No Fixed Abode: They Did It, But It Didn’t Have to Be Done


2019 Lamborghini Urus

Back in the spring of 2012, I penned a sort of existential whine about the absolutely unnecessary idea of a Lamborghini SUV. In the five-and-a-half years since then, it’s often looked like the “Urus” would be canceled or at least shelved indefinitely — and why not? Under the protective umbrella of VW Group, Lamborghini had absolutely no need to balance the books with a Me-Too Iguana Mommytruck.

Even more importantly, the company’s core product has become absolutely first-rate. If you haven’t driven a Huracan, you owe it to yourself to at least try three rental laps in Las Vegas or elsewhere. The Huracan Performante is, quite possibly, the most exciting and emotionally involving exotic car since the demise of the Ferrari 458 Speciale, while the Aventador S neatly balances the demands of outrageousness and everyday usability.

If you’d put a Urus in showrooms next to the tired-looking-from-Day-2 Gallardo and just-a-bit-plain Murcielago, there might have been a bit of sad synergy across the product lines. Maybe. Half a decade ago, Lamborghini wasn’t second fiddle to Ferrari so much as it was the weekday shift janitor at the symphony. But now it’s Ferrari that struggles with issues of public perception and dealer gouging and unfocused product offerings while the German-Italians from Sant’Agata keep raising the bar to stratospheric levels.

The Urus will be an exception to this new tradition of excellence. It’s a deeply compromised product, a sort of mish-mash between the Audi S8 and VW Tiguan and God knows what else. Its primary competition in the marketplace will surely be the related-under-the-skin Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne, two vehicles that I suspect are made deliberately gormless for the same reason the so-called “419 scams” are so obviously fraudulent — to weed out the cognoscenti and ensure that only the least discerning customers make it through the purchase experience. It’s not good news for anybody except my colleagues at the buff books, who will have a chance to escape the winter blahs with a trip to Italy. As a genuine fan of the Lamborghini brand and lineup, however, I can’t say that I am anything other than disappointed at Lamborghini’s decision to develop and sell this product.

Which raises, for me at least, a question: How can I continue to respect Lamborghini in a world where the Urus is providing the bulk of the sales volume? The answer is simple.

I am a bit of a watch collector and, as a result, my e-mail inbox is usually chock full of watch deals ranging from interesting (30 percent off an Omega Planet Ocean?) to ridiculous (low, low prices on the latest nautical-themed stillbirth from Ulysse Nardin, ugh).

In the past few years I’ve seen a lot of “once-in-a-lifetime” sales on Tonino Lamborghini watches. If you haven’t kept up on the Lamborghini family story, Tonino is a son of Ferrucio Lamborghini and the owner of his own independent “design company.” If that sounds like a familiar story, it’s because F.A. “Butzi” Porsche set up Porsche Design after leaving his father’s company. The difference appears to be that Butzi was a legendary designer who gave us the Porsche 911’s silhouette and the Targa model while Tonino doesn’t appear to have much of an eye for design. The vast majority of Tonino Lamborghini watches are fairly horrible-looking.

Predictably, the Tonino Lamborghini watches are sold by retail outlets who are in no big hurry to educate you on the difference between the automaker and the design firm. As far as I can tell, the customer base for Tonino Lamborghini watches is women who think their significant others will really like a “Lamborghini watch.” I’ve never seen one worn openly in public. Just as predictably, they have very little resale value.

The Venn diagram of Lamborghini car owners and Tonino Lamborghini watch owners probably looks like a pair of binoculars. Which is why Lamborghini the car company recently announced a partnership with another, slightly more reputable, watch firm to create actual Lambo-liveried timepieces. I’m not expecting great things from that partnership. The early examples I’ve seen are no better-looking than the Tonino stuff while likely costing 10 to 50 times as much.

In reality, the Lamborghini Huracan or Aventador owner probably owns watches from brands which have established themselves as watch brands first and foremost. Most of the Lambo owners I meet are wearing Rolex Submariners, with a sprinkling of Patek/Audemars/Vacheron sightings from time to time. These people would have no interest in Lamborghini watches, particularly not the kind that are no-bids on eBay at less than the price of a single Huracan tire.

In other words, Lamborghini watches are non-canon. This phrase (in modern usage anyway, spare me your comments regarding the Pelagian heresy) comes from the comic-book and sci-fi fan subcultures and it means “not part of the real story.” For example, if you’re in your 40s like me, chances are that you eagerly read the novel Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye when it came out. It was published in 1978 and was considered the first sequel to the Star Wars movie. However, some of the stuff that happens in the book directly contradicts things that happened in The Empire Strikes Back. So the rather tidy solution arrived at by fans of Star Wars stuff is to consider it “non-canon.” Not real.

That doesn’t mean people do not continue to read, and enjoy, the book. It just means that future Star Wars movies or books do not have to make allowances for things that happened in Splinter. The same is true for many other artistic works up to and including the most recent Pink Floyd albums, which many fans of the band consider “non-canon” because, as Roger Waters once said, “it’s just Gilmour and his wife now.” I personally think that any Journey albums without Steve Perry are “non-canon,” and although this won’t make many TTAC readers happy, I’m afraid the same has to be said regarding the band known as “Van Hagar.”

For many years, Ferrari owners have had to deal with the Ferrari merchandising machine that has sold billions of dollars’ worth of tracksuits, hats, laptops, and other junk to people who have never even so much as sat in a Ferrari. The way they generally do this is to consider Ferrari clothing and the F1 team’s fan gear as a sort of “non-canon.” If you own an F12 Berlinetta and a 458 Speciale, chances are you don’t own any Ferrari tracksuits. The reverse is also the case. The clothing, the calendars, the touristy junk, the roller coaster — it’s all effectively non-canon. It doesn’t exist.

After some considerable thought on the matter, I’ve decided to apply the same thinking to the Urus. It’s the same as Tonino Lamborghini watches or Hot Wheels cars or a tracksuit that you would buy from a streetside vendor in New York. It’s non-canon. It does not exist. And what argument can you make to the contrary? The engine is Audi, the platform is VW Group, the styling is a despicable pastiche of cliches from sources as disparate as the BMW X4 and the Ssangyong Rodius. It has nothing to do with the Huracan or the Aventador or even the oft-reviled Gallardo. Certainly it has nothing to do with a Miura or Countach. It’s non-canon, plain and simple.

Many years ago, a discouraged Porsche 944 owner wrote to the Porsche club magazine to complain that he’d attended a meeting of his local PCA and had a very good time — but when the club members decided to take a photograph, he was told to move his Audi out of the way. Future owners of the Urus should expect the same level of disregard from Huracan Performante drivers. I won’t blame them. We may live in a world where branding is king, but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and scrape before the royal personage. You can call your new Urus a Lamborghini. I will call it something else.

[Image: Lamborghini]



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