The Murciélago had a tough job on its hands. Not only did it replace the Diablo, the 11-year old icon of 1990s excess, but it was also the first new Lamborghini launched under the brand’s Audi/ Volkswagen Group ownership. Could the Germans keep the Italian fizz and inject much-needed quality control?
They could. The Murciélago was one of the finest cars to have made it out of Sant’Agata up to that point. We said it was “just about the sexiest car on the planet” in our 2005 review. The Murciélago of 2001 to 2010 joined Lamborghini as its flagship, with a mid-mounted V12 and all- wheel drive.
Much of Lamborghini’s delightful lunacy had been retained: the car featured scissor doors and a wide, dramatic-looking body that sat just 1.2m above the ground at its highest point. Aerodynamics and cooling were improved by the use of an active rear wing and active air intakes. The 6.2-litre V12, adapted from the Diablo’s, provided further drama in the form of 572bhp, 479lb ft and a magnificent soundtrack.
The Murciélago could hit 62mph from rest in just 3.6sec and reach 205mph. Gear changes were delivered through a six-speed manual transmission, and the four- wheel drive system sent 70% of the power to the rear by default. Our testers praised the model’s power delivery, superb traction, emphatic body control and modern technology.
A roadster joined the range in 2004, with a manually detached soft top that could be stored in a front compartment. Along with a reinforced chassis, the soft-top Murciélago had adapted rear pillars and a new engine cover, which together added 29kg to the kerb weight, and 0-62mph took 3.8sec. Audi’s influence could be seen in an interior that was far more refined than those of previous Lamborghinis. The driving position was good and there was a high-quality dashboard, climate control and leather seats.
The Murciélago was facelifted in 2006, when it gained a 631bhp 6.5-litre V12, reducing its 0-62mph time to 3.4sec and raising the top speed to 211mph. Design changes were substantial, notably the more sculptural grille and asymmetrical side air intakes. It also gainedan upgraded automated manual gearbox – a six-speed e-Gear system, first introduced in 2004. Inside, there was a new speaker system and improved head room courtesy of revised seating. To top it off, the ‘LP 640’ suffix was added to its name.