If you're fascinated by the absolutely bonkers, 1980s-era Lamborghini LM002 like we are, it's hard not to hope the new 2019 Lamborghini Urus is a proper sequel to the late, great, notorious sport 'ute. The new silhouette is far friendlier than the '80s-era jumble of trapezoidal planes and, more crucially, this time around motivation comes from a much more powerful twin-turbo V8, not a massive V12 as it was the wild, Countach-powered LM. So where does the Urus sit in the supercar-on-stilts spectrum? We traveled to Rome and tackled road, track and trail to find out.

While the Cheetah that begat the LM002 was intended to serve as a legit military vehicle, the Urus's faceted sheetmetal is wrapped around the Volkswagen Group's MBL EVO platform, a modified version of the steel and aluminum chassis found in the Audi Q8, Bentley Bentayga, and Porsche Cayenne. Though you'll find some Lamborghini styling elements sprinkled throughout including the jagged nose, angular wheel arches, hexagonal cues and Y shapes, there's also a vague VW Group family resemblance that has triggered a vigorous online debate about the overall Lamborghini-ness of the effort.

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Climbing into the cabin reveals a painlessly un-supercar-like ingress and egress, and there's a good amount of space all around, from the front seats to the rear leg and headroom. The cabin can be ordered with 2+2 style rear bucket seats, or a five-seat configuration with a folding rear bench. Also un-Lamborghini-like is the rear cargo area, a 21.8 cubic foot space that can swallow two full size golf bags. There are a few familiar elements about the cabin from Sant'Agata, like the hexagonal vents and the missile launcher-style ignition button. But other parts, such as the twin touchscreen displays, betray the Audi/Porsche roots — not necessarily a bad thing, as the haptic screens works simply and intuitively, even if they lack the tactile pleasure of pushing physical buttons.



Driving modes are controlled via what Lamborghini calls the "Tamburo," two toggles on either side of the Start button. The left determines the Anima (drive mode) setting, calibrating a slew of variables like throttle response, shift patterns, four-wheel steering and damping/ride height through six modes: Strada (road), Sport, Corsa (race), Sabbia (sand), Terra (offroad) and Neve (snow). Curiously, the paddle only scrolls in one direction; to select the previous mode, you'll have to flip through the five modes ahead. The right engages Ego mode, which overrides the drive mode and enables individualized drivetrain, steering and shock settings by pushing one of three buttons. The system is easy to use, with a more intuitive interface than in the Aventador and Huracan. Also pleasing is the quality of materials within the cabin. Though Uruses optioned without the carbon fiber trim package have some chintzy exterior details (like the plasticky wheel arch surround), the interior has some reassuringly well finished bits, like real metal trim around the center console switchgear and the geometrically cut magnesium paddle shifters.

With a full day of track, street and dirt driving ahead of us, our first impressions arrive hard and fast at the 2.54-mile Vallelunga circuit near Rome. It feels strange to sit behind the wheel of a Lamborghini with a turbocharged V8 and room for five, but the whip-like acceleration from a standstill leaves you neck-strained and satisfied. This thing is wickedly quick, with a claimed 0 to 62 mph time of 3.6 seconds. It might be quicker than that in the real world. That's speedier than a Gallardo, which isn't saddled with a 4,843-pound curb weight. Drop the car's numerical mass from your mind, and Urus also feels shockingly nimble in corners. Aided by active roll stabilization, an air suspension system that can lower the car up to 1.6 inches, active damping, torque vectoring, and sticky Pirelli Corsa rubber, the Urus manages to dance its way breezily through corners despite its relative heft. The standard 10-piston carbon ceramic brakes deliver phenomenal stopping power, though it sometimes felt like there was some additional brake assist that was boosting the slowdown efforts, making it difficult to finely modulate brake release during corner entry.

Dip the throttle and 641 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque gets laid down with a whole lot of help from the computers; there are some tight corners at Vallelunga that would have yielded understeer from a more analog vehicle, but the Urus's all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and torque vectoring enable a point-and-shoot approach at the track. Simply aim the steering wheel in the desired direction, drop the hammer, and the car barrels towards its trajectory like a heat seeking missile. Whereas a supercar like the Huracan Performante uses predominantly organic means of attaining its track manners – think, naturally aspirated engine, no four-wheel steering – the Urus has a complex arsenal of electronics in its weapons cache. The center differential is a relatively conventional mechanical Torsen unit with a 40/60 power split, and Lamborghini's first use of full torque vectoring shifts power left and right.



With a horsepower peak at 6,000 rpm and an indicated redline of 6,500, the Urus isn't a high-revving screamer like Lamborghini's naturally aspirated mills (though it will happily push past the redline into a soft limiter). Rather, it's a strong-willed, torque-rich powerplant that produces burbly, low-frequency sounds. There are few sonic fireworks, though Corsa mode does open up the soundtrack a bit. The dominant sounds are of the induction and low-pitched exhaust variety, though driving next to walls will accentuate the off throttle pops and bangs. Chief Technical Officer Maurizio Reggiani says a sport exhaust option is coming in the future, and we think it can't come soon enough. The eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts quickly and responsively, and appropriately smoothly when not in its most aggressive Corsa setting. Though not quite as adaptable as the Huracan's setup, which can go from buttery smooth to brutally sharp, the Urus's torque converter unit feels appropriately tuned for a high-performance SUV, while offering a brutally effective launch control that holds power at about 2,500 rpm, then dumps it to all four wheels.

While the steering feels more artificial than it does lively, and there's an occasional feeling of vagueness at the front end, the Urus's performance envelope is remarkable enough to make such quibbles petty. This is an outrageously capable vehicle by any measure that can outperform supercars from just a few years ago, and feels perfectly at home the track.

Our next stop is a specially prepped dirt course with a rally car-like flow. While the Urus isn't built for slow-speed, Land Rover-style, conquer-the-mountain off-roading (it lacks a locking center differential and a low range transfer case), it proves surprisingly effective on the medium to high-speed loose stuff. Rolling on 21-inch wheels clad with Pirelli Scorpion off-road rubber (Pirelli developed seven different types of tires specifically for the Urus), the Urus confidently claws into gravel and lurches ahead. The air suspension's added altitude in Terra mode offers enough bump absorption to enable soft jumps with smooth landings. As it was on track, torque vectoring makes the dirt drive easier than it could have been, with power-induced tail slides and tight corners negotiated with an effortlessness that would have been otherwise impossible in a conventionally setup car.

The final and most crucial test of the Urus is how it handles normal street driving — where the vast majority of its life will be spent. Our tester for this leg was a more opulently appointed model whose options included extended leather that includes hide-trimmed footwells ($2,526), a panoramic roof ($2,778), double-glazed acoustical glass ($2,134), and a rear entertainment system with dual screens and wireless streaming ($5,238). Among the other lux options is a Bang & Olufsen sound system ($6,313), open pore wood trim ($1,699), and fully electric front seats with ventilation and massage ($3,157). As you might have guessed from the cushy options list, the Urus is capable of delivering a coddling cabin experience that's unlike any Lamborghini before it.



While early reports suggested ride quality on the 23-inch rims was particularly jarring on Rome's heavily potholed roads, the 22-inch setup was firm but not overly abusive on all but the bumpiest patches of two-lane highway. While there was some busyness to the ride quality in general, we'd gladly take that in a self-proclaimed super-SUV over something that felt vague, mushy, or confidence killing in corners. The Urus passed slower-moving traffic at warp speed, and negotiated corners with ease. Average roads presented virtually no challenge for the Urus, offering instead an opportunity to drive quite quickly with a level of comfort and refinement we haven't before seen from Lamborghini. That's the sweet spot for this particular high dollar sport 'ute, a combination of skill sets that make it feel sharper and more nimble than a Bentagya and closer in spirit to a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.

In the final analysis, the Lamborghini Urus satisfies on many levels — it's remarkably quick, light-footed around the bends, yet comfy enough to be driven all day. But it also leaves us with a distinct lack of wild-eyed Lamborghini-ness as we've come to know it through the brilliant Huracan and outrageous Aventador. The turbo V8 delivers the punch (and helping with emissions, weight distribution, and enabling the Urus's outstanding handling), but we can't help but wonder what could have been if a raucous V10 or V12 had been installed underhood by the mad geniuses in Sant'Agata.

The $200,000 MSRP makes the Urus the entry level Lambo, and its relative approachability in both price point and drivability suggests it will open the brand to a new breed of buyer, a theory supported by the fact that 68 percent of deposit holders are first-time Lamborghini owners. Lamborghini also estimates it will not only double the company's sales, it should do the same to proportion of female ownership, which currently constitutes a mere 5 percent.

Do red-blooded enthusiasts like us still pine for the absurdity of the LM002 and wish some of its Rambo Lambo styling had made it into the Urus? Of course we do. But the course is set with the Urus, and we only hope future variants will offer more of the demented edge that makes the brand so unapologetically irascible, which is part of what lends the brand such a unique positioning in the marketplace. The course is set for Urus, but Lamborghini boss Stefano Domenicali has delivered the good news that the flagship V12 will continue into the next generation of Aventador (along with a hybrid system), we hope future Urus performance variants will capture more of the Lamborghini DNA that makes their supercars feel so special — a more vocal exhaust system will be a good start.

Until then, think of it this way: Lamborghini is tackling a new area of the market in much the same way that Porsche did with the Cayenne, Bentley did with the Bentayga, and Rolls-Royce is about to do with Cullinan. This is the new world order, like it or not, and as long as automakers maintain the true character of their most quintessential models — the 911, Continental GT, and Phantoms of the world — the premium sport utility vehicles will fund the brand's greater mission. In the case of the Urus, Lamborghini has produced a remarkably capable vehicle that taps an intriguing part of the premium market, and its commercial success is all but guaranteed. Here's to hoping that future variants are just a tad wilder, snortier, and well ... more Lamborghini.

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