I SUPPOSE it was inevitable. With the growing success of SUVs from premium sports car and supercar manufacturers like Porsche, it was only a matter of time before Lamborghini announced it will take the plunge and enter this lucrative market sector.
At the 2012 Beijing Auto Show, Lambo unveiled its quaintly-named Urus crossover SUV concept car. Fast forward three years and the concept will soon be reality.
Lambo's CEO Stephan Winkelmann has just announced that a full production version of the Urus will arrive in 2017, adding that it will be one of the sportiest and most luxurious SUVs in the market.
Lambo wants the Urus to become its highest-volume model in China, Russia, the US, UK and the Middle East where there is huge demand for luxury high performance SUVs. China is a particularly important market as the premium SUV sector is booming.
SUV sales grew 21 percent in Europe and 12 percent in the US last year. In China, the world's largest auto market, SUV registrations were up nearly 50 percent in the first quarter of this year. So it’s easy to see the attraction of being a player in the SUV sector.
The concept car was built with a 6.0 liter, twin-turbocharged W12 engine, but an Audi-derived 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8 is probable; a hybrid variation and a diesel V-8 are possible. It will have design features in common with the firm’s iconic sports cars such as similar lights to the Huracan and the same shaped vents as the Gallardo.
At just 1.7 metres, the model is set to be relatively small in comparison to other SUVs, targeting city dwellers and ‘soccer moms’. Prices in the US are likely to start at US$215,000 (P9.58 million).
Lambo said it will invest heavily in the new project and it could receive additional major funding from the Italian government which is anxious to stimulate growth in the country's rather sad jobs market.
Winkelmann is adamant the Urus will keep its Italian identity, "safeguarding the values of 'Made in Italy' worldwide." The new SUV will join the Aventador and Hurracán lines and the current plan is to build 3,000 Urus SUVs thereby doubling the company's current annual sales.
As with all Lambo model names, the new car has a bovine connection - Urus is named after an extinct ancestor of a cow.
Interestingly, the Urus is not Lambo's first foray into 4x4 off-roader. Between 1986 and 1993 the company built the LM002 - described by some as "monstrous." It was built as a military vehicle which Lambo tried to sell to the US Army. Dubbed the "Rambo-Lambo," it failed to gain favor with the US military which selected instead the "much inferior" Hummer.
Nevertheless, the LM002 had some success as civilian models which were outfitted with a full luxury package, including full leather trim, tinted power windows, air-conditioning and a premium stereo mounted in a roof console. It became hugely popular in the Middle East.
With SUVs grabbing such a large slice of the luxury car market, one has to wonder if the pure sports car will survive? Any prospect of a McLaren SUV? "Perish the thought," their spokesman said rather tersely.