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November 5, 2007

Lamborghini Reventón — 'World's first hypercar'

I love it.

"Supercar" is so last century.

Lamborghini is producing only 20 of these 650-horsepower, 12-cylinder coupes, all of which have been sold — 11 in the U.S., seven in Europe and two in Asia.

List price: $1.45 million.

Warren Brown, the Washington Post's automobile writer, was fortunate enough to not only enjoy a ride in one with Lamborghini test driver and engineer Mario Frasinetti, but then drive it as well.

Here's his review from yesterday's Washington Post.

    The Best Model That You'll Never Drive

    Extremism in pursuit of power and technical superiority is no vice. That is the guiding principle of Lamborghini, a small car company long accustomed to making the world's most expensive and most extravagant automotive statements.

    Located in this tiny village in North Italy, Lamborghini, founded in 1963 by Ferruccio Lamborghini, has a history of trying to outdo itself and everyone else in pursuit of the ultimate sports car, which usually means turning out the fastest, most powerful automobile that any carmaker legally could put on the street.

    The most extreme representation of that corporate philosophy is the Lamborghini Reventon (the "v" is pronounced like "b"), which I was allowed to drive here under the watchful eyes of Lamborghini officials.

    Their caution was understandable. The Reventon is a 650-horsepower, 12-cylinder super-coupe valued at the U.S. equivalent of $1.45 million — about the same as a mini-mansion back home in Northern Virginia. Only 20 copies of the Reventon are being made. All of them have been sold — 11 in the United States, seven in Europe, and two in Asia.

    That meant I was driving somebody's car, which required accompaniment by a skilled Lamborghini test driver and engineer, Mario Frasinetti.

    I was quite willing to let Mario drive first. In fact, I insisted. For one thing, I wanted to see how a professional driver would handle the motorized beast. For another, I was scared witless. I had never driven a car with that much power and that kind of price.

    Mario, of course, made everything look easy. He keyed the ignition, pressed the right carbon-fiber paddle shifter behind the steering wheel, put the all-wheel-drive car into first gear and — whoosh!

    The Reventon, which shares many underpinnings with the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, is controlled via a six-speed automated manual transmission. "Automated manual"? Yes. Like many race cars, it has a manual transmission in which the driver does put a left foot on the clutch. Gear shifts are executed via two carbon-fiber paddle shifters — one on the right for moving into the lower gears and another on the left for higher gears.

    Mario played those shifters in the manner of a virtuoso pianist — so smoothly and swiftly, with the Reventon instantly responding to his inputs. We ascended mountainsides sans railings. I dared not look over ledges of those unguarded high roads. I wouldn't have seen much anyway. The Reventon was moving so fast, everything was a blur.

    We arrived at what Mario considered a safe spot for a driver exchange. "It's an easy car to drive," he said. "You'll do fine."

    He turned out to be right. But doing fine first meant forgetting that the car costs $1.45 million and that it was someone else's car, and that it could move from zero to 62 mph in a scary 3.4 seconds.

    I tried to obey posted speed limits, which only created traffic problems. When Mario was behind the Reventon's wheel, the car moved so fast that no one else on the road could even think about keeping up with him. When I drove, the car moved slowly enough to tempt people to pull up alongside of it and take photos with their camera phones. At a stoplight, one teenager who was following me in what appeared to be a Fiat jumped out of his car and ran in front of the Reventon to take pictures. It was an image hijack likely destined for the Internet.

    I enjoyed the drive. The purposefully sculpted Reventon handled beautifully. I say "purposefully sculpted" because there is absolutely nothing about the car's mostly carbon fiber exterior that does not contribute to speed and handling. It looks like a stealth fighter jet because it is meant to perform like one on the road.

    That raises the question: Why buy a car like the Reventon, the full power of which never could be used legally on any highway anywhere in the world, including Germany's Autobahn, which has speed restrictions in urban areas and is likely soon to have speed restrictions everywhere.

    The answer can be found in the assembly bays at the Lamborghini factory, which annually can produce 2,500 Lamborghini automobiles of all types, and which is where the Reventon was designed and developed and where it is now made.

    The men and women working in the plant are not workers in the generic sense. They are artisans, many of whom drive to the factory in Fiats and small Audis.... and Chevrolets.

    They approach their work with discernible pride. They aren't building cars. They are building masterpieces — unique, expensive and sought after in the manner of millionaires (and apparently some thieves) seeking a masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.

    Lamborghini officials claim that the Reventon can be driven "every day." Truth is, that is not likely to be how the car's buyers will use it. Most will store it in a well-equipped garage, to be driven only on special occasions. Others might load it onto a car carrier for a weekend at the track, where they will attempt to drive the car to its limits. And others simply will hold it as an investment to be sold later to the highest bidder.

    But no one will drive it every day. The desire to keep the precious car safe thus will have other benefits. The gas-guzzling Reventon — 7.35 miles per gallon city, 15.68 mpg highway — seldom will be about the business of guzzling gas and polluting the air. It simply will exist as an example of rare, extreme mobile art.



Particulars here.

November 5, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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