Darkness descends and the Lamborghini dons it like a cloak over a dust-smeared, insect-spattered suit of Grigio Telesto. After a day of dodging crazed rubberneckers and attempting to (nearly literally) fly beneath law enforcement radar, you're grateful for some cover.
At day's end, the obscenely wide, profusely angular profile recedes anonymously into more plebian southbound traffic on California Interstate 15-sort of. From a distance, the best clues as to its identity might be triangular LED arrays embedded in the head- and taillamps. Possibly the elusive silhouette of a massive carbon wing sprouting behind the hexagonally faceted decklid like some endoskeletal extrusion. Were someone to come close enough, you know, in the dark.
For your part, you keep your distance. Over the last seven or eight hours you've developed a distinct driving ethos, one that keeps as much distance as possible between yourself and any and all surrounding traffic. This helps prevent any unthinkable sorts of incidents like blown semi tires pealing off and raking across expensive carbon panels, or the odd gawker careening into your lane as he snaps pics with a cell phone while unwittingly steering with his eyes. (Turns out that happens more often than you may have expected.)
Under cover of night, some might feel inclined to spear the far left lanes and unleash 12-cylinder hell. You know better. You cruise the number-two in sixth gear, tach needle barely cresting 3000 rpm, a hypnotic thrum from the rear-mid-mount V12 coursing through the cockpit in overlaying pulses like waves lapping across a sonic beach.
Fixed-back carbon bucket seats, trimmed in copious velvet Alcantara, cradle your posterior. Lateral support for even your fashionably spindly frame is quite good, but after a full day of driving, your backside is sore. And your right heel has become uncomfortably tenderized from acting as a fulcrum against that godawful-stiff gas pedal-prodding, modulating, and flat-out stomping to induce the occasional fit of laughter).
Had you doubts, the Murciélago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce is no luxury car in the traditional sense, no cosseting sissy-boy GT. What it is is simply the most pissed-off, aurally outlandish, wet-your-pants-fast super sports car to come carted off the Sant'Agata Bolognese assembly line. Ever. That should say a lot.
Yeah, when the standard Murci just isn't outrageous enough-or maybe just a tad too posh-the SV strategically puts the hard in the hardcore. Its 6.5-liter engine makes 670 cavallo vapore, translating to an equal 670 metric horsepower-up from 640 hp. The EPA speculates it'll net about 11 mpg combined fuel economy. It costs $450,000 to start-before you add any options, destination charges, or a $5,400 gas-guzzler tax.
For many, initial reaction to these figures might be horror or disdain. Possibly even horrified disdain. But the SV really doesn't care for mortal financial insecurities. And it really doesn't care what people think. It only wants to be fed-on petrol and pavement, miles upon miles upon miles, any and all indigenous flying insect life, sand and gravel, puppies. (OK, I made that last one up.)
There persists a stereotype for Lamborghini buyers. Historically it's the low-buttoned silk shirt, the obligatory tuft of chest hair, the gold chain, silk pants. For the well-moneyed, the car might be considered more fashion accessory than mode of transport-it's even been marketed as such by S.Agata itself. The world's greatest automotive injustice could potentially be that 95 percent of these cars will end up serving time doing a 45-mph V-max on some neon-lit downtown social strip like Ocean Drive in South Beach or Sunset in Hollywood.
It's like putting a thoroughbred to pasture on a putting green. Wrong, abusive even.
But where can you go to really drive the thing? Nowhere, of course-or more accurately, the middle of it. The California high desert seems ideal with its lonely mountain roads and long, wind-swept stretches.
Equipped as it is with the massive Aeropak wing, the SV, according to Lamborghini, is capable of a mere 209-mph top speed. Without the wing it'll supposedly top out at 212, but without the downforce afforded by this rear accoutrement, could squirm a little at that velocity. Frightening stuff.
At lower velocities the steering, in spite of power assistance, is ponderous and massively deliberate. At speeds under 25 mph the thing handles like a battleship-and wearing this paint it comes dressed appropriately. Flipping three- and four-point turns on gravel-strewn desert roads for impatiently screaming photographers is likely to inflame your carpal-tunnel.
At speed, the ratios tighten up considerably to offer seemingly clairvoyant levels of response. Mere millimeters of steering angle and the vehicle tracks. On long-sweeping sections or mildly decreasing-radius 'pins, the SV tracks like a slot car. I mean, there's no possible way you'd be able to lose it, right? It feels like the road itself would sooner lose traction on the Earth's crust, the Lambo's 335-width rear Pirelli Rossos flinging ribbons of tarmac into the desert as the SV snarls cartoonishly toward an unmoving horizon.
On tighter roads the proposition becomes more frightening, mainly due to the Murci's supersized sports car footprint. It's got more or less the same front and rear track as a Porsche Cayenne SUV with a little less wheelbase, and much, much lower to the ground.
Whatever the case, you're having a hard time thinking of a more convincing supercar. A bit slower maybe, but the SV is still more visually convincing than the hamloaf styling of a Bugatti Veyron. The Koenigseggs or Paganis of the world might offer comparable performance-but what do we see, a handful of those every year? This SV is one of 350 to be built. And anyway, it's a Lambo. It's got staying power.
Dipping now into the basin that holds the greater metro area surrounding Los Angeles, you dip into the throttle a little bit deeper. In sixth gear, acceleration is languid but builds steadily, the thrumming of the engine peaking to a long-winded roar that rises exponentially in pitch.
Out of nowhere, a nondescript Japanese sedan pulls up alongside you. Dad, sitting in the front seat, recognizes the silhouette and points excitedly. A small, wide-eyed face peers out the back window, nose pressed against the glass.
You've been pretty good today, you think. Karma should be back on your side after showing so much restraint. May as well give the kid a show.
Extending two fingers on your left hand, you give the column-mounted carbon shift paddle a rapid click click click. The gearbox instantly shifts down three gears and the engine screams. Hard in the throttle, you watch the tach needle spike past 5000 rpm and whip toward redline with a sound like the sky tearing open. Your head hits the Alcantara headrest, you upshift, then upshift again as the SV leaps two, six, twelve car lengths ahead and disappears into the night.
It's only later that you realize the poor kid will probably never be the same. Your work today is done.
Longitudinal mid engine, all-wheel drive
6.5-liter V12, dohc, 48-valve
Six-speed E-gear automated manual
Four wheel independent articulated quadrilateral system, hydraulic dampers and coaxial coil springs, anti-roll, anti-dive, anti-squat
Six-piston calipers, 380mm ventilated carbon ceramic rotors
Wheelbase: 104.9 in.
Dry Weight: 3,450 lb
Price as Tested: $484,045
Peak Power: 670 hp @ 8000 rpm
Peak Torque: 487 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm
0-60 mph: 3.2 sec.
Top Speed: 209.4 mph*
* with Aeropack wing
It Started Here
If you've read my stuff before, you might know I've got something of a Lamborghini fetish. It began with this car, the Lamborghini Countach. It's the car that got me interested in cars.
As brutally potent as it is, the Murciélago SV is the just latest example of a progressive design evolution that began back in 1971 with Lamborghini's LP500 prototype introduced at the Geneva Motor Show. The resulting production vehicle, the LP400 in 1974, introduced so many signature elements that continue to define the current flagship: a disgustingly powerful longitudinally mid-rear-mounted V12, a gearbox mounted in front of the engine for better weight distribution, futuristic body lines, and the iconic scissor doors. The Countach can't really be credited as the first design to employ the doors. That distinction goes to the Alfa Romeo Carabo concept, which was, incidentally, drawn by the same studio that designed the Countach: Bertone. But Countach did make them an icon of automotive design, one of the most recognizable.
While the names of most Lamborghini production cars are associated with bulls and bullfighting, Countach is said to be an exclamation in the local Piedmontese dialect, usually made by a man when he sees an exceptionally beautiful woman. It was supposedly first uttered when Nuccio Bertone saw the prototype sitting in his studio.
I've not yet had the pleasure of actually driving one, but I did get a ride. Owned by Lamborghini scholar and enthusiast Mr. Joseph Sackey, author of the definitive enthusiast piece The Miura Bible, it remains perhaps the most pristine example you'll ever see. Better even than when it left the Sant'Agata factory. Back in the day, I assisted Editor Bidrawn in taking pictures of it, and afterward Joe was kind enough to take me for a spin in his baby. I like to think that sequence is the one playing through my mind years hence when I'm lying on my deathbed.