Beijing 2012: Lamborghini R&D Director Maurizio Reggiani on the Urus Concept

Arguably the most exciting and easily the most photographed debut at the Beijing Motor Show was the Lamborghini Urus, a concept car showing how the Italian company might build an SUV. We sat down with Lamborghini research and development director Maurizio Reggiani to learn more about the Urus.

Reggiani told us that reaction from the general public and journalists to the Urus had been overwhelmingly positive. But even more exciting was the fact that other people within the Volkswagen Group, and even competing automakers were impressed by the concept. That, says Regianni, shows that the Urus succeeded in one of its biggest design goals.

"It means that we were really able to define a completely new concept for the Lamborghini brand," he said. "We were able to translate what is recognizable about Lamborghini sports cars."

To make sure that an SUV would have the same DNA and personality as other Lamborghini models, Reggiani said his team focused on two main criteria: low weight and sharp front suspension. The former will probably be achieved with a combination of aluminum and carbon fiber; the Urus is said to be at least 330 pounds lighter than competing vehicles (by which Reggiani probably means the Porsche Cayenne). As to the front suspension, he says that the team found responsive and precise handling would help make the Urus feel fun to drive.

Even so, the Urus will be the most practical Lamborghini ever. Because it is branching out into the luxury SUV market, Lamborghini considered what Reggiani terms "daily usability" -- comfort, interior room, and a relatively easy driving experience. The suspension height can be varied to switch between sporty and more practical setups. There also are active aerodynamic components that only activate when more downforce is required. A two-piece front splitter can expand to provide extra downforce in sporty driving maneuvers, for instance under hard acceleration, at high speed, or during aggressive steering input. At the rear, a roof spoiler usually is retracted to reduce drag and help fuel economy, but can raise to provide more downforce.

The concept car on the show stand is actually a running model, and work is underway back in Italy to develop the packaging for a real-world Urus. Though the SUV will be built on an existing platform -- likely shared with the next-generation Audi Q7 -- Reggiani says that the Urus will be heavily customized, "In order to have a Lamborghini SUV that is not something that is similar to others." That means unique construction materials like carbon fiber, as well as totally bespoke suspension.

Despite being an SUV, the Urus isn't really designed to go off-road. Reggiani says the model will have some ability to drive off the beaten track, but it is designed more for performance on paved surfaces. After all, he says that most people who buy a luxury SUV like the Urus are unlikely to want to trek through rivers and trails.

"The people that use an SUV in a real off-road condition are probably only five percent of owners," he said.

The Urus is expected to be especially successful in China and the U.S., which are Lamborghini's top two markets worldwide, and also in the Middle East. But the company hasn't tailored the new SUV just so that it will meet the tastes of consumers in those regions.

"We don't design or build cars for a single market," Reggiani said. "We build a car that's a Lamborghini, and the market follows."

He also expects the model to attract many new customers to the brand -- those who want a Lamborghini but need a bit more practicality, for instance. Reggiani envisions people of every demographic buying the Urus: young people will want it for the fun driving experience, while older people will enjoy the luxury and comfortable side. He doesn't expect any trouble selling as many as 3500 copies per year (which is triple Lamborghini's current annual sales) because many Lamborghini owners already drive rival models like the Porsche Cayenne.

Reggiani said that Lamborghini began work on the Urus concept about five months ago, and that the company would need about four years to put it into production. As to whether that will happen, he admits that a decision on whether Lamborghini will build the Urus will be made by the third quarter of this year.

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