Is the Murciélago getting religion? Please, God, no. This was the last outpost. Every other hardcore sports car had gone soft and inviting and communicative. All Snaggy.
This review was originally published in MOTOR's July 2006 issue
The Murcie was the last outlaw, the last hardcore car that intentionally tried to intimidate its driver and made no bones about its desire to hurl you into the shrubbery as soon as your concentration flagged. It should not be tame. Visually, it's probably got more aggro in it, with its deeper chin spoiler and splitters, its wide-mouthed left air intake and the neater exhaust, built into the diffuser.
Statistically, too, with Lambo claiming the embiggening of the V12 will now hurl it from 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds. That doesn't feel out of the question, and it's half a second quicker than the old, slow model. It might still owe plenty of its core to the same V12 in the Miura, but the unfashionable 60-degree Vee layout has been pushed to 6496cc and still passes all global emissions standards.
Four hundred and seventy one kilowatts is heading towards enough in anybody's language, but it's the torque that steals the show. Usually. There's 660Nm at 6000 revs (up just 10Nm but 600rpm higher), but there's a mountain of that hanging around at 1500rom. Besides grabbing a bigger drill bit and pushing further in (bore's up 1mm to 88mm and stroke's now 89mm up from 86.8), Lambo has also tweaked its crankshaft, camshafts and exhaust system.
Below decks, there's a new rear diff, a revised gearbox and even new driveshafts. This is starting to head into heavily stressful power now, so everything is being pushed hard in design. But the whisper is that even this stuff is getting a bit namby-pamby to use.
The cabin is familiar, but different. A touch classier in parts. Extra padding - presumably for the shoulders of the straight-armers - now protrudes from the door upholstery at the rear. The new dials feel fresh, but also have a flashiness to them that suggest premature ageing might be on the way. The ventilation system, though, is still easy to use, and easier still to hide beneath its chrome, Lamborghini-emblazoned flap.
Visually, inside the new Murciélago is still a simple, clean place to ply your trade and see out of (well, to see forwards out of, at least), with mostly simple controls. That’s excepting the new command centre. It’s immediately difficult, all tiny buttons and no knobs at all. How to operate this thing on the streaking light of 200-plus?
It takes MP3 now, with a 6.5 inch widescreen monitor, plus WMA and DVD. A finger, by blind luck, falls on the ‘on’ button, and multiples of luck again locate the volume and search buttons. How you change to AM or CD I don’t have a clue. Fortunately, satnav is a touchscreen affair, (though how you turn up the volume on the navigating sheila completely escapes me, too).
Twist the oddly shaped ignition key and you forget all that. At 7800rpm you wouldn’t hear her, no matter the volume. And even were she physically alongside you, naked, trying to get your attention, she’d almost certainly fail.
There’s that small whirring of the fuel pumps and then the explosion. Followed quickly by another 11. Angry, arguing, uneven, snarling explosions, so distinct you can almost count and identify each cylinder.
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Flick the offset throttle and it snaps the needle up the tacho, but the familiar chirping of its four throttle bodies flipping open has gone. Only if you aurally search for it amongst the cacophony of whirring pumps, liquids fizzing up the lines and induction howl can you pick up the last traces of it.
The clutch is, thankfully, still heavy. And encouragingly lacking in feel. Entirely. Now, this is the arrogant Murcie we know and love. There’s enough torque even from idle that such niceties as clutch feel are not necessary. It’s damned near stall proof anyway. This is not your slim-hipped, whispy-haired nancy boy E-gear. This is a man’s manual gearbox, a fair dinkum DIY strong-arm car.
Objectionable for its own sake, contrary by nature and disdainful of fools, only when it feels the gruff hand of a driver of greater belligerence does it give up its wild ways and give its best, like the late-broken thoroughbred. Trickling out of the Lamborghini driveway, though, it’s happy enough to give second when cold, but it takes three prods and a downward irritated glance to secure third.
The flexible engine is enough to make masking gearbox sanity a little down the Lamborghini priority list. Find second in town and leave it. Or third. Find fourth or fifth out of town and do the same. At least until you get tempted. Again.
Get tempted, again, and all hell breaks loose. It’s like somebody hitting the Vmax button on the treadmill while your mind is at walking pace and, if you’re not careful, it will spit you foolishly out the back. While the throttle bodies won’t talk any more, the howls of protest from air molecules being slammed down the inlet tracts make up at least half the cabin noise. Then the exhaust fills with hot fumes and bellows its own war cry, a richly timbred violence as brutal as it is intentional.
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There’s an embarrassment of timbres and it’s been overindulged for character over its long, long life. But it’s the sheer violence of it that dominates. For an engine that dates back to the Miura, the rotating masses must be frightening. And it’s fast.
Beyond the mountain of torque is a wave of power that never tapers off and a limiter that never seems to even be close. It begs you to get up and over a small tremulous band around 4000rpm (which can encourage short shifting when you’re not having a crack) and chase the horizon.
Once you’ve gained its respect with a fearlessly snapped shift or two, it begs you to look past its little spurt of imbalance to hurl it up the road, and hurl it does. It seems impossible to have crammed this many timbre changes into one usable rev range. And it keeps going and going. It was bloody fast before; it’s seriously fast now.
And it stops. Harder than before on carbon ceramic discs that get the pads biting faster and harder and earlier, without fading. They’re six-piston jobbies at both ends (the standard steel discs are clamped by eight-piston at the front, four pistons at the rear) with, disturbingly, far less pedal effort than their cast iron predecessors. Nana could haul this thing down from 200 now, but they also provide far more pedal feel than before as well.
In another disturbing nod toward civilization there is now steering feel, almost as much as the Gallardo. And it’s feels balanced, without the lurching in the rear as the high-mounted engine wiggled its weight up and over the roll centre whenever you tried to change direction or tighten the line by easing off the throttle.
There’s delicate whisping feedback of all manner of undulations, bumps and even when it’s plain, old-fashioned out of grip. You can even feel some block squirm out of the front Pirelli P Zero Rossos (you can option it with semi-race Corsas or Sotto Zero winter tyres). Block squirm! In the old Murciélago, you couldn’t have felt block squirm if the block you’d run over had been of the cinder variety!
Lambo reckons most of this is down to the redesign of the electronically controlled dampers and enhancements to the anti-dive and anti-squat geometry, plus a pair of springs on each of the rear wheels.
Whatever, it makes it Gallardo-easy to place the car on any type of road, and Gallardo-easy to hurl to its limits and back again. What it still does not do is recover from slides or moments with Gallardo-like ease. The engine is still heavier and taller, and the tube-framed alloy chassis still flexes more than the smaller car’s aluminium one. And it is still heavier.
Yes, the Murciélago has found religion. But it’s not the every Sunday, happy-clapping, God-bothering kind of religion we’re talking about. It’s more of a nodding acquaintance religion. It’s softer than it was, but it’s still the hardest of them all, and the most difficult to drive quickly.
The truth is, you still don’t empathetically drive a Murciélago to its limits. You conquer it. And that’s always been the Murciélago way, which makes it all the more rewarding.
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2006 Lamborghini Murciélago LP640
BODY: 2-door, 2-seat coupe
ENGINE: 6496cc DOHC 48-valve V12
BORE/STROKE: 88.0mm x 89.2mm
POWER: 471kW @ 8000rpm
TORQUE: 660Nm @ 6000rpm
TRANSMISSION: six-speed manual
SUSPENSION: double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f & r)
BRAKES (standard): 380mm ventilated & drilled discs, eight-piston calipers (f); 355mm ventilated & cross-drilled, fourpiston calipers (r)
BRAKES (optional): 380mm ventilated & drilled carbon ceramic discs, six-piston calipers (f & r), ABS
WHEELS: 18 x 8.5-inch (f); 18 x 13.0-inch (r), alloy
TYRES: Pirelli P Zero Rosso (Corsa semi-race tyres optional), 245/35 ZR18 (f); 335/30 ZR18 (r)
PRICE: $680,000 (est), plus approx $35,000 for ceramic brakes