Ferruccio Lamborghini was a man with two great passions, building world class sports cars and bullfighting. So naturally cars like the Miura, the Countach and the Diablo possessed the strength and spirit of the fighting bulls for which they are named. Ferruccio is long gone, but that spirit lives on in Lamborghini’s latest creation, the Murcielago. Fittingly, the name comes from perhaps the most famous fighting bull of them all. After all, true passions never die!
Every once in a great while, we’re lucky enough to experience automotive nirvana. That’s the rare moment when you have a great car on a beautiful road, and everything is just perfect: Warm, clear weather, no traffic, and the world shrinks down to just you and the car and the beckoning road ahead.
These are the moments you dream about in our business, and that’s exactly what the Lamborghini Murcielago was designed for. It’s the rarest kind of exotic, a time machine to the kind of world only seen in science fiction movies…or music videos. And a setting like this is where we would hope to get our turn behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this time. Our stint in this amazing yellow machine took place over a bitter cold and windy New England weekend. Of course, there was plenty of traffic, potholes and even a little snow, but we’re not complaining. And why should we? Whether it’s Boston or Beirut, the Lamborghini Murcielago is not a car you say ‘‘no’’ to. Few people ever catch a glimpse of one, much less drive it on the street or the track…and we did both!
This car draws so much attention, we had to lock ourselves into a fenced compound just to capture our still shots. Once corralled, we were immediately struck by the simplicity and strength of the Lambo’s design. A single arched line flows from the front to the high rear bumper forming a flying wedge uncluttered by cladding or wings.
The design draws an almost physical strength from the aggressive side inlets, massive wheel openings and subtle blending of angles and curves. To avoid blending into curbs, the front end can be raised a few inches, but only at parking speeds. A clever Variable Air-flow Cooling System allows these side inlets to slide open as needed. They feed air to a mid-mounted 6.2 liter alloy V12, that produces an awesome 575 horsepower. Thanks to variable valve timing and a variable-geometry intake, most of the 480 foot- pounds of torque is available from just 2,000 RPM. That fact no doubt accounts for the Murcielago’s impressive acceleration. Even on ice cold pavement, 0 to 60 runs take just 3.9 seconds. Let this bull run, and it will stampede to over 200 MPH, with a movable spoiler behind the engine bay maintaining stability.
Aside from its steel roof and doors, most body panels are crafted from carbon fiber. Lamborghini’s trademark scissor doors are cool, but also cumbersome for frequent hopping in and out. Once inside, though, the Murcielago’s cockpit is a place you’ll want to spend a lot of time in. The driver faces a comprehensive analog gauge cluster and sits behind a fully-adjustable leather-wrapped wheel. Falling readily to hand is a gated 6-speed shifter , no paddles or semi-automatic clutches here , this is strictly thrill-it-yourself. The action is smooth and precise, and clutch effort is only moderately high.
Like many mid-engined cars, seat travel is limited for taller drivers, but the cabin accommodates the long of limb with a shallow foot well and forward dash placement that does allow plenty of room for bended knees.
Allowing the Murcielago to bend through corners is an all-independent double wishbone suspension. Hydraulic shocks with adjustable electronic damping control tailor the ride as the driver wishes or the road conditions demand. On our tight, twisty track, the Murcielago’s nimbleness belied its size and 3,600 pound curb weight. The Pirelli P Zero tires: 245/35-18’s up front and huge 335/30-18’s out back, are linked by a permanent all-wheel-drive system with a central viscous coupling and limited slip diffs at both ends. The system allows some throttle-induced oversteer, but in general keeps the action pointed safely full-speed-ahead.
In around-town driving, aside from attracting more pointed fingers and dropped-open jaws than a nudist parade, the Murcielago behaves like , dare we say it? , an ordinary car. Unlike vintage Lambos, the engine doesn’t buck and jump, the steering effort is manageable, and it doesn’t overheat at stop signs. It displays the refinement and almost common sense of the firm’s current owner, Volkswagen.
But it is a true exotic, and that’s part of the territory when the price sticker reads $276,800, but it is first and foremost a truly great car.
Ferruccio Lamborghini demanded that his cars be sensuous and sophisticated, aggressive and exotic. In the Murcielago, his passion clearly lives on…and on…and on.
Engine: 6.2 Liter V12
Torque: 480 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 3.9 Seconds