Where do I start when describing my experiences with an ultimate exotic car? Let me start by clarifying my driving experiences with the 2004 Lamborghini Murcielago e.gear involve driving the car numerous times during the 16 months that the car was part of Club Sportiva’s Elite Collection. This post isn’t based on a single drive during a media/press event but is instead rooted in as much wheel time as any owner.
Describing driving a Lamborghini Murcielago is a bit like describing Christmas day at age ten. You anticipate it, you dream about it, you can’t sleep because you’re giddy thinking of it. And then, before you know it, you are twisting the key that enlivens the 6.2 liter V12 and you are in heaven with your foot on the gas peddle.
The one-of-a-kind experience, first offered by the Lamborghini Countach and then the Lamborghini Diablo, starts with opening the upright scissor door. Next, it is about reaching for the seat belt. It isn’t there…in the normal place anyway. What kind of radical rocket ship is this anyway? The seat belt is inboard over the driver’s right shoulder and straps to the left towards the door. Even after my 20th time driving, I still initially reach the wrong way, much like putting the key in the ignition of a Bentley or a Porsche with the left-side ignition. And yes, you better get buckled in fast.
Whirl the key that triggers the starter to begin its effort to fire up the big, heavy breathing engine. The starter strains to waken the giant…and then it happens, the engines turns over and the slumbering bear is awake. The idle quickly smooths to a deep grumble. Before pulling the paddle into first gear, I’d always take note of the massive dimensions of the car. It is a lot bigger than expected and identifying this in the beginning of the drive can help avoid expensive carbon fiber panel repairs!
In first gear, give it some gas and it lurches forward lacking finesse at slow speeds. At speeds under five MPH, it lurches forward in one foot increments, none of this inching forward gingerly in tight parking spaces with this raging bull. Press the gas hard and the torque is summoned faster than police to a donut shop. The bellow from the engine and exhaust is very different from the Ferrari, Maserati or Porsche. It is deeper and more low-key without the scream of the wailing antics of the Ferrari. You’ll be pulling second gear with the paddle just about 60 MPH. As the speed builds, so does the deep roar of the V12. You’ll also begin to notice how the steering gets heavy and remains precise even through high speed sweepers. Actually, the steering is phenomenal. On Skyline Boulevard, just south of San Francisco, even at 60 MPH on some of the turns that would ordinarily create a rush of fear as you seek your line, the Murcielago steering is precise and dialed-in, offering tremendous confidence.
On most roads, you only need two or three gears unless you are flirting with losing your license. When driving, the front hood quickly drops out of sight. Because you are seated forward, you know it only extends a few feet beyond your feet and much of the car extends behind you. The exhaust system alone is as big as the back seat of the Aston Martin DB9 and peaks out from its enshrouded black mesh behind the engine.
The Lamborghini Murcielago is no light weight, though it masks its weight and size well with stiff suspension and 580 hp with 470 lb-ft of torque to motivate its 3,600 pounds. The carbon fiber body, while light, is tremendously expensive and potentially problematic. The front lower valance is about $18,000 and the rear quarter panels are about $25,000, before paint or installation. And they are prone to warping with time and heat as the resin matures. This isn’t a car you want to carelessly back into something and it isn’t a car for the faint of heart. Carbon fiber doesn’t dent, it instead tears and you obviously can’t have a dent guy solve that. It is forgiving if bumped lightly, since it flexes, but a $5,000 repair on a normal car can be $30,000 on a Murcielago. So yes, that obligation to avoid the body shop wears on you while driving.
So does the sticker price. Club Sportiva’s Murcielago cost $297,000 when new in 2004. That is like driving around in a decent Illinois home. Then, to punch the throttle hard under acceleration while leaving the apex of a mountain road is asking for trouble. Like I said, this isn’t a car for the faint of heart… At least the AWD system helps tremendously to put down the power in a smooth way. If it were rear drive, the twitchy-ness would make it harder to enjoy while pushing it on a windy road. The 300 pounds added for AWD are worth the trade-off, in my opinion.
Because the Murcielago is such an overload for the senses, the e.gear transmission is a benefit. Normally I don’t feel this way, but shifting the car through Lamborghini’s gated manual shifter just adds one more degree of complexity that isn’t needed. The Murcielago is a wickedly sinister weekend car. It is a bit too over the top to be used more than for weekends, when compared to a Lamborghini Gallardo, Ferrari F430 or Ferrari 599 Fiorano. If you seek a rare and exciting drive that challenges your senses, this is the car. If you want a car that is easy to use and enjoy, the Murcielago is not the right car.
Every time I climbed past the upright door and sunk low into the alcantara-suede trimmed interior, I savored the rarity of the experience. This is the type of car that epitomizes why companies like Club Sportiva exist, offering enthusiasts the special and unique opportunity to drive a car that is entirely impractical. We look forward to getting the Lamborghini LP640 in the future! Is the Murcielago your type of car? Comments welcomed.