People get worked up over the Lamborghini Urus. Even people who could never afford a Lamborghini get upset by the idea of yet another automaker making yet another SUV.

To the accusation of pandering to the SUV-enthralled masses, Lamborghini’s best defense is that it has created an awesome machine. Lamborghini’s engineers and designers successfully imbued an SUV with the excitement of a supercar. The Urus has the soul — the sound, the speed, the quickness — of a genuine Lamborghini. With a starting price of $200,000, it also has the price tag. But, as Lamborghinis go, it’s a moderate extravagance.

Executive Brief

  • The Lamborghini Urus puts supercar performance in an SUV package.
  • The Urus is quick, responsive and thrilling.
  • Those not used to piloting a supercar may find some controls annoying.

  • And on that, the defense can rest.

    One thing that doesn’t fit the Lamborghini archetype is the Urus’s turbocharged V8 engine. Lamborghini typically uses bigger V10s and V12s. But you won’t care. It can make 650 horsepower, which is a little more than you can get from the engine in Lamborghini’s Huracán supercar. Granted, the Urus is bigger and heavier. But with this much power, it’s capable of reaching 60 miles per hour in just 3.5 seconds. And it does it with all the proper pops and snarls you’d expect from an Italian supercar.

    This SUV’s cornering ability is shocking. The Urus takes a turn more aggressively than any SUV I’ve driven or could even imagine. Going fast through the curves of a mountain road in California, the Urus never felt as if it was anywhere near its limits — even as I pulled away from a pack of Ford Mustangs following behind me. It was exhilarating enough that, except for the fact that I was higher off the ground than I would be in any other Lamborghini, I could almost forget I was in an SUV at all. Steering is quick, connected-feeling and responsive.

    Lamborghini designers nicely applied Lamborghini's essential DNA to the body of a crossover.

    A small lever allowed me to put the Urus (Lamborghini pronounces it oo-ROOS) in one of several driving modes. Burbling patiently in heavy traffic, I opted for Strada, or Street, mode in which the Urus was comfortable and its aggressive tendencies were mellowed. When I approached a fun stretch of mountain road, I put it in Sport Mode and the Urus came alive. Its suspension stiffened a little, the steering quickened, the SUV bolted more aggressively at a press of the gas pedal and the engine roared louder. I tried Corsa, or Track, mode when I wanted to see what the Urus felt like at full attack. There are also modes for sand, snow and rough terrain, as well as an Ego mode that allows you to select your own mix of settings.

    To access the start button you have to flip up a red cover.

    Being the Lamborghini of SUVs is not all upside, of course. The backseats were comfortable enough, but clearly, passengers are not the focus here. There’s a penned-in feel back there and the seats lack the side support to match the centrifugal pull the Urus can generate in a fast turn. The kids will be fighting over the shotgun seat.

    Then there’s the gear selector. Like other Lamborghinis, the Urus doesn’t have a traditional gear selector. It has paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel so the driver can, if he wants, take control of the transmission and change gears at will. There’s also a button for Reverse and one for Park. But there is no button for Drive. To start moving forward, you have to pull on the upshift lever on the right side of the steering wheel.

    This is normal stuff for supercars and I get it. Race car style gear shifting is part of the deal. But when you just finished backing out of a parking space at a shopping center, it’s a pain. You have to stop and figure out which side the upshift paddle is on because the steering wheel is probably upside down. I love tradition but, given the Urus’s more day-to-day use, I think Lamborghini should just go ahead add a D button on this one.

    As far as public reception goes, the yellow Urus I was driving was clearly seen by others on the road as nothing less than a proper Lamborghini. You might not love the design but you know exactly what it is. There were waves, shouts, thumbs up and camera phones coming out all over.

    The vents behind the front wheel are a visual reference to Lamborghini's first SUV.

    Lamborghini fans will note that the company made an SUV once before, the LM002. The vents just behind the Urus’s front wheels are a sort of visual footnote referring to similar vents on the LM002. Originally intended as a project for the military, the LM002 looked like a weird origami Humvee and was produced in small numbers.

    The new Urus does share some of its basic engineering with vehicles like the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga. Welcome to the auto industry, everyone. Global automakers like Volkswagen Group don’t like doing the same work twice, or three or four times, any more than you do. If an automaker has the engineering in-house for a good SUV, smart engineers start with that, altering it enough to fit different needs.

    Lamborghini took those bones and, with a good bit of work, created a pretty amazing vehicle around them. Don’t worry. Lamborghini made an SUV and the world did not melt. In fact, it may have gotten a little better.