Put Lamborghini on the fast-growing list of luxury automakers adding an SUV to their product lines. The maker is officially confirming plans to produce a version of the Urus concept vehicle it first unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in April 2012.
Expect to see the high-performance ute reach showrooms sometime in 2018, Lambo joining such high-end brands as Porsche, Bentley, Maserati, Rolls-Royce and likely Aston Martin who will by then be selling SUVs pushing well into the six-figure price range.
Lamborghini’s move comes as little surprise. It has been toying with the idea for a number of years and come close to giving the Urus project the green light on several previous occasions. It recently pulled back, however, blaming that on the Italian government which had been dangling the idea of incentive money if the luxury ute were to be built in Italy.
That now appears to be the case. The Lamborghini Urus will be assembled at the same plant in Sant’ Agata – near the headquarters of rivals Ferrari and Maserati – that produces the current Gallardo, Huracan and Aventador models. About 500 jobs will be created, Lambo said.
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It’s actually the second time Lamborghini has gotten into the SUV market. Nearly three decades ago, it rolled out the sci-fi-like LM002. But production was minimal. The maker has big aspirations for the Urus, expecting to produce as many as 3,000 annually – roughly doubling its current production.
“It will be a very important model for the Lamborghini brand,” said Ian Fletcher, principal analyst for IHS Automotive. “Not only will it broaden its product portfolio away from high end nice sports cars in to the growing…SUV segment, but also go some way to smoothing out the demand cycle of its product portfolio.
“It could well also bring new customers to the brand which may find the dramatic styling of Lamborghini products appealing, but find its typical sports cars restrictive,” Fletcher added.
A number of questions remain. While all-wheel-drive is a certainty – and already in the Lambo toolkit, it remains to be seen whether the Urus will get its own unique platform or share its “architecture” and other components with other members of the big Volkswagen AG family. It could, for example, reach out to Bentley which is expected to launch the production version of its Bentayga SUV later this year.
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The Italian maker is all but certain to use one of its own engines in the production Urus, but might it offer other options, as well? Bentley, for example, plans to add a plug-in hybrid version of the Bentayga.
A report by BBC’s Top Gear quotes Lamborghini engineering chief Maurizio Reggiani as suggesting we won’t see extensive use of carbon fiber, unlike the direction the maker is moving with its passenger car models. But aluminum could be an alternative, especially as Lambo’s immediate parent, Audi AG, is big on the lightweight metal.
Look for some serious off-road capabilities but, like the Porsche Cayenne, don’t think Lambo will sacrifice much in the way of on-road performance. Reggiani indicated the Urus might have such features as electronic anti-roll, active damping, variable ride height, possibly even four-wheel steering and torque vectoring.
As for design, Urus was, if anything, almost staid compared to the traditional Lamborghini excess. But that could change by 2018.
“We were always the bad boys in the car industry,” Lambo CEO Stefan Winkelmann told Top Gear. “We have a responsibility to create something which is unexpected and ahead of the peoples’ dreams.”
Perhaps one of the biggest questions is whether Lambo will stick with the name, Urus. It’s taken plenty of ribbing since the 2012 Beijing Show and, much as Maserati abandoned the Kubang concept name in favor Levante, Lamborghini might find an alternative nameplate over the next three years.
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