Named for a famous Spanish fighting bull, the Murcielago was another outrageous hypercar that was actually cheaper than many of its competitors.
The Lamborghini Miura has gone down in history as the car which put Lamborghini on the supercar map and set a new standard in performance for the genre. The Countach raised the bar for outrageousness, but the Lambo Murcielago, debuting in 2001, will probably always be remembered as the first sensible Lamborghini. Also the first Lambo built under the company's current ownership, practicality and ease of use aren't exactly what they are in some other supercars, but it was a big change for Lamborghini.
The Murcielago wasn't the first Lamborghini to come with AWD, that was a feature which first debuted on certain forms of the Diablo, but it was the first Lamborghini designed for use with AWD, and to have it right from its launch. The interior was also more sensibly laid out than previous Lambos, and even if you don't care for the paddle shifter sequential gearbox, it is easier to drive than a three-pedal manual. It is especially easier than the manuals found in previous Lamborghinis, which tended to require an incredible amount of effort to work the clutch pedal. A regular manual was offered as well, although this too was relatively easy to use.
The word murcielago is Spanish for "bat", but as with many Lamborghini models, this name came to be associated with a car because it was the name given to a famous fighting bull. Legend has it that the bull Murcielago survived 28 sword strokes in a fight in 1879, and was spared for its bravery. Certain elements of the story after that are disputed, but it is known that Murcielago was one of the Miura line of fighting bulls. The engine in the Murcielago is an evolution of the same V12 engine Lamborghini had been using from their early car building days. This was the last application it was used for, as the Aventador got an entirely new engine.
The V12 started out in the Murcielago with a 6.2-liter displacement and producing 572 horsepower. Carbon fiber and aluminum were used extensively in the car's construction, but this is still a big car, and it is not what you would call light. But there was still enough power to propel it to 60mph in 3.8 seconds. A roadster version debuted in 2004, along with a special edition to commemorate Lamborghini's 40th anniversary. Following this, in 2006, a second generation of sorts debuted, the LP-640. For this version of the Murcielago, Lamborghini increased the engine size to 6.5 liters and bumped power up to 631hp.
This was a lot of power in the days before you could get that much in a Mustang, but the price was surprisingly low. Ok, so a $300,000 car isn't what you'd call cheap, but remember that the Porsche Carrera GT and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren were both being sold at the same time with less power and at much, much higher prices. After the LP-640 came the Reventon, a car which is mechanically virtually identical to the LP-640, but with 10 more horsepower, a restyled body and a price about five times bigger. That's a big price bump, but it's hard to argue that the Reventon isn't supremely cool.
The styling is inspired by the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, and the influence is actually very easy to see. Only 21 of these were built, but one example was kept by Lamborghini for its museum. Of the 20 sold, half came to the US, and Jay Leno is known to have bought #7 from its original owner. The fastest Murcielago was introduced in 2009 and it's the LP-670-4 SuperVeloce. The SV badge had been used before, with the Diablo SV and the Miura SV, and it denotes a more hard-edged example of the breed. In this case, the car makes 661 horsepower and is about 200lbs lighter than the LP-640.
Road & Track clocked the SV at 2.8 seconds for a 0-60 time and 10.9 seconds in the quarter mile. It can reach a top speed of 212mph. Lamborghini had originally planned to build 350 of the LP-670-4, but production had to be shut down early to make room for the Aventador, and only 186 were actually made. They were also expensive, at $450,000, but this is once again relatively cheap for anything which goes this fast. A few different motorsport versions were built for different applications, the R-GT, RG-1 and R-SV. These enjoyed a certain degree of success, but like other Lamborghini flagships, the Murcielago was never intended as a full-on race car.
Neither was it intended to be sensible and practical, but in making a Lamborghini which was actually usable, they inadvertently made one which might suffer as the one which people think of as the sober and restrained Lambo. But make no mistake, this is every inch a Lamborghini. Scissor doors and all, it has all of the loud and outrageous you need in a hyper car.