BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Buying a used Lamborghini Murcielago isn't for the faint hearted or the retiring but if you land a good one it will reward like few other supercars. The inheritor of an illustrious bloodline that includes the Miura, Countach and Diablo, the Murcielago is at its best in LP640 coupe guise. * Introduction When Audi took the reins at Lamborghini, many thought this would be the end of the proper, full-on Lambo supercar. The first sketches released of the Murcielago appeared to confirm this, the car lacking the outrageously warty bulges of the Countach or the visceral presence of the Diablo. Seems we needn't have worried after all. The Murcielagio has real impact and drives better than any car to roll out of Sant'Agata. Better built and with stacks of charisma, a used Murci is still only for the brave, but at least it's not quite such a gamble as buying a used Lamborghini once was.
Models Covered: (2 dr coupe, roadster 6.2, 6.5-litre petrol [LP640, LP640 Versace])
The Murcielago was the first fruit of the union between Lamborghini and Audi and the benefits are instantly recognisable. Despite having had more bedfellows over the years than Warren Beatty, Lamborghini finally seemed to have found a partner that was prepared to understand what the customer expects of the marque rather than trying to graft its own personality onto it. In developing the Murcielago, the first thing Audi did was deny Lamborghini use of any Audi engines, recognising that the heart of the car should be -and would be - Italian. So it is that the Murcielago uses a development of the mighty V12 that we'd become used to battering the bulkhead behind the cabin. Initially a variant of the Diablo's powerplant expanded to 6.2 litres, it was capable of generating an obscene 575bhp, the engine featured so many modifications and enhancements that to all intents and purposes it could be called a new engine. An e-gear sequential manual box was offered for those who didn't fancy the muscular gated manual transmission. But what of that name? Apprarently it's a Spanish word for bat dredged up by ex-Lamborghini CEO Giuseppe Greco. Murcielago was apparently a Spanish fighting bull that fought in Cordoba in 1879. Despite being punched with more holes than a Jeffrey Archer alibi, the brave bull stayed on his feet and was granted mercy and a long life out to stud at Don Antonio Miura's bull factory. Many will argue that both bullfighting and the Murcielago are throwbacks, out of touch with the mores of a post-millennial world. Try one and you'll be a convert. The Murcielago coupe was joined in late 2004 by the Roadster model, a car with an 'occasional' soft top. The stock coupe was succeeded in 2006 by the 6.5-litre LP640 model, which ushered in a whole raft of detail changes as well as the small matter of 640bhp. Aversace special edition model of thios car was unveiled at the 2006 Paris Show. For some time the Roadster model carried on with the old 6.2-litre powerplant but in 2007, the ragtop car became the LP640 Roadster.
What You Get
Viewed side-on, you have to look twice to differentiate the two cars, leading many to wonder whether this was an all-new model or merely the Diablo in disguise. From straight ahead it appears that the Diablo's face has been slightly overinflated and then etched with geometric precision, neat cuts and slashes marking the lights, bonnet and indicators. Walk round to the back and end and you're greeted by more amalgams of soft curves and sharp creases with two huge honeycomb vents sitting beneath the trapezoidal rear lights. The success of this design has subsequently been replicated with the mini-me Lamborghini Gallardo, the V10-engined answer to Ferrari's F430. Although it's difficult to spot any obvious parts bin plundering, the sheer fit and finish of the interior and the restrained use of colours and textures shouts Audi. Although many won't feel the need for a chromed script on the fascia reminding them what marque they're behind the wheel of, much of the early eighties vulgarity that plagued Lamborghini has been excised.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Clutches are an inevitable casualty of big power and big tyres. Drive in an 'enthusiastic' manner and you'll munch through one in as little as 2,500 miles, although more restrained wheelmanship will see the average clutch last for around 12,500 miles. Tyres last surprisingly well, the all-wheel drive transmission not putting too much stress on each individual pair although enthusiastic track use can 'shoulder' a set pretty quickly. With typical road use of around 7,000 miles per year, running costs can be kept to a manageable £5,000 barring any big ticket mechanical failures. The Murcielago uses heavy duty timing chains rather than the more problematic belts although there have been some issues with pre LP-640 throttle bodies and minor electricals. For out of warranty cars, try the AA who offer a warranty with a £10,000 claim limit but the car must go to an official Lamborghini workshop for inspection.
(approx based on a 2004 Murcielago) Get used to paying over £4,500 to fit a new clutch, so don't slip the left pedal. A set of front brake pads is £110, whilst a front shock is around £900. A windscreen is around £1,500 and a pair of front brake discs is in the region of £750.
On the Road
Performance is suitably ridiculous, the early Murcielago making 60mph in 3.8 seconds on the way to 205mph, thanks to a power to weight ratio of 346bhp per ton. This is brought about in no small part by Lamborghini's reliance on carbon fibre construction. All body panels bar the roof and the doors are baked in the giant autoclave at Sant'Agata although it's illuminating to note that its all-up weight has crept up to 1650kg. Whilst lighter than a Ferrari 575M, this is still considerably heavier than Porsche's 911 Turbo. One of the key design features is what's known as VACS (Variable Airflow Cooling System). Those of you who remember the Countach will recall the gaping intakes on its flanks that fed air into the engine and which contributed to a drag coefficient only marginally better than a portakabin. The Murcielago takes a novel approach to airflow. Realising that at part throttle a gaping maw was both unnecessary and undesirable, the car has a pair of motorised flaps that adjust the aperture of the intakes in line with the demand placed on the engine. It's a trick piece of kit and those lamenting the death of pop up headlamps will no doubt be overjoyed at the fact that there's a button on the dash that controls the flaps manually. Perched atop the trailing edge of the stub tail is a spoiler that rises to a fifty-degree angle of attack at 81mph and then arcs up to a seventy-degree angle when 137mph comes and goes. True exhibitionists, however, will prefer the Murcielago Roadster. The LP640 elevates performance to an altogether more rarefied level. This Lamborghini is more powerful than a Mercedes McLaren SLR or a Porsche Carrera GT. The LP640 got a modified six-speed gearbox as well as a beefier rear differential and new axle shafts. The e-gear automatic gearbox is also available equipped with the new dedicated "Thrust" (launch control) mode. The electronics were also updated. All that adds up to a sprint from rest to 62mph in 3.4 seconds (0.4 seconds faster than the previous model), with a top speed of well over 200mph. Power is nothing without control and the LP640 features a huge braking system with massive 380mm x 34mm front discs, while the 355mm x 32mm rear discs are bigger than most flagship sports cars wear up front. The control circuit of the four-channel anti-lock system with electronic brake control (DRP) and traction control (TCS) features an electro-hydraulic control unit and four speed sensors. When particularly high braking performance is required, on request it is possible to equip the vehicle with 380 mm x 36 mm ceramic carbon brakes featuring six-piston brake callipers. This offers braking performance more akin to driving into a set of buffers.
Despite the improved quality evident from Audi's input, buying a used Lamborghini Murcielago isn't like shopping for a VW Polo. You'll need to pin down exactly what you're looking for and be prepared to sit and wait for that car to materialise. Murcielago owners have a keen sense of community and many will know the provenance of vehicles that appear for sale. Should you take the plunge, it's an experience you'll never forget. We only get one turn at life so why not?