Lamborghini Murcielago is the most fantastic, dramatic, extreme super car. If you want to make a statement, get a 200mph-plus Murcielago. Even Ferraris pale into the background alongside it – particularly if it's one of the famous vivid yellow ones. It was launched way back in 2001, as the first Lamborghini to be developed under Audi ownership. This in itself was significant, because it meant the company could call upon all the German brand's expertise in quality and reliability. Previous Lamborghinis were known as being a bit fragile and temperamental; this car marked the turning point.
Extreme in every way sums up the mighty Murcielago. The first cars came with a huge 6.2-litre V12 engine that produced 580hp at high revs. It sounds like nothing else, particularly in the upper ranges, and I know people who buy it for the noise it makes alone.
A complex four-wheel drive transmission distributed this power, through either a six-speed manual or semi-automatic gearbox. The former can be hard work, so buyers often prefer the latter. I always warn them to buy as late as possible though. Lamborghini was constantly improving the set-up of the E-Gear system, eventually honing it into a very impressive set-up.
The styling of a largely carbon-fibre body is just incredible. This is why people buy the Murcielago. It's big, extreme, wide, low, and aggressive – it looks like a Stealth fighter, particularly when the scissor-type doors are swung up and open. At speed, the fighter jet analogy continues, as two air intakes electronically fold out of the side rear panels – a fantastic touch.
There's also an electronic pop-up rear wing.
Inside, it's not quite an Audi in its control layout – here; the Gallardo is better and more modern. But Lamborghini didn't do a bad job, and it's a lot better than the Diablo. It's still rather tight for space in there, though, and it remains only a two-seater. Being 6ft 4in myself, I can fit snuggly in the coupe but look a bit like noddy in the spider!
Of course, if you think this is extreme, wait until you see the Roadster model, which came in 2004. This was Lamborghini's answer to owners who were calling for even more 'show' with the first open-top Lambo for a decade, they really could expose themselves.
It's hardly a practical option though. The roof is incredibly complicated to fit and remove – and, unbelievably, the car can't be driven at more than 100mph with the roof up. It's normally the other way around, which means the market for this model is even more specialist.
While the early 6.2-litre cars are the cheapest, buyers prefer the 2006 models if they can stretch to it. This was the year the Murcielago's V12 was boosted to 6.5 litres, and 640bhp. These cars can be found by their new name – Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
, with LP standing for 'Lontitudinari Posteriari ' referring to the rear-mid in-line position of the engine.
The LP models received a slight facelift front and rear, and Lamborghini also restyled the interior with some Audi-like quality and usability improvements. There was a better stereo – and, for when music was not enough, a new exhaust to create even more noise. The seats were repositioned as well, to try and carve out a bit more room inside. Oh, and there were more tweaks to the semi-auto and suspension.
One function the crowd conscious driver likes is the Launch Control device that came on this edition. Basically, this allows people to conduct the perfect standing start, guaranteeing to hit 60mph in the claimed 3.4 seconds. This is hard on the clutch and transmission, so cars fitted with it should be investigated carefully. But there's no denying the showy nature of the car makes it a nice addition!
There was also a very desirable option copied from Ferrari – a glass cover for the mighty engine. Buyers love it. The last in the line and the most extreme Murcielago is the one that makes the most incredible poster car – the extreme LP 670-4 SuperVeloce - the Murcielago SV. This has 670bhp, weighs 100kg less, the option of a massive racecar-like rear wing, exotic materials, and even the option of matt paint. The market for these is small but, for some, it's the only choice.
Mind you, while the Murcielago has huge emotional appeal, it actually has very little retail appeal. Very few are sold – it's the ultimate supercar from its looks, engine and concept, but this sheer exclusivity works against it on the used market. The Spyder is virtually impossible to sell. When the soft-top demands 20 minutes to put up and down – well, car buyers view it with similar regard to an old Jeep Wrangler.
Therefore, the Murcielago really is usually the fifth or sixth car in their collection. For these people, buying one involves emotion, the world's finest V12, and the scissor doors, why else is there an entire industry now devoted to converting Gallardos to get these door hinges! It will always hold a special place for me, but commercially, as a car dealer, you can't justify it. Very, very few dealers are now willing to put their own money into one.