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Bull on Wheels
The new Lamborghini is a menacing machine
By DAREN FONDA

Monday, Mar. 28, 2005
Drive Lamborghini's latest fantasy car, the Murciélago roadster, and you'd be wise to leave the roof at home. For starters, you'll want to be seen in a vehicle that looks like a Cubist sculpture: a cross between a B-2 Stealth bomber and the Batmobile. And you don't want to be seen wrestling with the roof, since it's little more than an erector set with a fabric tarp and may require an engineering degree to dismantle. If you hit 100 m.p.h., Lamborghini warns, the roof might blow off--and how embarrassing would that be, losing your top in a $320,000 car?

Lamborghini may be owned by Volkswagen AG, but don't let the fact that Germans hold the purse strings fool you: the Italians are still making blissfully impractical transport. Since 1998, VW has pumped $155 million into the brand, with Lambo currently producing two models (the Gallardo is the other) for the first time in its 41-year history. One feature the Murciélago roadster borrows from VW's Audi A4 convertible is roll bars that pop up within milliseconds in a rollover. But the Murciélago, named for a legendary Spanish bull so fierce it was spared by a matador, is as outrageous as Lambo's prior exotica, cars like the Countach and Diablo.

You want doors that open vertically, like a pair of steel scissors? Check. A 580-h.p., 6.2-liter V-12 engine? Yup. A spoiler that pops up when you reach 85 m.p.h., for aerodynamic stability? You got it. Lambo designed the cockpit to be asymmetrical, orienting it toward the driver with touches like perforated leather upholstery on the left side and a smooth finish on the passenger side. The interior is race-car minimalist, with metallic trim and analog dials.

The Murciélago shoots from 0 to 60 in 3.8 sec. and has a top speed of 200 m.p.h. I'll take Lambo's word for it. Unless you're on a closed course or have a death wish, it's tough to push it to the max. On New York's Taconic Parkway, I never had to shift above fourth gear to feel like a human cannonball and pull all the Le Mans moves I could safely muster. With four-wheel drive and Pirelli 18-in. tires, the car never felt unstable. But here's the rub: it takes every ounce of restraint not to break the speed limit in this bull, yet the sound of the engine behind you is so overwhelming you may not notice the state trooper until he's on your tail. Your only hope: that he's content to hover and snap pictures with his cell-phone camera with the rest of the traffic.

Lambo plans to make about 200 Murciélago roadsters annually and will customize the interior, dyeing the leather fuchsia, for instance, should that be your desire. Radar detector is sold separately.

From the Mar. 28, 2005 issue of TIME magazine


http://www.time.com/time/globalbusi...1039698,00.html
 
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