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By Jim Flammang
March 26, 2003
Vehicle Overview No change of consequence has been announced for the newest Italian supercar in its second season. At Detroits North American International Show in January 2003, Lamborghini displayed an open-roofed version, but no production plans were announced.
Equipped with permanent all-wheel drive, the $279,800 Murciélago holds an enlarged, 571-horsepower 6.2-liter version of the engine that had previously powered the Diablo 6.0 VT. The company claims that the Murciélago can lurch from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and can reach a top speed approaching 230 mph. Lamborghinis first six-speed-manual transmission is installed, but AutoWeek magazine predicts that a paddle-shifted model might be offered at some point.
Lamborghini has been developing a second, smaller model with a 500-hp V-10 engine and four-wheel drive (4WD). A company spokesperson notes that it is improperly referred to as the baby Lambo. Some sources have referred to it as the Stella.
Though owned by Audi AG since 1998, Automobile Lamborghini functions as a separate entity. Fifteen U.S. dealers get about one-third of the Murciélagos that are produced in Italy.
Somewhat angular in appearance but accented by lush curves, the Murciélago may remind viewers of the bizarre-looking Lamborghini Countach, which preceded the Diablo in the companys model lineage. With a wedge-shaped profile like the Diablo, the current model features gull-wing doors hinged above the front wheel wells and a cockpit that the automaker says is seamlessly integrated into the body as a whole.
Except for the steel roof and door panels, the bodywork is largely carbon fiber and is built over a frame made of high-strength steel tubing. Weight distribution is 42 percent in front and 58 percent at the rear. Aluminum-alloy wheels hold 18-inch Pirelli tires that are wider at the rear.
Bi-xenon headlights produce high and low beams, and a single-wiper setup is used. The outside mirrors may be folded back electronically and are mounted on long arms, which allows the driver to see beyond the prominent rear fenders. This is notable because Lamborghinis have long been known to allow only limited visibility.
A variety of visible air intakes and vents help cool the V-12 engine and the brakes. Two active intakes at the rear use a Variable Airflow Cooling System that permits the aperture to be altered to suit changing driving conditions. The rear spoiler can move into three distinct positions, depending on vehicle speed.
Two occupants get leather-upholstered seats. The driver faces a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel. Lamborghini says the door-opening angle in the Murciélago is greater than the one in the Diablo and the chassis is lower, making entry and exit a little easier. The instruments are grouped on a single, electronically controlled panel that includes a trip computer. A satellite-based navigation system is optional.
Under the Hood
The mid-engine Murciélago packs a 6.2-liter V-12 that cranks out 571 hp. A six-speed-manual transmission sits ahead of the engine. Permanent 4WD employs a central viscous coupling. Rather than a direct mechanical connection to the gas pedal, a drive-by-wire electronic throttle control system is used.
All-disc Brembo antilock brakes are standard. The passenger-side front airbag offers dual-stage inflation.