We’ve known it’s been coming for years, but it’s still hard to make sense of the concept of a Lamborghini SUV.
After all, a key appeal of any SUV – even a 641bhp ‘super SUV’, such as the newly unveiled Urus – is practicality. Lamborghini is not a firm known for being practical or sensible; it has a long, proud history of not making much sense.
This is a company established to make sports cars by someone whose previous manufacturing experience was in tractors; whose founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini, wanted to take on Ferrari but thought motorsport a waste of time and money.
A company that names its cars after bulls with the occasional exception, such as the Countach, which is derived from a regional Italian swear word.
A company with a lucrative sideline in selling engines for powerboat racers. One that developed a military-grade off-roader, failed to sell it to the military and then decided to sell the beast to the public as the lumbering, gas-guzzling LM002.
And this is a company capable of blending high-tech engineering and theatrical Italian flair to create supercars capable of shattering lap records everywhere they go – including, with the Huracán Performante, Autocar’s road test handling circuit.
Lamborghini is the automotive equivalent of a big-haired 1970s heavy metal band: it is brilliant precisely because it teeters on the edge of ostentatious self-parody.
And now it’s built what is, underneath that sculpted body and 641bhp engine, a practical, high-riding SUV. Heck, Lamborghini’s press materials even make much of sensible features such as a 616-litre boot and Isofix points.
Doesn’t make sense, does it? Except it absolutely does.
Comment: will the Urus handle like a true Lamborghini?
Making and selling high-yield, low-volume supercars is an inherently unstable business – one hugely vulnerable to market vagaries. Look at how many times Lamborghini has changed ownership in its tumultuous history.
Things have stabilised since the Volkswagen Group bought it in 1999, but while sales have steadily increased, reaching a record 3457 cars in 2016, the journey hasn’t always been smooth. The global financial crisis of 2008 hit Lamborghini hard, with sales plummeting from 2430 that year to just 1302 in 2010. In times of financial hardship, luxury purchases are the first to go.
But while supercars are indeed luxury purchases, SUVs – even luxury ones – are not. Supercars are not things you drive every day (well, with the odd exception). In contrast, features such as the big boot and Isofix points make the Urus a practical daily driver for those who can afford one. I suspect every Lamborghini owner currently has at least one other car for day-to-day use; why shouldn’t that be a second, more practical Lamborghini?
Thanks to cars such as the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga (which share a platform with the Urus), the taboo of high-end brands producing an SUV has long faded. And it doesn’t matter that, as Richard Lane points out, the Urus is unlikely to handle like a standard Lamborghini. There are major markets for the brand where off-road capability (the Middle East), interior space (China) and passenger comfort (Kensington High Street) are of more value than cornering ability.
Lamborghini’s faith in the Urus is such that it has built a new factory at its Sant’Agata Bolognese base, allowing it to produce around 7000 cars per year – more than half of which will be Urus. Lamborghini’s SUV bull will be a cash cow.
Here’s the exciting bit. The Urus will give Lamborghini a new level of financial security and stability – and that will allow it to continue doing what it does best: producing supercars that make very little sense at all.