride height accordingly. You start out at seven inches in Street mode, hunker down to 6.2 for the Sport and Corsa modes and raise to 8.4 inches for Snow.
And even though the wheelbase is long (118 inches), it doesn’t feel long. Thanks to rear-wheel steering, which varies up to three degrees, the Urus’s turn-in is sharp and much tighter than you’d expect.
The Urus’s capabilities on track are a very pleasant surprise. Obviously, it will never feel as planted or natural at the task as a dedicated sports car, but Lamborghini gave it an active anti-roll stabilization feature that kept it riding very flat through the corners.
Stuff your right foot deep into the footwell and a rumbling, mechanical V8 noise roars from the rear of the car. There’s a beat of noticeable lag and then the boost kicks in. When that happens, it feels like you’re being flung across the horizon by a giant rubber band that was wound very tightly up until that point. And while you’re hammering down the straights, the all-wheel drive system works to clean up smaller messes in the corners.
In Corsa mode, the shifts are harsh. Fabulously so. I know that dual-clutch transmissions are popular because they are fast and smooth at shifting, but they take the viciousness out of high-speed acceleration runs. They make the car feel like it has one, long gear. There’s no excitement and definitely no drama.
The track Lamborghini used for this drive had two nice straights where I could really lay into the throttle. At the very top of second gear, there’d be an slight pause in the furious acceleration as the transmission sorted out what to do next before a wham! into third continued the mad onward rush. And after third came another wham! into fourth before I started to run out of straight and needed to brake.
It reminded me of the old SMG transmission in the V10 BMW M5 or the E-gear in the Gallardo, the ones that were uncouth around town, but a true joy for backroad abuse. The Urus’s eight-speed automatic is nowhere near as rough during casual driving, but when you put it in the right mode and stomp on it, it delivers something furious and hairy to match all that power. Something that that feels old-fashioned, almost.
And then there are the brakes. The Urus comes standard with a staggering set of carbon ceramic brakes: 10-piston calipers (10!) and 17.3-inch discs up front and six-piston calipers and 14.6-inch discs in the rear. Brake discs that are bigger than the wheels I have on my car.
I remember being blown away over the C6 Corvette ZR1's 15.5-inch front discs. Now we’re at an age where you can find a car with brake discs the size of a large pizza.
How does that translate to stopping? For those of you who like numbers, Lamborghini quotes the Urus’s braking distance from 62 mph to zero in just 33.7 meters (110 feet). The Aventador SVJ will do it in 30 meters (98.4 feet).
In practice? After continued beatings at the track, there was no noticeable fade by the end of my last lap. The Urus weighs 4,844 pounds, but those brakes felt like they could have stopped a damn house.
And once you’re done thrashing it on the track, it’ll settle back into civilian life on public roads comfortably and without complaint.
Even though it is big on the outside, the inside of the Urus felt tight and mildly claustrophobic. Perhaps it was because the tilt on the rear window made it hard to see out of. Perhaps it was because the seats used the same hexagonal design language that’s mean to make things look wider and more expansive than they are. In aiming to look almost like a fighter jet cockpit, it feels too much like one for comfort.
I wasn’t terribly impressed by the interior materials. The cup holders were small. My test car came with a very buttery brown leather package, but the plastics used on the dashboard felt simply glued on and my driving partner noticed that the font used on the instrument cluster was lifted straight from an Audi. The Urus comes with a spare tire, a rarity today, but it had an Audi logo stamped on it.
The sci-fi-looking Tamburo driving mode selector on the Urus’s center console is a cool idea and striking to look at, but is slightly annoying to use. The toggle that lets you select one of the six driving modes doesn’t let you scroll upward, only downward.
To reach a mode that you passed by, like trying to get from Terra to Sport, you have to either keep scrolling down until the selector returns to Sport, or you can hold down the toggle, which will return the selector back up to Strada, the very first mode.
You can also change the drive modes through the infotainment system, but where’s the fun in that?
The rest of the center console is dominated by a big touch screen with haptic feedback. But once the car is off, you’re left with smudgy fingerprints.
The Urus is a Lamborghini—undeniably, shamelessly and self-indulgently so. It is dramatic, brash, loud and somehow a throwback at the same time. The gas mileage isn’t going to win it any awards (Lamborghini quotes the combined cycle consumption as 12.7 liters per 100 km, which is about 18.5 miles to the gallon for highway and city). The interior isn’t fantastic. The transmission in Corsa mode is a marvelous nod to a time when fast shifting didn’t always mean smooth and imperceptible.
But damn if it isn’t a no-holds-barred monster of a crossover.
The price of the Urus goes without saying. It’s expensive. It’s Lamborghini expensive. People who buy it will buy it because they want a Lamborghini, not because they are just shopping for any crossover. I suspect that they won’t get hung up about things like the small cup holders or the Audi parts.
If Lamborghini started out this whole thing to Lamborghini-ify a crossover, then it’s succeeded.