Not all Lamborghinis are mid-engine supercars, but those are the cars that define the brand. Two-seat, mid-engine cars lend themselves well to the wedge-shaped design Lamborghini first pioneered with the Countach back in 1971, but tall, family-hauling SUVs? Not really.
That meant that Mitja Borkert, the 43-year-old German (pictured above) who heads Lamborghini Centro Stile, had quite a task making the new Urus SUV make like a real Lambo. We spoke with him at the car's US premiere in Detroit to find out how he did it.
Borkert approaches Lamborghini design with an eye on the past—both the actual shapes that define the company's cars, but also the philosophy they were designed with. He's deeply studied in Lamborghini's early history and Italian design of the 1960s and 1970s.
"Lamborghini stands for extreme proportions," Borkert told us. "Everybody knows the Countach, it's still a spaceship, and this kind of spaceship look is important for Lamborghini."
If you ever see a Countach, especially the early LP400 "Periscopico" version, you'll be struck by how low and wide it sits. It's an automotive doorstop in the best way imaginable. Borkert says he and his team tried to recreate this stance with the Urus, and he's proud of the fact that it's the lowest SUV on the market, standing under five-feet four-inches, and one of the widest, at over six-and-a-half feet.
Other Countach-inspired details can be found elsewhere on the Urus. The dramatic rear fender—arguably the most controversial part of the Urus—is inspired by the Countach's collapsed-trapezoid rear wheel arch. That fender also helps create a hexagonal character line that runs across the Urus's doors, vaguely resembling the shape of a Countach door.
From some angles, the Urus also shares some similarities with Lamborghini's first SUV, the LM002. That's intentional.
"When I was a young designer I was really impressed by the LM002," Borkert told us. "It was a car that was absolutely outstanding.
He says both the front hood and the wheel arches of the Urus are inspired by those on the rugged LM002, but redrawn in a more "dynamic" way, reflecting its sportier intentions. The triangular vent on the front fender—which is sadly non-functional on the Urus—also comes from the LM002, a detail Borkert said the new SUV had to include.
Inside the Urus, there's another nod to the LM002. Borkert and his team recreated the LM002's climbing center console with the aluminum wings inside the Urus. For Borkert, this detail is designed to make the driver feel like a pilot.
"When you drive your Lamborghini, you must feel part of your machine, you must feel integrated," Borkert said.
But the design of the Urus does a lot more than nod at the Countach and LM002 with specific details. There's lots of shapes and cues that, to Borkert, help define Lamborghini styling.
"Small little things are important," he said. "The Countach started, and the Urraco continued the diagonal line on the front bonnet and rear bonnet, for example. This is something we took as an inspiration, when you look at the Urus, you'll those."
There's other small touches too, like lots of hexagons, a frequent Lamborghini shape that first appeared on the Miura and reached a fever pitch with . Related to the hexagons are the upsilon shapes you'll find in nearly every modern Lamborghini. Those details are most prominent in the Urus's head- and taillights, and it it helps tie the SUV to today's Aventador and Huracan.
"For me, these are the simple things you need to have," Borkert said. "All the other surfaces have to look unexpected and new, but they always have to speak the Lamborghini language."
Looking at the Urus in Detroit, it's hard to argue that the Urus doesn't speak the Lamborghini language. I told him I thought it looked outrageous, and he smiled in agreement.
The Urus isn't as revolutionary today as the Countach was in 1971, but it lives up to the ideals that car established. And in that sense, it's a true Lamborghini.