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Lamborghini drives into crowded SUV market

Lamborghini, the fabled Italian sports car manufacturer, on Monday unveiled its new Sports Utility Vehicle, accelerating into a fast growing market already crowded with upmarket rivals.

Lamborghini drives into crowded SUV market
Lamborghini's The Urus was revealed on Monday. Photo: HO/Lamborghini/AFP

The Urus, as the four-wheel drive “super SUV” will be known, was revealed at the Volkswagen group-owned company's historic home near Bologna.

It will reach a top speed of 305 kph (190 mph), can go from zero to 100 kph in 3.6 seconds and brake from 100 kph to zero in 33.7 metres, company officials said.

Building the Urus, which will be sold in Europe for €171,500 ($203,000) excluding taxes, was “challenging at every level,” said Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali.

With its 650-horsepower, twin-turbo V8 engine, the Urus is something that has never been seen before on a road, according to the firm's design director, Mitja Borkert.

He said the SUV was inspired by two emblematic models from the past — the LM002 that was the company's first foray into SUVs (it was dubbed the Lamborghini Truck), and the distinctively wedge-shaped Countach sportscar of the 1970s and 1980s.

The SUV “allows you to travel on any terrain: on road, off road, on ice but also on sand dunes,” said Lamborghini research and development director Maurizio Reggiani, suggesting it will be the fastest SUV on the market.

In the battle to capture the attention of wealthy drivers, the new entrant will be up against the likes of Bentley's Bentayga, the Mercedes G-Class and footballers' favourite, the Porsche Cayenne.

Aston Martin, Rolls Royce and Ferrari are all either in the process of or considering joining the high-rev party, despite the reservations of purist fans of those famous brands.

Sales of SUVs and CUVs (cross-over utility vehicles) have increased by 233 percent in the last 10 years, creating a market of 26,47 million units in 2016.

Analysts expect the broader market to expand a further 30 percent by 2020, although the ultra-expensive super SUV sector will represent only a tiny niche part of the increase.

The Lamborghini plant has been redesigned and its capacity doubled with the addition of 500 new staff to meet anticipated demand from one of the auto industry's most dynamic sectors.

In 2016, nearly 21,000 super SUVs were sold, up 346 percent in five years, according to IHS Markit.

Lamborghini made 3,457 sports cards last year and is expecting to sell a similar number of the Urus by 2019. The first models will be registered next year.

By Céline Cornu

SPORT

IN PHOTOS: Ferrari unveils its new car for the 2020 season

Ferrari unveiled its new SF1000 car on Tuesday at a ceremony in Italy's motor racing heartland of Emilia-Romagna, ahead of the coming Formula One season.

IN PHOTOS: Ferrari unveils its new car for the 2020 season
The new Ferrari SF1000. All photos: AFP/Ferrari press office

Ferrari unveiled its new SF1000 car for the 2020 Formula One season, which they hope will deliver a first world drivers title since 2007, during a glitzy ceremony on Tuesday.

The single-seater's name acknowledges the fact that the Italian team will start its 1,000th world championship race during the coming campaign, which begins with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 15.

Narrower than last season's SF90, with a deeper red colouring the body, Ferrari is pinning its hopes on the SF1000 car earning them drivers and constructors titles that have eluded them for 12 and 11 years respectively.

“I like it very much,” said German driver Sebastian Vettel.”It's much narrower at the back than last year and it is also redder, it's even better. I'm impatient to drive it, that will be even more fascinating than looking at it.”

The Scuderia broke with tradition and presented its new racing car outside of its stronghold of Maranello, unveiling it instead amid of sea of red on stage at the Teatro Romolo-Valli in the nearby city of Reggio Emilia.

“This is a very important place for our country,” chairman of the Ferrari group John Elkann explained.
“It was in this city that the tricolour flag, which became that of Italy, was created. And Ferrari is proud of Italy and of representing Italy.”

“This is a very special year,” continued Ferrari Team Manager Mattia Binotto.

“It's 70 years of Formula One, we have been there from the start and we are going to reach the figure of 1,000 Grands Prix, which is something incredible.”

Barring a forced change in the calendar because of the deadly coronavirus in Asia, the milestone should be reached in June during the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

“Maybe it looks a lot like the SF90, but I can assure you it is very different,” continued Binotto.

“We still have to make progress, especially on reliability,” he added, recalling that Ferrari, like the other teams, had to face “the double challenge” of preparing the next season in parallel with the following one, when new rules will come into force.

Binotto stressed that this season veteran Vettel and 22-year-old Charles Leclerc, who impressed on his debut last season, would be starting on an equal footing.

“We have seen that they can both fight for the best results. They are both on the same level. It is up to them to race,” he added.

Last season, the association between the experienced Vettel and Leclerc often turned into a duel, coming to a head when the two drivers collided during the Brazilian GP.

But 22-year-old Leclerc, who won two races and finished fourth place in the world championship, said lessons had been learned.

“We have learned the lesson from Brazil. We are free to race, but we are teammates,” he said.

“A lot of people are working behind us, as a team, and things like Brazil should not happen.”

Both drivers said they were impatient to try out the new car, which will be on track next week for the pre-season testing in Barcelona.

“I felt emotional when I saw it,” said Monaco's Leclerc.

“Now I can't wait to be out on track and try it and to show all the work that has been done on this car. It's going to be a great challenge,” he added. “I'm ready to learn from my mistakes to become an even better driver.”

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