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How the Lamborghini Urus Will Work

The all-new Lamborghini Urus
The all-new Lamborghini Urus
(Courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.)

The Lamborghini Urus is an upcoming super-luxury sport utility vehicle. The name looks kind of awkward, especially for those who lack an Italian accent, but the Urus follows Lamborghini's typically aggressive naming convention: Like most Lamborghini vehicles, it's an homage to a type of bull, specifically, a breed from Spain. And, just in case you're wondering, the car's name is pronounced "oo-roos."

And even though there was a big announcement in January of 2014 about the Urus' official production schedule, Lamborghini first revealed the Urus (in concept form) at the 2012 Beijing Auto Show -- nearly two years earlier. Brand representatives said then they expected the Urus to sell at a rate of about 3,000 vehicles per year, although they hadn't yet made the definite decision to produce it. Lamborghini chose to reveal the Urus in China because, at the time, economists and auto industry experts predicted that by as early as 2015, demand for luxury sport utility vehicles in the Chinese market would grow by nearly 50 percent. Other auto manufacturers have been entertaining a similar strategy. China is an important market for Porsche's large vehicles, and Bentley, another Volkswagen-owned luxury brand (in addition to Lamborghini), has also enjoyed significant growth in that country. It simply made sense for Lamborghini to reveal the Urus concept vehicle there.

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Between the concept introduction in 2012 and the formal production announcement at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Lamborghini waited for Europe's economic situation to improve. But the brand's top decision makers didn't give up on the Urus. The vehicle stayed in development for well over a year, waiting for the right time. And before the formal production announcement in 2014, there were hints that the time was approaching, with reliably sourced rumors circulating in late 2013 [source: Lowney]. What caused the change? Well, it wasn't the European financial news. It was reportedly China's increasing taste for luxury goods that helped drive Lamborghini back into action. The decision was made for the Urus to go into production to help the Lamborghini brand expand into new markets and to meet increased demand in areas where Lamborghini has only recently started selling vehicles. In addition to China, and other relatively emerging markets such as Russia and the Middle East, Lamborghini also expects the Urus to sell well in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, where the market share for SUVs continues to grow [source: Elliott].

The decision to design the Urus was inspired in part by the success of the Porsche Cayenne, an SUV that, upon its 2002 release, was criticized by some for not remaining true to Porsche's motorsports heritage. However, by 2012, the Cayenne accounted for half of Porsche's sales [source: Reiter and Philip]. Porsche, like Lamborghini, is owned by Volkswagen AG. Audi representatives have also said that the brand's growth is due in large part to its SUV and crossover lineup. So Lamborghini is not the only upscale manufacturer to be eyeing these trends. By the time the Lamborghini Urus is finally available (sometime in 2017) it might have a lot more competition. In the meantime, let's take a look at Lamborghini's plans for the Urus.

The all-new Lamborghini Urus
The all-new Lamborghini Urus
(Courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.)

The Urus' ultimate success depends on a few things we've already discussed. The timeliness of its release, for one. And the global appetite for luxury sport utility vehicles (when that time comes), for another. But, as Porsche can (and probably has) told Lamborghini (based on Porsche's experience with the Cayenne), it's essential that the Urus has the look and feel of the brand, even if a sport utility vehicle isn't quite what the loyal customers are looking for. Loyal customers are, of course, important for any brand to cultivate, and Lamborghini has its share of deep-pocket devotees. Whether they'll spring for a Urus remains to be seen. But, remember, Lamborghini is trying to attract new markets here, too. Those buyers will want what a Urus has to offer ... but they'll also want a Lamborghini. Based on preproduction versions of the Urus, Lamborghini is off to a good start.

Let's take a quick look at Lamborghini's history for a moment, and its first sport ute, the LM002 -- aka the Rambo Lambo. It was a military truck that was produced between 1986 and 1993, and some production LM002s were allocated to civilians. An Italian parallel to the Humvee, if you will -- and there was a physical resemblance to the Humvee, too. So, anyone bemoaning that Lamborghini is selling out by making an SUV is just wrong. It's not only the automotive press pointing out the ties to the Rambo Lambo, either. Lamborghini is quick to assert the Urus' street cred, pointing out that the LM002 marked the creation of the super-luxury sport utility vehicle class [source: Lamborghini].

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Relax a bit, though, because while the LM002 was a bit rough and tumble, the Urus is a lot more modern. If the concept car is an indication (and it should be) the Urus will definitely have the look and the feel of a Lamborghini. "Powerful, but not bulky" is Lamborghini's description of the vehicle's profile. Rest assured that Lamborghini will make sure its new high-priced SUV will be loaded with the same kind of amenities as its more established high-priced sports cars. The Urus offers seating for four people, which, to be fair, is a little below average for a sport utility vehicle; however, that's above average for a typical Lamborghini. Since Lamborghinis are mainly designed to please the driver (who, presumably, is also the buyer) and maybe to show off a little, a great deal of attention has been given to the cabin design. The interior of the Urus features a lot of carbon fiber, and the driver can use paddle shifters to improve the driving experience. There are also rear-view cameras in place of side-view mirrors to enhance safety, which is a feature common on upscale cars, but hasn't really been a priority on super-elite sports-oriented vehicles, so far.

Driving dynamics are the wild card, though. Not since the Rambo Lambo has anyone really experienced the sensation of a Lamborghini supercar from an elevated ride height. The Urus hunkers low (at least, low for an SUV) over 24-inch wheels and features a permanent all-wheel-drive system. The low (but high for a Lamborghini) ground clearance might even be a benefit -- plenty of surface-skimming Lamborghinis are sold in areas where the roads are perfectly smooth. However, it's a bit risky to drive a Lambo or any other exotic car over even slightly bumpy terrain. The Urus boasts variable aerodynamics and adjustable ground clearance. So, the Urus solves the problem of how to physically handle a car in an emerging global market, even if it's a problem that wasn't really being asked.

The all-new Lamborghini Urus
The all-new Lamborghini Urus
(Courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.)

At this time, actual mechanical information about the Lamborghini Urus is being closely guarded by Lamborghini, although the Beijing concept launch revealed that the Urus would have about 600-horsepower. This benchmark could have changed between the concept reveal in 2012 and the production announcement in 2014, and it can also change anytime up until the vehicle actually begins production in 2017. However, the less Lamborghini reveals, the more people are likely to speculate. First and foremost, what kind of engine could power such a beast? A lot of other sport utility vehicles are offered with a choice of drivetrains, but Lamborghini vehicles are typically produced in such relatively low quantities that, even though the vehicles are seemingly endlessly customizable (in terms of exterior finishes, leather upholstery colors and stitching, and the like) engines tend to be a one-size-fits-all deal, or, if there are options, they are few. With that in mind, a gasoline-powered V-10 engine seems to be the most likely powerplant for the Urus based on Lamborghini's recent engineering developments and the few teaser specs, like the 600-horsepower, the Italian automaker has already revealed [source: Johnson]. However, Lamborghini representatives have stated that the brand strives to achieve best-in-class carbon dioxide emissions for the Urus, meaning the Urus will pollute less than the handful of other premium SUVs on the road. That stated goal might be at odds with the speculated V-10 engine -- but only time will tell. And as far as mechanical details go, that's all that's on the table, so far.

That's a lot of talk for so few actual details, and the timetable for Urus production might seem a little far away, but Lamborghini does have its reasons. Lamborghini doesn't have the production capacity of a larger automaker, so everything must be planned much more carefully. In other words, making the Urus sooner would mean cutting back the production of whatever other Lamborghini models are being produced right now. And that's a move that would upset Lamborghini's well-heeled customers; the same ones who often order their cars (and put down hefty deposits) long before Lamborghini can actually get around to making them. (Larger automakers, with less complicated and less expensive vehicles, have a lot more flexibility in scheduling.) Lamborghini doesn't even know for sure that there will be demand for the Urus, so it might as well keep producing the cars that are on the schedule (the ones that are selling), at least a little while longer. About 3,000 examples of the Urus are scheduled for the first production run, which may sound ambitious, but it took some careful analysis to arrive at that figure. Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann actually addressed the question of the Urus' potential demand during his presentation at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, asserting that the 2017 goal is a well-thought-out move. Winkelmann explained that analysts are seeing growth in the exotic car market, but as of early 2014, there's still not enough to support the launch of a vehicle like the Urus. Three years down the road, the forecast is more promising [source: Automotive News Europe].

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Other high end auto manufacturers are seeing the same signs, although they'll probably beat Lamborghini to the punch. Maserati plans to introduce an SUV in 2015, and Tesla is also planning a fully electric SUV [source: Elliott]. Bentley has received 2,000 advance orders for its forthcoming SUV, even though the final design hasn't even been made public (assuming, of course, the design has even been finalized) [source: Ebhardt, et al]. Rolls-Royce is quietly mulling over its options. Porsche is ahead of the game, and, emboldened by the ongoing success of its Cayenne full-size SUV, the brand is adding a crossover to the lineup in the spring of 2014. Perhaps by the time the Urus is released, the upscale SUV market will be a highly competitive scene. Who knows? Maybe Lamborghini will be able to bring something new to the table, and come up with some surprises. There's still a lot of mystery surrounding the Lamborghini Urus, even after a couple years of conversation, so there's a good chance this bull won't go down without a fight.

Author's Note: How the Lamborghini Urus Will Work

It's funny that a lot of the early press for the Lamborghini Urus treated the news as if Lamborghini has never built an SUV before. In fact, Lamborghini built a luxury military-like SUV called the LM002, but it's a bit of a rare bird; between 1986 and 1993, only a few hundred were made. (Lamborghini, to its credit, was quick to point out that the brand was early -- maybe even too early -- to this trend.) Maybe it's just that most of us instantly think the idea of a super-premium and exotic sport utility vehicle is ridiculous, especially now. Rumors of the Lamborghini Urus have been around for at least a couple of years prior this most recent announcement; that is, the news that it would actually be produced. Nothing shows confidence like investing in building a vehicle that few people will ever be able to afford -- not to get all political, or too depressing. What's fun about the Lamborghini Urus, and other vehicles of its ilk, is that we get to see what car manufacturers can come up with when all of their inhibitions have been cast-off. Innovation makes things interesting, even if the results are out of reach for most people.

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Sources

  • Automotive News Europe. "Lamborghini plans to introduce Urus SUV in 2017." Jan. 14, 2014. (Jan. 19, 2014) http://europe.autonews.com/article/20140114/ANE/140119828/lamborghini-plans-to-introduce-urus-suv-in-2017#axzz2qaLo2S9N
  • Ebhardt, Tommaso, et al. "Lamborghini Plans SUV in 2017 in Luxury Push Into Segment." Bloomberg.com. Jan. 14, 2014. (Jan. 20, 2014) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-14/lamborghini-plans-suv-in-2017-in-luxury-push-into-segment.html
  • Elliott, Hannah. "World Debut: The Lamborghini USV." Forbes. April 22, 2012. (Jan. 20, 2014) http://www.forbes.com/sites/hannahelliott/2012/04/22/world-debut-the-lamborghini-suv/
  • Johnson, Drew. "Lamborghini Urus to begin production in 2017." Left Lane News. Jan. 21, 2014. (Jan. 27, 2014) http://www.leftlanenews.com/lamborghini-urus-to-begin-production-in-2017.html
  • Lamborghini. "Lamborghini Urus." 2014. (Jan. 19, 2014) http://www.lamborghini.com/en/models/urus/overview/
  • Lamborghini. "Lamborghini Urus -- The SUV super athlete." YouTube. April 22, 2012. (Jan. 28, 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdRXli9V5FU
  • Lowney, Damon. "Lamborghini CEO says Urus headed to production." Autoblog.com. Sept. 25, 2013. (Jan. 27, 2014) http://www.autoblog.com/2013/09/25/lamborghini-urus-production/
  • Reiter, Chris and Philip, Siddharth. "Lamborghini Introduces Urus, Its First SUV in Two Decades." Bloomberg.com. April 22, 2012. (Jan. 19, 2014) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-22/lamborghini-introduces-urus-its-first-suv-in-two-decades.html

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