Lamborghini built a record-setting 3,457 cars, mostly by hand, in its Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, factory last year. The Italian supercar maker intends to sell 3,500 of its new Urus SUVs per year. It doesn’t require a doctorate degree in applied mathematics to figure out where we’re going with this.
Lamborghini is doubling its footprint by exiting the small, but often lucrative, niche it has operated in since its inception in 1963. That makes the Urus the single most significant new product in the company’s history. “For us, tomorrow comes today,” company CEO Stefano Domenicali proudly affirmed as he presented the 2019 Urus to about 750 guests from all over the world.
Talking to the men and women involved with the project reveals growing the brand does not come without risk. A misstep with this SUV wouldn’t topple the company—it has survived much worse—but it would certainly leave it leaning Pisa-style. To that end, Lamborghini couldn’t settle for a modern interpretation of the brawny LM002 it introduced in 1986. It also needed to preserve its supercar DNA and protect its image, so producing a watered-down model with generic styling wasn’t an option, either.
While the LM002 had a formative influence on the Urus, a company spokesman told that pointing the designers in a retro direction was never seriously considered. The LM was a mammoth all-terrain vehicle all but unusable on a daily basis like the Hummer H1. “We envisioned this as a daily-drivable Lamborghini from the start,” the spokesman added. Besides, the Urus needs to deliver taut, buttoned-down handling and hustle around a racetrack.
Carefully study the lines, shapes, and accents that define the Urus and you’ll notice it channels styling cues from the brand’s past and current models. The sharp, pointed front end, the Y-shaped inserts in the lights, and the squared-off wheel arches neatly integrate the Urus into Lamborghini’s present design language. The vents chiseled into the fenders echo the LM002. But, more than anything, the production model draws inspiration from the Urus concept unveiled at the 2012 Beijing auto show.
Scaled-down mock-ups displayed in the Lamborghini museum shed valuable insight into the path the Urus took from concept car to production model. Designers made numerous tweaks to the lights and bumpers on both ends—an early proposal had recessed headlights, giving the front fascia a completely different expression—but the overall proportions were essentially locked in from the beginning. It’s wide and low, much more so in person than in photos, and it rides on a long wheelbase. Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s head of research and development, promised the four-wheel steering system helps the Urus behave like a model with a much shorter wheelbase.
The interior stems from a similar thought process. Designers received a memo saying the passengers (especially the driver) need to feel like they’re sitting in a Lamborghini. That’s relatively simple to achieve in a two-seater whose pistons sing six inches behind the occupants’ ears, but it’s considerably more difficult to pin down when designing an SUV.
You sit low in the Urus, much lower than in its British cousin, the Bentley Bentayga. The seats are firm, and the slanted center console echoes the Huracán and Aventador models. The digital instrument cluster looks familiar, too, though it encapsulates new features like a turbo boost gauge and an inclinometer. If you need an inclinometer in an Aventador you’ve either taken leave of your senses or maneuvered yourself into an eye-wateringly expensive situation. The Urus is different; Lamborghini hopes that some Urus owners will venture off the pavement to explore a different side of the brand’s ethos and put the four-wheel-drive hardware to the test.
The tamburo (“drum” in Italian) selector on the center console lets the driver pick which driving mode best suits the conditions under the 23-inch wheels. Snow, dirt, and sand are on the menu, as are street, sport, and race. Reggiani noted the 650-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-8 engine excels in all of the aforementioned conditions, and explained this versatility is the main reason why the Urus doesn’t offer the naturally aspirated 10- and 12-cylinder engines that form Lamborghini’s backbone. We suspect cost and fuel economy entered the equation, too. It’s safe to bet we’ll see additional variants join the line-up in the coming years (a plug-in hybrid is almost certain, but how about a Urus Superveloce?), but don’t wait for the V12-powered model to place your order because it’s not happening.
Doubling Lamborghini’s annual production required doubling the size of its factory, including the workforce and, consequently, the parking lot and the cafeteria. While employees build the Aventador on the same line that founder Ferruccio Lamborghini inaugurated in 1963, and the Huracán under the same roof, the Urus gets its own building positioned atop of what was, until late 2015, a perfectly ordinary field. The clean, well-lit facility inaugurates a novel production process where, according to Lamborghini, humans are assisted by robots but not completely replaced by them. The plant currently builds pre-production models at the rate of roughly one vehicle per day. It will produce about 23 per day when it reaches full capacity, though Lamborghini candidly admits it has enough space to expand that number if needed. No one would go on record stating how many more it can assemble, however.
Officially, there are no concrete plans to add a fourth model to the hierarchy, but our crystal ball predicts the extra capacity won’t remain untapped for very long. While we’re playing the guessing game, how about a front-engined, four-seat coupe in the vein of the Espada? It wouldn’t be sacrilege as the heritage is undeniably there, and the Urus shows Lamborghini knows how (and, importantly, when) to draw on past models to grow the brand.