When Ferrucio Lamborghini visited Seville, Spain, in the early sixties he was so taken with the power, speed and ferocity of the Miura fighting bulls of Ernest Hemingway’s novels that he chose them as the talisman for the super sports cars he would go on to make. Indeed, one has only to watch a bullfight and the explosive bursts of speed to get the drift. A fighting bull is not fast, it is sudden and Hemingway observed, “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honour.” Driving a Lamborghini can be like that.
Critics question how far carmakers have been able to integrate sportscar DNA into SUVs when it comes to high-performance automobiles such as Porsche, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini and the jury is undecided. Yet the truth is like comparing the best handcrafted John Lobb leather shoes to high-end designer sneakers. The latter are in vogue, provide bragging rights and are valued as much for luxury and versatility of performance.
It's the same with super sports SUVs. While Porsche was the first to pull it off, Lamborghini has followed suit with the launch of the Urus in 2017, which like many Lambos is a reference to a species of a long-horned wild bull.
The one that stands planted firmly on 22-inch Pirelli wheels in front of me is the latest of its kind—the Urus Performante, a nod to new technology infused with lightweighting and better output to around 660 horsepower. It's around 50 kilos skinnier than its predecessor thanks to greater usage of carbon-fiber components as well as an exhaust system that is made of super-light titanium. It is still big and heavy at well over 2,000 kilos. Design changes include a lower nose which means lower centre of gravity that is an important specification that allows cars to be better planted at high speeds and on the rear is a fixed rear wing that goes up like a gurney, and increases rear downforce by 38% and drag by 8%.
As Hemingway would say “the truly brave bull gives no warning before he charges except the fixing of his eye on the enemy, the raising of the crest of muscle in his neck, the twitching of an ear, and, as he charges, the lifting of his tail.”
Notably, the Urus is not Lamborghini's first SUV. That is the original SUV creation: the LM002 widely considered as the father of luxury SUVs equally at home in dirt, gravel and snow was launched in 1986. No surprise then, that the Urus takes cues from the LM002 even though the approach has been more revolutionary than evolutionary.
The Urus comes in two variants: Urus Performante and Urus S (Yet to be launched in India) and while the Performante version has the same engine as the Urus it produces 16hp more and weighs 47 kg less. The torque is the same at 850Nm. All of that means that the car is more aerodynamic and stronger. Like a muscular athlete who has spent more time in the gym slashing fat, getting sleeker and building power.
It's plain to see that this is a vehicle built for aggressive performance. Squat and sinewy like a bull but standing taller than its lower slung thoroughbred stablemates such as the Huracan and the Aventador, skeptics may say the Urus has been 'skin-jobbed' to look like a Lamborghini given it shares suspension, parts and platforms with its sister brands Porsche, Audi, and Bentley but it would be a mistake to underestimate that it doesn't have typical Lambo traits.
Like a sports car but with nuanced differences the Urus Performante has an ability to leap forward to a 100kmh in just about three seconds with a top speed of 306 km an hour and an accompanying sound that amidst loud pops, cracks, and a rumbling growl that leaves no room for doubt that the beast under the hood is designed for high speed performance.
A four-liter, V-8 twin-turbocharged engine that can be driven in different drive modes. Strada which means highway is what we drove most and is likely to be most commonly used by drivers given that it will be a multipurpose family supercar. At lower speeds the Urus amble on but punch the accelerator and there's that sudden impulsive speediness which lets the driver know that without controlled precision this is a rodeo from which you can get thrown off the saddle.
The interiors of the Urus have not changed too much and retain the luxurious touches of high end carbon-fiber, Alcantara leather and knobs, dials and buttons that are more F-16 fighter plane than a car. Switched into drive mode and started up with a tap of the paddle-shift gears, the Performante rumbles into action and is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre despite its size and heft.
Even so, there is a sense that this is a vehicle that would perhaps handle rugged terrains and broad big highways better than little lanes and cul de sacs at triple-digit speeds. The decent-sized rear seat that can seat three slim adults, a trunk that can take golf courses or heavy weaponry and its four wheel drive systems all concur with that.
So is the Urus Performante a true-blooded Lamborghini and what does it bode for the future? The answer in terms of sales numbers say it all: For the Urus SUV with 5,021 units delivered of around 8000 total cars sold in the past year the future is bright and the current models of Urus will be available till 2024 by when the Urus hybrid will be launched. As to the first question the truth is that the Urus is made in its only factory at Sant'Agata, Bologna where the company's far enough from the larger workings of parent Volkswagen. So while the answer to that lies in the experience of the person behind the wheel, what can't be argued is that the Urus Performante represents an SUV like no other.