Lambo Design Boss talks about Urus Performante, increased expectations and sedans

The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering probably wouldn’t really be a Motorsports Gathering without Lamborghini. And Lamborghini probably wouldn’t be the bedroom poster icon that it is without the company’s head of design, Mitja Borkert.

As the big man in charge of Lambo design since 2016, Borkert spent the start of his career at Porsche. Starting as an intern, he went on to work on cars like Porsche’s Cayenne and Macan SUVs, the Mission E (i.e. the concept car that eventually became the Taycan) and the magnificent 917 Concept of this Mark. Since joining Lamborghini, he has added the Terzo Millennio car, Huracan Evo, Sián and Lambo’s V12 Vision Gran Turismo car to his CV.

I had a quick one-on-one chat with Borkert at Friday’s Monterey Car Week event and talked about car design, how he got his start as a young kid sculpting wooden models in his father’s garage, the potential of a Lamborghini sedan and, of course, his new baby: the 656-hp Urus Performante.

A few takeaways? Don’t underestimate the effort it took to remove the carbon bonnet from the new Performante, car design has gotten a bit more intense over the last 20 years, and don’t count on Lamborghini to make a saloon anytime soon.

Lamborghini

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The reader: First of all, congratulations on the Urus Performante. Design-wise, what was the goal with this car?

Mitja Borkert: We wanted to create the driver’s SUV. So we wanted to create a car that was even more fun to drive and, as you know, the Urus that already exists is the SUV with the best proportions with the coolest design. It is a car that has created its own segment. So we wanted to raise the bar with the Urus Performante, creating a car that looks like a Urus we sent to the gym and comes out of the gym with more muscle.

So we wanted to work on the weight, of course, because the technical briefing was very hard on weight reduction, then the aerodynamics came into place. I wanted to lower the center of gravity of all the lines so that the nose is even lower in relation to the [regular] Urus. I used a carbon fiber hood, which is a masterpiece in itself, with this type of visible carbon fiber that visually extends the front glass and, at the same time, lowers the visual impression of the before.

Lamborghini

At the rear, we have implemented a fixed rear wing. On today’s Urus the wing follows the rear window but on the Urus Performante the wing goes up like a stretcher. So with this wing we are increasing the downforce by 38% and that is pretty cool because the drag is reduced by 8%. The car is wider and we removed the air suspension, putting in steel springs so the car is 20mm lower and 60mm wider. We have created three new wheels. And you can spec this car with the P Zero tires but with the 22 inch wheel you can also spec with the Trofeo R tire which is stickier.

For the interior, I always follow a pilot’s philosophy. When you want to drive a Lamborghini, you want to feel like a driver. So we have the lowest seat position in an SUV. We have reduced the colors so that the interior is more driving-oriented. We’ve implemented the same Alcantara microfiber we have in the Huracan Performante and Aventador SVJ. And that’s only for the Urus Performante, so you get that special feel, the color and dedicated trim inside using hexagons and all the graphic patterns inside are reworked and dedicated to driving. There is a new driving mode, “Rally”, in the Tamburo. This therefore underlines the purpose of this car to improve driving pleasure. We always want to create cars that have emotional performance and that’s what we did on the Urus.

Lamborghini

TD: What was the hardest part of this project?

Borkert: In general, to reduce weight. Achieving the 47kg weight reduction was really, really challenging. I mean, the biggest challenge — because it’s really big, it’s a masterpiece — is the carbon fiber engine cover. You know, to make it so precise, to make it so light, and at the same time also to provide pedestrian protection. I would say that was, exterior-wise, the biggest challenge.

Lamborghini

TD: As head of design at Lamborghini, this is surely the dream job for all the kids who draw cars in their notebooks – I was definitely one of them. What advice would you give to young people who want to get into this profession?

Borkert: Follow your heart. Everyone should follow their heart. When you want to be a designer, it’s one of the few jobs you can’t learn. You must know yourself. For example, I was 6, 7 when I started drawing and I was born in East Germany, which was the communist part of Germany at the time. So I wasn’t inspired by a lot of cars because we only had a few. But I wanted to be a designer. I drew motorcycles, I drew cars. I didn’t know Lamborghinis but I wanted to create cars.

I took my sketches, went to my dad’s garage, then started shaving on wood. I wanted to know what my sketches looked like. So all the neighbors knew, “Ah, Mitja is in the garage,” and I was shaping and painting and everyone knew, “Ah, Mitja is making cars.” At that time, after the fall of the wall, I went to West Germany and found an internship at Porsche. And at the end of 2015, Walter de Silva asked me: “Mitja, I want you at Lamborghini. So it was for me, you know, like Christmas and birthdays, all together so I said, “Sure.”

We have now lived there for seven years. We live in Emilia-Romagna. Great food, passionate people, fantastic cars. I mean, everyone who presents cars here [at Monterey] can be happy that we are still able to do so. It’s a dream come true, that’s for sure.

Lamborghini

TD: Since you started in this job, what do you think has been the biggest change?

Borkert: As a designer I remember when I was young in 97 I started my internship at Volkswagen Group then at Porsche and I remember at that time the designers were making maybe a three way fender month. Because they did it really well, you know, with everything on clay, they took the time. Today, in three months, the expectation is much higher. I need to create a whole new line of cars, or I need to create a new model. For example, if we make a unique car that we finish in a year, the expectations and the pressure are much higher.

There’s a lot of pressure on designers, we have a lot of regulations and a lot of pedestrian protection. Today, we have driver assistance systems that did not exist 20 years ago. Graphic design inside, HMI, UX design. The field of design is so important today and it becomes clearer year after year. It’s almost as if graphic design takes precedence over interior design. So there are a lot of changes that have happened.

TD: Where do you see the Urus in five years?

Borkert: The Urus in five years will still be a fantastic car. I mean, we made a car that is, I think, perfectly timeless. It’s a car that’s a proper design update, a proper Performante version. It’s a car that finds its perfect place among the [Huracan] Tecnica and the STO and we expect satisfied customers who smile at me and say: “Mitja, it’s a great fun car to drive. Awesome to watch.

TD: Have you ever seen Lamborghini make a sedan?

Borkert: I mean, never say never but, of course, it’s nothing we don’t have—you know the fantastic Estoque? This Lamborghini created in 2008? I like this car a lot but it’s not our domain, that’s for sure.

Lamborghini

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