Lamborghini Urus Concept at the Beijing Motor Show

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  • Looks like: The Devil’s own SUV
  • Defining characteristics: Aggressive design, 600 hp, 24-inch wheels, side cameras in lieu of mirrors 
  • Ridiculous features: A name that is simultaneously shorter and more cumbersome than Lamborghini’s other model names
  • Chances of being mass-produced: Lamborghini gives the usual “gauging interest” line, but it seems inevitable

At the Beijing Motor Show today, Lamborghini introduced the four-door, four-seat Urus concept, an SUV that the automaker is likely to market within the next few years. Though the concept’s formal unveiling is in Beijing, got a peek last month at a top-secret preview in New York City, where invitees were required to surrender all cameras and cellphones and, just to be sure, submit to metal detectors and wanding. (No, we’re not joking.)

Like most Lambos, the Urus is named for a bull—or in this case, a type of bull: The company describes Urus, also known as Aurochs, as the ancestor of domestic cattle whose appearance is still evident in modern Spanish fighting bulls.

The uninitiated will view the Urus as Lamborghini’s first SUV, but it’s actually the company’s first since 1992 when the boxy LM002 was retired. Thankfully, the Urus is no LM002. Penned by Filippo Perini, the designer behind the $376,000 Aventador, the Urus is undeniably compelling, as only a 600-horsepower SUV can be.

Though some of the shapes in the grille are characteristic, I wouldn’t call the Urus an unmistakable Lambo, partly because the rear end is so rounded. Perini said his goal was to make this large, 16-foot-long-plus vehicle not look too large, but I suppose that depends on what you consider large. An adjustable ride height helps lower its profile, visually and literally, and adapts the SUV for on-road stability and aerodynamics. Powered rear hatch and front chin spoilers also raise and lower automatically to optimize airflow. The various vents are functional. “We try to avoid fake features,” Perini said.

One of the vehicle’s most impressive attributes is its wheels, rated P305/35R24, which Lambo points out support a relatively high tire sidewall for their size. Even more impressive to me is how good the Urus looks with large gaps between the tires and wheel arches. Usually this looks dreadful, but with the body riding about halfway up its vertical range, somehow the fender shapes make it look OK.

Perhaps the least impressive aspect is the Urus’ cargo area. In addition to being relatively small, it has a cargo floor that was about 4 feet off the ground. Unfortunately the four side doors weren’t open, but the interior looks upscale, for sure, and has such distinctive elements as a skeletal center tunnel constructed of carbon fiber. The rest of the vehicle uses a lot of carbon fiber, one means of keeping the claimed weight 220 pounds lighter than its competitors.

The Urus’ competitors, in Lamborghini’s estimation, include the BMW X5, Land Rover Range Rover and Porsche Cayenne. Though the Urus has all-wheel drive and a variable ground clearance, it’s clear Lambo put the concept’s emphasis on conventional performance rather than off-road ability. In this, they’ve taken a different approach than Porsche did with the first-generation Cayenne from 2003. That model gave equal importance to off- and on-road performance, which arguably compromised both.

Owned by Volkswagen, Lamborghini used the Cayenne/Volkswagen Touareg platform for the Urus, with the engine in front. Could the 600 hp come from the Gallardo’s V-10 or Aventador’s V-12? Execs say low-end torque is a critical requirement and they’ll look within the vast VW group for an appropriate power plant should the Urus get the green light. Like the concept, a Urus production model would have a dual-clutch automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive.

So how close is this concept to becoming a real product? Very—down to the 24-inch wheels. Ironically, the bubble-shaped roof is on the bubble, partly because it would forego a moonroof or glass roof, but Perini said it’s not out of the question either. Execs estimate they could sell 3,000 units a year globally.

With the exception of greater on-road focus, the Urus’ tale recalls that of the Cayenne: The company has many loyal customers who also own SUVs, but some other brand’s SUVs. The reaction to this model is also likely to be the same—incredulity. If the Cayenne is an indication, I wouldn’t bet against a Lamborghini SUV being a successful one.

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Former Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder, a launch veteran, led the car evaluation effort. He owns a 1984 Mercedes 300D and a 2002 Mazda Miata SE. Email Joe Wiesenfelder

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