I AM not sure quite when or why all the world’s rich people decided they needed four-wheel-drive monsters, but they did, and so in the next 18 months Aston Martin, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce will launch SUVs to rival the leviathans already on offer from Bentley, Porsche and Maserati.
Needless to say, Lamborghini wasn’t going to be left out of a roll call like that and has come up with the car you see here. It’s called the Urus, which I thought was an embarrassing genitourinary problem. “Doctor. I’ve got an itch on my urus.” Turns out it is some kind of ox.
Unlike the other rap’n’footballer brands, Lamborghini has been here before. In the 1970s it decided for reasons known only to the bottom of a very big bottle of wine that Colonel Gadaffi would like an Italian pick-up for his soldiers.
Amazingly, it turned out he didn’t, and neither did any other army, so Lamborghini fitted the V12 engine from a Countach, lined the extremely cramped interior with leather and tried to convince the world that this is what it’d had in mind all along.
I drove one once, and it was hilariously good fun and hilariously terrible all at the same time. The lever that engaged the low-range gearbox was so stiff that it took two of us, one sitting on the dash pulling with his arms, and one on the back seat levering with his legs, to shift it. And when it did finally boing free, the man on the dash shot through the windscreen.
Later the engine seized in Oxford Street. And then I took it to a petrol station, where it consumed £147-worth of petrol. Back then that was what I earned in a month.
Times, of course, have changed. Gadaffi has gone, his armed forces are rushing around the desert in Toyota pick-ups and Lamborghini is no longer run by people who get all their best ideas in the pub. It’s just a small cog in the Volkswagen empire.
It’s also the most exciting car maker in the world. Ferrari is so up itself these days, it’s started being actively hostile to even its most loyal customers, it won’t allow the press to conduct proper tests and, when it does finally relent, the car it provides is always weirdly fast.
Lambo is run by nicer people and — whisper this — it makes better cars too. The Huracan Performante is easily the best supercar on the road — it eats the Ferrari 488 for breakfast — and the Aventador remains the world’s greatest head-turner.
But what about the Genital Itch?
Well, the first thing you need to understand is that, while it says Lamborghini on the back, it’s no such thing. The platform comes from an Audi Q7, the engine and gearbox from a Porsche Cayenne, the rear axle and suspension from a Bentley Bentayga, the dashboard screens from an Audi A8 and the electric window switches — I bet the press department hoped I wouldn’t spot this — from a Mk 7 Volkswagen Golf.
“What do I want from a Lamborghini? An eye-swivelling lunatic with an axe in one hand and a chainsaw in the other”
None of this would matter if it sounded like a proper Lambo, but it doesn’t. Not in road mode, at any rate. It sounds like the mad love child of WO Bentley and Ferdinand Porsche. Only if you put it in track mode does it start to wave its arms about and have the screaming abdabs.
That is what I want from a Lamborghini. I want an eye-swivelling lunatic with an axe in one hand and a chainsaw in the other. Fee Waybill from the Tubes. With windscreen wipers.
And, yes, on a frozen lake, with the traction control off, and the sun shining, and with the settings all in nutter bastard mode, it delivered the full fireworks display while wearing a cartoon catsuit. However, the rest of the time …
Part of the problem is the way it looks. You tell yourself it’s brilliant because it’s full of sharp edges and Lambo styling details. It’s also a lot lower and sleeker than the other SUVs — the Bentayga in particular. But if you force yourself to concentrate, it actually isn’t that mad-looking at all.
Then you step inside and, yes, there are all the lovely Italian styling touches. But it all feels very German. And then there’s the space. I didn’t need to put the driver’s seat fully back to get comfortable, and even when I did, there was still room for a six-footer to sit behind me. And behind him was a boot big enough for a winter week with a full-on shooting schedule.
Does it work off road? Well, yes, it has four-wheel drive, and you can raise the body to give plenty of ground clearance. So, if you have the right tyres, you can go up a ski slope. I know this because I did.
But it doesn’t have manual differential locks or a low-range gearbox. You just tell it what kind of terrain you’re on — snow, sand or mud — and it does its best to sort you out. I fear that for serious off-road work it’ll be left far behind by a Range Rover. Although it would be quite funny turning up to a shoot in a yellow Lambo. Next season I suspect lots of people will do just that.
On the road, in ordinary going-home-from-work mode, it’s very quiet and extremely comfortable. When you put your foot down, there’s a hesitation, as the turbos — the first time such things have been fitted to a Lambo — and the automatic gearbox talk to each other about who should go first. It’s very polite but not what you’d expect. Or want.
After a day, I started to feel a bit sad. I’d looked forward to the Urus because I thought it would be German engineering wrapped up in some video-game idiocy. But it felt — dare I say this? — ordinary. Yes, you can use the track mode and switch off the driver aids and create some madness that way. But you never will. Not really.
Make no mistake: it’s bloody fast. And it screams through the corners as if it weren’t on stilts at all. But, again, you’ll never do this. You’ll drive it normally and it’ll reward you by being normal. But if normal’s what you want, save 80 grand and buy a Range Rover. Or wait for the Aston.
You could wait for the Ferrari, but unless you load it up with all the extras, there’s a chance you’ll be pushed down dealers’ waiting lists and then told that actually you can’t have one at all.
In the meantime, Lamborghini has made a very good car. A car that is quiet and comfortable and fast and probably super-reliable. It’s also, and I know this sounds ridiculous, quite good value for money. But, sadly, by doing all this, it hasn’t made a Lamborghini. Which is what I wanted.
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Head to head: Lamborghini Urus vs Bentley Bentayga
|Bentley Bentayga V8
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