Italian supercar maker Lamborghini has confirmed it will re-enter the 4x4 market with an all-new, three-door SUV, due to be unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show in April. The model is the spiritual successor to the LM002 of the eighties, and will be called the MLC.
The Lamborghini SUV is the firm's second attempt at a third model line, and it had been desperate to keep details of the SUV under wraps. But leaks from parent company Audi have forced it to admit to the concept car's existence. Yet Lamborghini insiders also admit that the SUV project has gone beyond being a simple concept car, and is almost certainly bound for production in 2015.
The SUV will be based on a platform that will also be used on the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, VW Touareg and new Bentley SUV. However, Lamborghini has been given free reign to modify the platform to bring the car's kerbweight down.
To that end, engineers who worked on the carbon-fibre construction of the Aventador have been developing carbon fibre versions of key cabin structures, such as the dash bracing and the full-length transmission tunnel. As a result, Lamborghini has already pulled 400kg out of the car's total mass already, and it's keen to keep the final figure below 2,000kg.
Unlike the Aventador and Gallardo, the new SUV will be front engined. Power is likely to come from a 584bhp version of the 5.2-litre V10 from the Gallardo, which will produce more torque from low revs.
Not only will this be Lambo's first SUV, but it's also likely to be offered as the firm's first hybrid model. The layout will be able to accommodate an electric motor and lthium-ion battery pack, which will boost power over 600bhp.
People who have seen sketches of the SUV concept suggest that its nose looks a lot like a high-rise version of the Estoque, the luxury saloon Lamborghini, which was shown at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. The three-door layout further enhances the aggressive look, and the car will have flared rear wheelarches.
Lamborghini will introduce the SUV concept to the developing Chinese market first, and the expectation is that it will join the Aventador and next-generation Gallardo in 2015 or 2016. Lambo is predicting global sales in the region of 1,500 cars a year, most of which will be in the US and China.
With a price tag of around USD200,000, it will clearly sit above current fast SUVs such as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, BMW X6M and upcoming Maserati Kubang.
While the SUV is a near certainty, there's still hope for a production version of the Estoque saloon. Sources insist the four-door is still in the product planning mix, and could be fast-tracked into production by using a lower-riding version of the MLC's platform, in much the same way as Porsche has done with the Cayenne and Panamera models.