Lambo's new V12 supercar is days away - it's got a lot to live up to...
Murcie, Murcie, me. Always liked that line, though when Marvin Gaye wrote it I don't suppose he ever imagined it would be uttered by a jibbering fool running, arms outstretched, towards a 212mph Lamborghini.
I'm kidding, of course. The day I was handed the keys to the most orange object in the known universe - a Murcielago LP 670-4 Superveloce with 'Arancio Atlas' paintwork - I walked the 50 or so metres from the minimalist cool of Lamborghini's HQ reception area to where the car was waiting in the pale sunshine of a typically misty Sant'Agata morning with all the casual insouciance a veteran supercar road tester should be able to muster. Inside my head, though, my inner child had more or less lost it and was careering helplessly towards the 670bhp, V12-engined projectile like a young Macaulay Culkin on speed.
It wasn't as if I was a Murcielago virgin. I'd driven every version going back to the original 580bhp car in 2001. Each was memorable on a sub-atomic, non-erasable level, each an experience that zapped the selfish gene into monstrous life and gave the notion of 'living in the moment' a new and vital intensity. But, well, this day was different. The reason photographer Gus Gregory and I had come to Lamborghini's factory in Italy was to grab a first chance to drive and snap the final, and most exquisitely violent, iteration of a supercar that had already become a legend in its own lifetime. The story was for evo magazine and, naturally, I packed my camera too, the downloads from which you see here. For all I knew, it would be my only chance to get behind the wheel while the Murcielago's swansong was still in production.
As things turned out it wasn't, but that's another story involving a ridiculously optimistic dash from the Isle of Skye to Edinburgh, closed roads, petrol vanishing more rapidly than the value of BP's shares, late night taxis and a missed flight home. Maybe too much excitement for one day.
Gus and I have travelled about 30 miles from the factory and arrived at the point on the map that looks like an interesting squiggly road in what I have already decided is the greatest Lambo ever. I've reached this perhaps premature conclusion on the basis of four things. One, my left knee almost gave way when I clocked the size of the exhaust pipe. Two, the 6.5-litre V12 sounded like a bomb in a drainpipe when it fired up. Three, the sheer quantity of black Alcantara microfibre and carbon lining the cabin in a riot of Italian stylistic braggadocio (always a sign Lamborghini means business). And finally, a hard-to-pin down sense, gleaned from the feral response to small throttle openings, the snatchy-eager antics of the e-gear transmission (no manual 'box option) and the uncompromisingly hard chassis settings, that this thing will scare me when the time comes.
It won't be long now. After a gentle run from one end to the other, Gus's chosen photo location fulfils the promise of the erratic line on the map. It could be a tarmac rally stage, and we seem to be the only people here. It's very quiet. We can hear birdsong. And, for what seems like an age, we just stare straight ahead through the windscreen. 'Well,' says Gus finally, securing his camera bag between his knees, 'might as well give it the beans.' And I do.
But before I tell you what happened next, let's consider why Gus and I sat in silence for a couple of minutes. Lamborghini - well, Lamborghini and Audi - knew the Murcie would have to be sent on its way with an extra click on the calibration knob: noise, visual drama, interior, suspension, hardcore commitment. Having never knowingly undersold the meaning of the letters 'SV' when applying them to the valedictory edition of an already potent supercar (previous recipients include the Diablo and, of course, the Miura), this would be the most powerful Lamborghini of all, the Murcielago, with everything turned up to 11.
I had a hunch that any attempt to regard the addition of 29 horsepower (making 661 in total) as not such a big deal would turn out to be a cruel delusion. In conjunction with the 100 kilo drop in weight, reworked bodyshell, fettled aerodynamics and a chassis tweaked to generate even more jowl-pleating g-force, it was the living, fire-breathing definition of a big deal. So much so that Lamborghini's boss, Stephan Winklemann, had already made a point of saying that nice thought-experiment as it was to imagine the SV with just its rear wheels driven, it really did need to distribute its monumental power between all four for the full, gob-smacking effect when accelerating out of tight bends. Translation: 435bhp per tonne, 0-62mph in 3.2sec, the ton sub-seven and a top speed of 212mph (or 209mph with the optional larger "Aeropack wing" fitted to our car).
The road ahead is straight for about 200 metres - long enough, I reason, to let it all go before trusting the carbon ceramic discs to drag the SV down to a sane entry speed for the first left-right kink. What happens next, Gus later recalls, is so savage he forgot to breathe. Interesting because, from where I was sitting, it felt as if my heart was trying to smash a hole in my rib cage. Just a gentle tug on the right hand steering wheel paddle to engage first and a three-inch rotation of my right ankle and the world is hurled backwards while Lucifer's hi-fi erupts just a foot behind our heads.
OK, I think to myself, a Veyron is quicker than this, don't get your underwear in a twist. Thing is, it doesn't feel it. The Bugatti is more jet-like, less visceral. The SV is shocking, intimidating, violent, spitting out raw, shattering crescendos of accelerative force gear after gear. The thing just doesn't let up.
Now the road, still thankfully free from traffic, gets squirly and bumpy. I back off a smidge (believe me, you would), but the SV seems remarkably unfazed. Its chassis doesn't feel nervous or edgy but amazingly pliable and forgiving. I relax a little. Despite the recent recce, I've forgotten which way the bends go but the Lambo turns in with so much conviction and grips so hard it doesn't seem to matter. And there's much more subtlety than I was expecting. Even the most fleeting helm inputs are answered accurately and, before long, I find myself nuancing cornering lines with a combination of steering and throttle. With the chassis' rear-biased torque split, a degree or two of playful oversteer is never far away, especially if you stay on the brakes while turning in and, on the return leg, well, this being the farewell blast and all. More amazingly still, the ultra-firm suspension isn't uncomfortable, rounding off rough edges, ruts and small holes without jarring, and the body structure feels vault solid. Brute force and balletic agility, the Murcielago SV has both.
On May 11, 2010, a Swiss customer took delivery of the very last Murcielago, production number 4099. It was an orange SV, just like the one Gus and I had driven and photographed months earlier. A car with a bloodline that runs all the way back to the Miura, an impossibly powerful, mid-mounted V12, achingly beautiful bodywork an exhaust note that resembles a force of nature. He's a very lucky man.