The Italian supercar maker Lamborghini presented this week the brand new Urus in South Africa. It is without doubt the world's first super SUV and heralds a new chapter for the Sant & Agata brand. But does the world really need it?
This week I saw the brand new Lamborghini Urus for the first time. No, I did not run this, the first example in the country. But I got to sit in it. And I had to taste the sound of twin-turbo V8.
There are some reasons why the arrival of Urus on local coasts is significant. First, it coincides with Lamborghini distributor who moves to LSM Distributors: the same company that also looks for Porsche and Bentley in SA.
While the trio of brands seems to have very little common, and addresses a completely different, albeit high end customer, all three owned by the Volkswagen Group. That fact already suggests a certain synergy that its lawyer in SA will be eager to explore.
Secondly, Urus is set to double Lamborghini sales around the world, and perhaps even more locally. It is the world's only SSUV, which promises a unique blend of supercar dynamics, terrain capacity and four-seater practical features.
It can be argued that Porsche Cayenne was the first SUV with the sports car's credentials. But Urus takes this formula a few steps further: imagine a vehicle weighing just under 2.2tones, catapulting from rest to 100 km / h in 3.6 seconds. And topping 305km / h …
But Urus is not just about speed. It's about bringing supercar performance into the SUV segment – albeit a new, very top-end niche in that segment. It is also about increasing Lamborghini's range – and increasing profitability.
One should not forget that Porsche used the same formula for business-saving effects when introducing the original Cayenne. Porsche traditionalists were terrified of the sports car brand moving into the SUV territory, but Cayenne brought the sacred brand to a whole new audience, sales increased, and Porsche never looked back.
Lamborghini chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali are convinced that superb cars remain at the core of the company. But the brand also realizes that it needs to grow to meet the changing face of car driving – and the needs of current and future customers.
Lamborghinis expansion strategy is aggressive. The production center in Sant'Agata, near Bologna, Italy, has doubled in size and now has 160,000 square meters – large for a company that sold only 3,815 cars in 2017.
That number may seem small compared to Porsche, but represents already an increase of 10% in 2016 sales, while revenue reached 1,009 million euros in 2017 – 11% compared with the previous year. The positive trend continues in 2018, and the first six months provide an additional 10 percent improvement this year.
However, says Domenicali, Urus will be the real game changer. It is expected to double annual global Lamborghini sales to around 8000 units when the production at the newly expanded factory is in full swing. The current waiting list is 12 months – but the company does everything to reduce the waiting period.
" We think 12 months are the maximum customers ready to wait and we will reduce waiting time as quickly as possible," he explains.
With SA considered a key growth market, he hopes that local customers can not wait so long.
The long waiting list is a strong indication of the positive response to Urus.
" What matters to us is that 70% of Urus buyers are the first time Lamborghini customers," Domenicali says.
It's just the expansion of customer base that the Italian marqueen put on.
It is clear that the arrival of Urus is just the first step in a long-term press to expand the brand's footprints. While Domenicali will not be drawn on future models, he admits that both hybrid and electric vehicle technology are recognized as strong future trends.
This does not mean that the next generation of Lamborghini will be an all-electric sports car.
" If you own a Lamborghini, you will drive and experience the car. For now, it means that the combustion engine will remain – at Lamborghini it's part of the car's feelings, he says.
Domenicali (the image above in Cape Town), however, does not exclude the future use of these technologies or even more advanced solutions altogether.
" Electrification only happens if technology fits the car. We are always looking forward to the future and how innovation can be applied to our models."
Terzo Millenia concept car, developed in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) , not only has an electric drive train but supercapacitors instead of batteries and a self-healing compound body using nanotechnology.
However, the success of Urus is currently crucial to Lamborghini's long-term expansion plans. And the early indications are that it will live up to what is the manufacturer's ambitious goal – and even more important for the customer's expectations.
The pictures certainly do not make super-SUV full justice. In the metal, Urus exudes a low-end, threatening attitude that immediately connects it to Huracán and Aventador supercars.
Yes, it's bigger and bigger, but the proportions are more supercar than the SUV, and the geometric detailing of the workout is authentic Lamborghini. Most of all, it exudes a mixture of muscle and dynamic lift that separates it from any other SUV out there.
The technical specifications provide impressive reading: 4.0-liter twin turbo V8 outputs 478kW power, combined with 850Nm torque, with a weight-to-weight ratio of 218 kW / ton.  All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive adds Urus's skill, but higher position and adaptable suspension promise a less compromise trip than the marqueen's superb wheels. Up to six driver-selectable driving modes make it possible to customize super SUV flight characteristics to match conditions and driver preferences.
The interior is a masterpiece – as much expression of tailored Italian elegance as it is of uncompromising luxury, with space and convenience also included. The skin speaks of hand craftsmanship, while the switch is uncompromising hi-tech.
The seatbase configuration offers a choice of four seat or five seat layouts, with the previously offered individually sculpted rear seats that look as supportive and comfortable as the sculptural front bushes. The luggage compartment varies between 475 and 616 liters, depending on the rear seat.
It's the breadth of capacity that is likely to be the core of Urus's appeal. While a Huracan or an Aventador will always be an indulgence, which can only be used on weekends or special occasions, Urus is a daily Lamborghini – which makes the price of R3.495 million more enjoyable for those who can afford it.
Despite its size, Urus fits like a glove when you slide in behind the wheel. Whether it can sustain the illusion on the move is still to be seen. Surely, the sound of the V8 matches the dramatic exterior.
And the name? In this way, Domenicali explains:
" At Lamborghini we have a long tradition of naming our cars by famous fighting animals. And in astronomy is the constellation of the bull Taurus. The name" Urus "is a simplified derivative by Taurus. "
Maybe it also suggests that Lamborghini's latest model can look forward to a stellar future. Only time will tell – but one thing is for sure: Urus not only creates a new niche, but other brands will soon follow the tire tracks. DM