By softening some of the Diablo's rough edges, the Murcielago was an even better supercar.
It's a bittersweet period for fans of the V12 engine. Cars like the Ferrari Purosangue, Aston Martin V12 Vantage, and the BMW M760i represent the pinnacle of V12 engineering, but also the beginning of the end. Lamborghini is embarking on its own extended farewell tour, so to speak, of its classic V12 this year. We already know that the Aventador Ultimae is the last V12 Lamborghini of its kind that won't be electrified, but the Italian manufacturer doesn't want us to forget the V12 supercars that paved the way for the Aventador. That includes the iconic Diablo and its predecessor, the Murcielago you see here.
At the heart of the Murcielago was a 6.2-liter V12 that was far more powerful than the early Diablo's mill. Making 572 horsepower at 7,500 rpm and with all-wheel drive, it was capable of reaching 62 mph in 3.8 seconds, some achievement in 2001, especially considering the large catalytic converters that were required at the time. With dry-sump lubrication, the engine sat nearly two inches lower than the one in the Diablo, which helped to improve the Murcielago's drivability.
Although you often heard the Murcielago before you saw it, it was worth waiting around to take in the classic mid-engine supercar design. At just over 47 inches tall with the scissor doors closed, Lamborghini started with a clean sheet for the design and it still looks spectacular today.
The Murcielago was the first new model from Lamborghini under its ownership of parent company Audi. Although aspects of it are dated today, the German connection could account for the fact that this was a "friendlier" supercar than the Diablo. In the Diablo, you had to fight with heavy controls and a particularly cramped cabin, and the V12 was savagely loud. The Murcielago was more approachable while still having the ability to terrify you when pushed to its limits. Its steering was lighter than the Diablo's, too, although there was no getting away from the stiff ride. At lower speeds, the Murcielago felt uneasy and failed to shrink around the driver, but on open stretches, it came alive.
As with the more modern Aventador, the Murcielago range rapidly expanded over time. A roadster derivative arrived in 2004 before the second-generation Murcielago debuted in 2007. Dubbed the LP 640-4, it produced 631 hp at 8,000 rpm. This was followed by the LP 650-4 Roadster in 2019, which had a soft top that could be manually removed. In this guise, the Murcielago produced 641 hp at the same 8,000 rpm.
The most powerful Murcielago of all was the 670-4 Super Veloce or SV. For this model, more components fashioned from carbon fiber reduced the weight by around 220 pounds. Power from the V12 was increased to 661 hp, over 100 hp more than the first iteration of the Murcielago, and the 0-60 time slipped below three seconds.
The Murcielago retained the all-wheel-drive system from the Diablo with up to 70% of the torque distributed to the rear. At the time, the carbon fiber undercarriage with the mixed-structure floor panel with aluminum was Lamborghini's most rigid supporting structure ever.
While it wasn't the final incarnation of the V12 without forced induction or electrification, the Murcielago was the final V12 Lamborghini with a mechanical transmission. The six-speeder was later joined by an electronic automated transmission with levers mounted on the steering wheel. Although the Aventador improved on this transmission, its automated manual is one of the signs that the supercar has aged.
Outside of the core lineup covered above, the Murcielago also shone brightly in other ways.
In total, Lamborghini produced 4,099 examples of the Murcielago between 2001 and 2011. It was another glittering era for the "pure" V12 which will go out of production in its final form before the end of this year.