Still spectacular, and costly brakes are worth every penny.
30 December 2005

I once accidentally stuck my fingers in a wall power socket. As exciting and downright ‘electrifying’ moments go, it has to be right up there. Until now, that is. There are the same wide eyes, jumping spine and increased heartbeat, but thankfully not the pain. You don’t need my excitable musings to recognise that the Lamborghini Murciélago is still just about the sexiest car on the planet, a fact enhanced here by the fitment of the gloriously named new option of ‘Herculean titanium’ alloy wheels. But where does the Murciélago fit now in the general supercar status quo?

If you want to pose, few things have the magnetic allure of the Murciélago. But there are saloon cars that can eclipse its 479lb ft of torque, and they have a similar kerbweight, while supercar outputs have rocketed over the last few years, making the V12’S 580bhp seem almost normal. With the Gallardo providing driver-focused thrills, is the big Lambo just a poseurs car even with the arrival of (optional) carbon-ceramic brakes?

Can a set of stoppers really be worth £7780 over and above a list price of £175,000? Well, yes actually. Emphatically. You see, the brakes used to be a little suspect if you asked them to make repeated heavy stops from speed. Not any more, as we proved while consistently hitting a genuine 180mph on a sequence of runs at Bruntingthorpe airfield. The brakes showed no signs of fade or protest in hauling the car back down to the urban speed limit, with a stopping power that left you hanging breathless in the seatbelts.

Thankfully, they’re not just about ultimate stopping power, allowing you to meter out their power progressively. Only at low speeds is their presence betrayed by an occasional squeaking, although as childish as it seems, I can’t help liking the quasi-racer sound effects.

Once you’ve learnt to trust the Murciélago, the star qualities of this car shine through. Yes, it is enormous, and that does restrict your pace on narrow B roads, but this is a beguiling mix of raw involvement - through steering feel, charismatic engine and chassis balance - and effectiveness, through superb traction, awesome bodycontrol and modern technology. Mere power output becomes irrelevant, it’s the experience that counts, and the Murciélago’s is utterly compelling.

But this is a car that demands respect it at all times, principally because physics dictates that when things do let go there’s a terrifying amount of mass behind your shoulder going walkabout. Lose the Murciélago in a high-speed corner, and you’re going to be spinning into the next county.

For all its charisma, you can see why the Colombo V12 is rumoured to be retiring soon in favour of an all-new Audi V12. It definitely does its best work at the top end - and what shrieking, eye-widening work that is. Yet at over 1800kg the Murciélago is a heavy brute and the rate of acceleration lower down the powerband is merely fast rather than shocking. It’s also noticeably coarse at times, with a pronounced vibration through the mid-range before it goes feral around 5500rpm.

It’s also obvious that the E-gear transmission is growing in stature each time we drive these cars. It now pulls away from rest without a lurch, changes gear with admirable smoothness, and never made any funny noises or burning smells during the whole time we had the car. In fact, to be fair, the whole car felt tight and together, despite being a hard-worked factory press car brought over from Italy.

So there you have it. Apart from a few cosmetic options, the Murciélago is as it was – absolutely fabulous – and the new brakes are a worthwhile option. The street theatre is an added extra, it’s the driver appeal that remains the heart and soul of this car.

Adam Towler

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