We drove a $250,000 Lamborghini Urus SUV to see if the 2019 Car of the Year runner-up was equal to the hype — here's the verdict

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderThe 2019 Lamborghini Urus.

Editor’s note: Business Insider will name its 2019 Car of the Year on November 23. Each day this week, we’re taking another look at the five vehicles that were runners-up selected from a pool of 16 finalists. The first vehicle is the 2019 Lamborghini Urus.

For decades, the names Ferrari and Lamborghini meant sexy, sleek, powerful Italian sports cars – supercars, and later, hypercars. Expensive dream machines.

Of course, the business model for cars that start at $US200,000 and keep going until you hit a million or more is … limited. Until recently, Ferrari built only about 7,000 road cars per year. Lamborghini built fewer than that.

In this day and age, it made no sense for Lambo to do a grand tourer or a sedan, so instead, we got a “super sport utility vehicle” – a Lambofied SUV that was announced a few years back. But would it be a real Lamborghini? On that score I assumed physics would mitigate that Lambo fizz.

I might have been wrong. Read on to find out why – as well as why the Lamborghini Urus is a 2019 Car of the Year runner-up:

Photos by Hollis Johnson.

The 2019 Lamborghini Urus, the most flamboyant SUV on the market, arrived at our New York headquarters on a snowy day. The very Lambo colour was “Giallo Auge” — that’s Italian and Spanish for “Yellow Boom.” Subtle!

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Read the original review.

And booming the Urus is. It’s named for an extinct wild ox (Lambos have traditionally been named for legendary fighting bulls). Price as tested was $US250,000. Let’s just says the yellow POPS!

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The designers have literally done as much as possible to scale up a supercar to SUV proportions. The Urus is all angles and slashes, with a steeply sloping roofline and shark-attack vibe that isn’t generally seen with utes.

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The front end is like something out of the movie “Tron.”

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For a super-sport utility vehicle, the Urus appears to have a high stance, but the air suspension can raise and lower the vehicle. It’s supposed to perform as well on the track as it does off-road. But do you actually want a $US250,000 rally car?

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Cargo capacity is a respectable 22 cubic feet with the rear seats up (the rears on our tester couldn’t be lowered). That was enough to handle our video team’s gear, and I was even able to go to IKEA and get two desks and a chair in there, with a bit of interior rejiggering.

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On to the meat of the machine: the 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8, making 641 horsepower with 627 pound-feet of torque. Yep, massive in every way, including fuel consumption: 12 mpg city/17 highway/14 combined.

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This is one impressive motor, tuned to take on everything from racetracks to rock-strewn trails. The power is routed through an 8-speed transmission to the Urus’ full-time all-wheel-drive system, which biases the rear wheels in sport modes but distributes the grunt to all four when the conditions get gnarlier. The Urus also has rear-wheel steering.

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Much of the “Nero Ade” interior is derived from the Huracan and Lambo’s sibling in the VW Group, Audi. (Note the hexagonal dashboard air ducts, which are pure Lambo.)

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The rear seats are snug — but there are rear seats! In effect, they’re more like two extra front seats, slim and well-bolstered.

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The flat-bottomed wheel is wrapped in stitched, perforated leather, and is complete with Italian-flag colours to accompany the switchgear that controls some vehicle functions.

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The anima selector is where you choose your drive modes. There are six, three for on-road and three for off-road and poor conditions: Strada for everyday, Sport for fun, Corsa for serious fun, Sabbia for sand, Terra for rocky terrain, and Neve for wet.

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The Urus’ two-screen infotainment/climate control interface is borrowed from Audi.

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In practice, this takes some getting used to. But it’s effective. The audio system is a sweet-sounding Bang & Olufsen 3D Advanced setup, and it is not cheap: $US6,300. That’s an expensive option, but the full suite of driver assist features matches it.

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So what’s the verdict on this 2019 Car of the Year runner-up?

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We did a “Real Reviews” episode on the Urus to see how the world’s first “super-sport utility vehicle” (SSUV) fared in some real-world situations, and you can watch here to see how it did (spoiler alert: it lived up to its billing, although my 9 year-old was a harsh critic).

The upshot is that the Urus is every bit a Lamborghini and a worthy, first SSUV. As it turned out, I got to at least sample how its 40/60 front-rear-wheel traction distribution adapts to lousy weather, and it adapts magnificently. I drove the Urus into and out of Manhattan in a sloppy snow-and-ice storm, and while in a Huracan I might have been extremely nervous, in the Urus I was in command. I can only imagine what this thing is like on dirt roads.

In more benign conditions, the Urus is ferocious. It has abundant horsepower and abundant torque on tap in any gear, and even if you aren’t busting toward the legal speed limit – testing the 0-60 mph dash of 3.5 seconds or tasting the top speed to 190 mph – you can always do that Lambo thing, making use of the the paddle shifters and the manual mode, wringing unholy engine howls and whines from the V8 while tooling this two-ton beast around at mellow velocities.

What it genuinely does that, most other SUVs don’t is inspire cornering confidence. I had no qualms about diving into a curve and powering out, as the suspension and steering leaned in and the throttle let me hover between braking and accelerating.

We’ve driven sporty SUVS a-plenty at Business Insider, but the Urus is in a new category. It’s over-the-top design advertises its Lamborghini-ness, and while the driving dynamics aren’t Huracán-y or Aventadorish, they are pretty freakin’ flashy. If it hadn’t been for the elevated driving position and the somewhat more plush seats, I might have thought at certain moments that I was in one of those cars.

The three boxes of flat-packed furniture in the cargo hold – as well as a passenger in the back seats – were a reminder that I wasn’t.

So what’s the point, ultimately, of the Urus?

Well, it has to be all Lambo, but it also has to sell to people who don’t have that much use for a supercar or hypercar. Or maybe they do and just want a second Lambo in the driveway. Yes, I know, that’s sort of ridiculous. But that’s why the Urus exists.

And I, for one, am glad it does.

Congratulations to Lamborghini for doing the impossible – that’s why the Urus is a 2019 Car of the Year runner-up.

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