Mass is the enemy of performance, and design engineers toiling with a go-faster mandate have two ways of dealing with it. Number one, and certainly the most desirable, is to put the proposed vehicle on a diet.

But all too often significant mass reduction proves to be impossible, whereupon the team turns to option number two—adding power.

Meet the Lamborghini Urus, a classic example of option number two, a hefty SUV with uninhibited styling and massive muscle under its sloping hood.

Uninhibited also applies to Lamborghini’s publicity material, which characterizes the Urus as “the first Super Sport Utility Vehicle.”

The key to this claim is the new ute’s power source, a 4.0-liter twin turbo V8 rated for 641 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. It’s Lambo’s first turbo engine, and the company insists that the V8 design was developed in-house from its R&D operations in Sant’ Agata Bolognese, Italy, despite other boosted eights of identical displacement elsewhere in the Volkswagen Group mechanical inventory.

In a nod to fuel economy, the V8 features cylinder deactivation, shutting down half the engine in highway cruising. Lamborghini won’t release EPA mpg ratings until closer to launch, but it’s hard to associate the words fuel economy with a vehicle of this much mass—nearly 2.5 tons—propelled by this much power.

The new V8 sends its potent thrust to the standard 4-wheel drive system via an 8-speed automatic transmission. There’s a locking center differential. The system can vary front/rear power delivery as much as 70 percent either way, and also features torque vectoring.

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Variable damping

Other upscale chassis elements include pneumatic damping, which tunes itself according to four standard driving mode presets: Strada (street), Sport, Neve (snow) and Corsa (race track). There are additional available modes for off-road (Terra) and Sabbia (sand). Maximum off-road ground clearance is 9.8 inches.

Braking figures to be exceptional, with a carbon ceramic system whose vast vented rotors—20 inches front, 19 rear—are squeezed by 10-piston calipers at the front, 6-pistons rear. The Urus will stop as quickly as it sprints, and figures to be best-in-class in this key performance feature. The big ceramic brakes operate behind equally big 23-inch alloy wheels. Both are available equipment.

Also, like a number of high-end hotties, the Urus has a rear steering feature. The rear wheels turn a few degrees with the fronts at low speed, making the vehicle handier around town, and opposite the fronts as speeds soar.

If it’s hard to imagine the company that specializes in pavement supercars (Aventador, Huracan) turning its high performance expertise to an off-road brute, remember that Lamborghini has been here before. Originally developed for military applications, the LM 002 (nickname: Lemootu, 1986 to 1993) took supercar performance into the outback with V12 power, and can be regarded as the progenitor of today’s many high-powered SUVs. It is certainly so regarded by the denizens of Sant’ Agata Bolognese.

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Sumptuous and sexy within

The interior is what you’d expect of an Italian vehicle with pricing that soars well into luxury territory—an MSRP of $200,000 is expected when the Urus becomes available to U.S. buyers in late 2018 as a 2019 model. Beautifully turned out with spare-no-cost materials—the Italians are particularly skilled with leather—the Urus will include the telematics and connectivity features contemporary luxury buyers demand.

There’s also a suite of driver assist features, bringing the Urus up to level 2 on the autonomous driving scale.

While Lamborghini’s claims for the Urus—“world’s first super sport utility” and “fastest SUV available”—are valid versus other potent European SUVs (Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, Bentley Bentayga, Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4Matic, Mercedes-MAG G 63, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, Porsche Macan Turbo. But they ignore an American contender.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk isn’t in the same price class as the new Lambo, but it trumps the Urus in terms of sheer power—707 hp, 645 lb-ft of torque from the supercharged Hellcat V8—and is at least as quick out of the starting gate.

At about 4,850 pounds (some 1,100 pounds less than the old LM002), the Urus is substantially lighter than the 5,250-pound Trackhawk, giving the Lambo an edge in horsepower-to-weight. But the Jeep can keep pace with the new Italian, at least to 60 mph and probably through a quarter-mile.

Lamborghini claims 3.6 seconds to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph), and a top speed of 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph). Jeep claims 3.5 seconds to 60 mph—we’ve seen 3.4 seconds on a test track—and a top speed of 180.

There’s no question that the Urus stands out among the super utes—sexy, beautifully appointed within, uncommonly quick, and undoubtedly thrilling to drive, although it would seem to be much better suited to track action than slogging along trails.

We might also observe that the Trackhawk has a substantial edge as a performance value. With a base MSRP of about $86,000, its bang-for-the-buck index works out to roughly 122 horsepower per dollar (hp/$), whereas the Lambo pencils out as 308 hp/$.

On the other hand, the Urus has that magic Lamborghini brand name and exceptional performance to go with its uninhibited good looks and gorgeous interior. And yes, 200 large looks like a lot of loot, but it’s not uncommon in the luxo-performance market. Consider the Bentley Bentayga, which starts at almost $232,000 and climbs to $300,000. Exclusivity counts for a lot in this business, and Lamborghini has that double in spades.

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