Lamborghini launched the Urus earlier this week, opening a ghastly new front in the SUV wars. But is its significance greater than simply its unabashed aggression? We have gathered some thoughts on the matter.
South of Revenna, and situated between the cities of Forli and Rimini, flows the Rubicone. From its source in the Apennine mountains, the river travels for about 80 km eastwards before meeting the Adriatic. In Roman times, it marked the border between Cisalpine Gaul and what we might call the greater Roman state. In 49 BC, General Gaius Julius Ceasar crossed this body of water with his army in direct contravention of the Republic’s laws, precipitating what can best be described as a military coup. As he did so, Ceasar not only unintentionally created a metaphor for the ages but is believed to have spoken the equally immortal phrase; “the die is cast.”
These days, Rubicons take many forms and not all lead to revolution, but in Sant’Agata Bolognese one has been crossed this week as Lamborghini announced, after an interminable succession of teasers, hints and blandishments, the latest entrant to the growing cadre of high-end SUVs. Called Urus, a word which derives from a now extinct breed of wild European ox, it’s the latest in a string of large VW group SUVs all pinned under the corporate MLB platform which first saw expression beneath the Audi Q7 before giving rise to the latest Porsche Cayenne and Bentayga.
Needless to say, Urus is big (make that very big), aggressive looking (make that really aggressive looking) and festooned with supercar cues. It’s also massively powerful. The Audi-sourced 4-litre twin turbocharged V8 delivers 641 bhp, 627 lb/ft of torque and despite the behemoth weighing in at well over two tonnes unladen, a claimed top speed of 190 mph. Making all that mass change direction and stop involves hardware of almost military grade, including the largest brake rotors of any production car.
A decade ago, the Lamborghini brand was merged with Audi and back then, commentator, critic and aesthete, Stephen Bayley lamented this development in the pages of Car, fearing for the marque’s essence. “Lamborghini has been saved,” he said, “but will be destroyed. It will be diverted from the magnificent catastrophes that have so enlivened its history. What has gone is purpose and intent. With infinite slowness and enlarging melancholy, Lamborghini will fade.”
It has taken ten years. Some might even suggest it happened before now, but that is academic really. This week at Sant’Agata, Stefano Domenicali stood on a stage and announced to the world a vehicle festooned with the company’s iconography and latter-day styling tropes, but a bloated, homogenised, and for all its testosterone-pumped distension, emasculated facsimile of Ferruccio’s 1963 act of contrarian defiance which will fill their coffers yet most likely seal their fate.
Contrary to belief, the Rubicon was neither deep nor fast-flowing and in latter times it seems, even less so, but it was as much a symbol in Julius Ceasar’s time as it remains today. As much then as now, to cross a Rubicon, one required two things. A means of making the crossing (a high-riding vehicle perhaps?) and the full and sure knowledge you’re never going back.