|2013 Lamboghini Urus Concept|
Say what? Lamborghini is doing what?
Indeed they are. And come on, it’s not like they haven’t done it before. If you were a child of the 70s/80s, then you would remember the LM002, the V12-powered Italian Hummer of SUVs that Lamborghini produced between 1986 and 1993. While that monster was more about brute force and less about luxury, it was brash and exotic in that traditional Lamborghini in-your-face logic. But Lamborghini isn’t a traditional builder of SUVs. They build sports cars: exotic, wild, fast and brash super cars. So what are they doing unveiling a new concept that forms the basis for a third vehicle line after the Aventador and Gallardo? Let’s not forget that Porsche was also seen as a maker of pure sports cars and what began with the 911 Carrera, branched out into the Boxter/Cayman line with the occasional GT and super exotic (Carrera GT). But like every business,automakers are sensitive to the ups and downs of a world economy and it impacts exotic sports car makers particularly hard since their annual sales rarely top 5000 units. When demand drops, small outfits such as these don’t have the leverage of multiple vehicle lines to cut or fall back on like larger full line automakers. Porsche recognized this in the late 90s and thus forged an agreement with Volkswagen to jointly develop an SUV that would serve both automakers purposes. Thus was born the Cayenne (and VW Touareg), the polar opposite of Porsche’s sports cars. Of course the Porsche faithful cried fouled and decried Porsche for even thinking of developing a near 5000lb monstrosity that would possibly dilute and sully the Porsche name. The fact is, Porsche had little choice. If it was to survive, Porsche needed to be flexible and enter markets that would have previously been considered unthinkable. A decade later, the Cayenne has been an instrumental success for Porsche, providing the capital to bolster Porsche and fund further development of their sports cars. Porsche has thus gone further, since becoming part of Volkswagen’s vast empire, developing a 4 door Panamera super sedan which is currently rivaling the Cayenne as Porsche’s most profitable vehicle line.
|2008 Lamborghini Estoque Concept|
And now we have Lamborghini. They first hinted at adding a third vehicle line when they unveiled the Estoque concept car in 2008 at the Paris Motor Show. It was quite possible (despite being surprising) for Lamborghini to head in this direction as a platform (underpinning the Panamera) was readily available. However, to take advantage of the current crossover craze, Lamborghini decided against doing a 4 door sports car (although the idea isn’t entirely dead) and against doing a direct descendant of the LM002 in favor of a more conventional (in every loose sense of the word) 4 door, 4 seat design take on the BMW X6 M. Based on a next generation Porsche Cayenne/Audi Q7 platform, the Urus (named from a breed of Spanish bulls renowned for their strength) is billed to be the quickest and best handling soft-roader ever built; a tall order when its competition includes the aforementioned X6 M, Mercedes ML63 and the Urus’ own kissing cousin, the Cayenne Turbo.
However, with the performance of the Aventador and Gallardo already kicking ass and taking names, anything less for the Urus just would not do for Lamborghini. Looking at the Urus concept, it could not be mistaken for anything else but a Lambo. Initially there was skepticism that the edgy design of the Aventador would not translate well to a tall, high riding crossover. By lowering the roof, designing a raked, uprising beltline and aggressively flaring the wheel arches, the design team succeeded in producing a look that is very much a Lamborghini, albeit one that weighs over 4500lbs. The sharply sloped nose and massive air intakes hint at the power that may lie beneath the hood. Lamborghini has yet to officially say what may power the Urus but looking at the sloping hoodline, coupled with Lamborghini’s desire to make the Urus as efficient as possible, any chance of a V12 engine has been ruled out. A version of the Gallardo’s V10 was initially suggested and, even with forced induction, that seems skeptical and at odds with making the Urus efficient. Besides, there doesn’t seem to be enough space to house more than eight cylinders. Fortunately, Lamborghini does have an enormous parts bin to rummage through and one good possibility would be a version of Audi’s just introduced twin-turbo 4.0 V8, already seeing service in the Bentley Continental and various top rung Audi sedans. The design of the chassis however, means that the engine will sit uncomfortably far ahead of the front axle.
|2013 Lamborghini Urus Concept (quite dashing no?)|
Managing weight will be a key factor in Lamborghini’s quest to make he Urus the best handling crossover and as such, the concept previews the use of as much lightweight, composite material as possible throughout the chassis and interior. The aim is to shave at least 250lbs from the entire vehicle while opting for as close to a 50-50 front-rear weight balance as possible. Mounted on monster 23 inch wheels fitted with Pirelli Scorpion Zero 305/35 ZR23 tires, the Urus also has an adjustable suspension and active aerodynamics and a rear-biased AWD system to counteract whatever nose-heavy physics that may come into play. Despite all this technology, Lamborghini promises the Urus will be extremely user friendly as carting around families will be one of its mission goals. Well, families that have around USD230,000 dollars just lying around (and perhaps a Gallardo occupying garage space).
|2013 Lamborghini Urus Concept|
Production of the Urus has yet to be green-lighted as of this writing, but it is clear that Lamborghini has set a course for continued profitability, following the path that Porsche had taken a decade earlier. Would the Estoque have been a better vehicle to produce? Perhaps, but given the success of the growing crossover market with entries from seemingly every automaker (and the unforeseen success of BMW’s X6), Lamborghini has hedged its bets on doing the unexpected and as it sees, the best alternative for staying in business. If the Urus gets production approval, we won’t expect to see a production model until 2015 at the earliest.
So there you have it, Lamborghini is getting into the SUV/crossover business. Hey, at least it looks a heck of a lot better than Bentley’s take on a crossover, the EXP-9F. Which do you think looks better? Have at it in the comments.
|2013 Bentley EXP-9F Concept|