Lambo Design Boss Talks Urus Performante, Heightened Expectations, and Sedans
Live from The Quail, Mitja Borkert—the man responsible for the Terzo Millennio, Huracan Evo, and Sian—chats with The Drive.
The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering probably wouldn't be much of a Motorsports Gathering without Lamborghini. And Lamborghini probably wouldn't still be the bedroom poster-icon that it is without Mitja Borkert, the company's Head of Design.
Serving as the big man in charge of Lambo design since 2016, Borkert spent the early chunk of his career at Porsche. Starting out 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 that brand's gorgeous 917 Concept. Since joining Lamborghini, he's added the Terzo Millennio, Huracan Evo, Sián, and Lambo's V12 Vision Gran Turismo car to his CV.
I got a brief one-on-one chat with Borkert at Friday's Monterey Car Week event and talked car design, how he got his start as a young kid carving wood models in his dad's garage, the potential of a Lamborghini sedan, and, of course, his new baby: the 656-horsepower Urus Performante.
Some key takeaways? Don't underestimate the effort it took to pull off the new Performante's carbon hood, automotive design has become quite a bit more intense in the past 20 years, and don't count on Lamborghini to do a sedan anytime soon.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Drive: 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 is 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’s a car that created its own segment. So we wanted to raise the bar with the Urus Performante, creating a car that is like a Urus that we sent to the gym and is coming out of the gym with more muscles.
So we wanted to work on the weight, of course, as the technical briefing was very tough on the weight reduction and then aerodynamics came into place. I wanted to lower the center of gravity of all the lines so the nose is even lower compared to the [regular] Urus. I used a carbon fiber hood, which is a masterpiece itself, with this visible kind of carbon fiber that visually extends the front window and, at the same time, lowers the visual impression of the front.
On the rear, we have implemented a fixed rear wing. On the Urus of today, the wing follows the rear window but on Urus Performante, the wing goes up like a gurney. So with this wing, we are increasing rear downforce by 38 percent and this is quite cool because the drag is reduced by 8 percent. The car is wider and we took off the air suspension, implementing 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 that’s more sticky.
For the interior, I always follow a pilot philosophy. When you want to drive a Lamborghini, you want to feel like a pilot. So we have the lowest seat position in an SUV. We have reduced the colors so the interior is more focused for driving. We have implemented the same Alcantara microfiber that we have in the Huracan Performante and Aventador SVJ. And it’s only for the Urus Performante, so you have this special feel, the dedicated color and trim on the interior using hexagons and all the graphic designs on the interior are reworked and dedicated for the driving. There’s a new driving mode, “Rally,” in the Tamburo. So it’s underlining the purpose of this car to enhance driving fun. We always want to create cars that have emotional performance and this is what we did on the Urus.
TD: What was the most difficult part about this project?
Borkert: In general, to reduce the weight. To achieve the 47 kg weight reduction, that was really, really a challenge. I mean, the biggest challenge—because it’s very big, it’s a masterpiece—is the engine bonnet in carbon fiber. Y’know, to make this so precise, to make this so lightweight, and at the same moment also to fulfill the pedestrian protection. I would say this was, in terms of exterior, the biggest challenge.
TD: As the head of design at Lamborghini, this is surely the dream job for every kid out there drawing cars in their notebooks—I was definitely one of them. What advice would you give to the young people trying to get into this business?
Borkert: Follow your heart. Everybody should follow their heart. When you want to be a designer, it’s one of the few jobs that you cannot learn. You need to know yourself. For example, I was 6, 7 years old when I started sketching and I was born in East Germany, which was the communist part of Germany at the time. So I was not inspired by many cars because we had only a few. But I wanted to be a designer. I was sketching motorcycles, I was sketching cars. I didn’t know about Lamborghinis but I wanted to create cars.
I took my sketches, went into my father's garage, and then I started to shave on wood. I wanted to know how my sketches looked like. So all the neighbors knew, “Ah, Mitja’s in the garage,” and I was shaping and painting and everybody knew, “Ah, Mitja’s doing cars.” In this moment, after the wall came down I then went to West Germany and I found an internship at Porsche. And then by the end of 2015, Walter de Silva asked me, “Mitja, I want you at Lamborghini.” So, that was for me, y’know, like Christmas and birthdays, everything together so I said, “Right, of course.”
We are living there now for seven years. We live in Emilia-Romagna. Great food, passionate people, fantastic cars. I mean, everybody who is presenting cars here [at Monterey] can be happy that we are still able to do this. It’s a dream that came true, for sure.
TD: Since you started in this business, what would you say has been the biggest change?
Borkert: As a designer, I remember when I was young in ’97 I started my internship at Volkswagen Group and then Porsche and I remember, at that time, the designers maybe made a fender in three months. Because they made it really nice, y’know, with everything in clay, they took the time. Today, in three months, the expectation is much higher. I need to create a completely new lineup of cars, or I need to do a new model so, for example, if we do a one-off car that we are finishing within one year, there’s a much higher expectation and pressure.
There’s a lot of pressure on the designers, we have a lot of regulations and a lot of pedestrian protection. Now, we have driving assistance systems that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Graphic design on the interior, HMI, UX design. The field of design is so important now and it’s becoming more specific every year. It’s almost as if graphic design is taking over interior design. So there’s a lot of change that happened.
TD: Where do you see the Urus in five years?
Borkert: The Urus in five years will be a fantastic car, still. I mean, we made a car that is, I think, perfectly timeless. It’s a car that is a proper design update, a proper Performante version. It’s a car that is finding its perfect place among the [Huracan] Tecnica and the STO and we’re expecting happy customers smiling at me saying, “Mitja, it’s a great, fun-driving car. Great to look at.”
TD: Do you ever see Lamborghini doing a sedan?
Borkert: I mean, never say never but, for sure, this is nothing that we haven’t—y’know the fantastic Estoque? That Lamborghini created in 2008? That car I really like but this is not our field, for sure.
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