THIS MAY SOUND like I’ve flipped my lid, but please bear with me. If you’re reading this at home, I’d like you to get off your favourite couch, walk up to your bed and sit on the floor, with your back to the bed’s long end. Now slide down a bit, angle your feet so that they are resting on imaginary pedals and pretend you are gripping a steering wheel. Then, imagine a pair of massive wheels a foot ahead of you, a tight-fitting angular nose, a large flat windscreen and tight-fitting bodywork around the back. The roof of the car is no more than four feet off the ground and behind your back sits that humungous lump of a V12, represented here by your bed.
Do this and you’ll quickly grasp the insanity that is the Lamborghini Murciélago LP 640. Basically a massive six-and-a-half-litre V12, a pair of seats and four wheels; this is as mad as supercars get. There’s no luggage area, the air-con looks like Lamborghini spent just two days designing it and stepping down into the driver’s seat feels like you are being kitted out to pilot a military weapon.
Close the scissor door shut and it feels even more Top Gun. The levels of drama here operatic, Top Gun theme song and all. I look around for a place to put my cellphone. Left, right, up, down. There is none. Hmmm, it stays in my pocket. Pull both paddles together to select neutral and start the motor.
Some brief mechanical whirring later, the V12 bursts into life over my shoulder. This is no modern perfectly balanced V12. Many bits on this motor can be traced as far back as the Countach and Miura, and you can feel it throb and shake the car. Accompanying the idle bass is a buzz that massages your shoulder blades, and you can feel the mechanical beast come alive as you feed it fuel and air. You can feel almost every one of the 12 mini-explosions, you can imagine the visual symphony of the 12 cylinders moving up and down, and spin the motor faster and the gnashed note of the chain-driven cams drills into your head. The V12 is only a foot behind you. More revs, and now it’s the blare of the pipes and the exhaust reverberating though the system that come through. It’s a surging, whooping animal of an engine. You don’t need a tachometer here, just count the revs.
We are loaned the LP 640 for a day and a half, for the Narain Karthikeyan track day story we carried in our September issue, so forgive me if I leave out how well it rides or how easy or not it is to drive in city traffic. Frankly, I don’t know. All I can tell you is that it feels like a cantankerous, mean, old SOB when driven at sane speeds for the camera. A bit jerky, irritated and off-handish, this car will do low speed, but you get the feeling it would rather not.
But now it’s time to see what 631bhp can do (640 stands for PS, which is a bit more than bhp). As I squeeze the accelerator harder and harder in a progressive manner, the bellows and snarls emitted from the cave-like exhaust now turn harder-edged as the Lambo drags forward its own wall of sound behind it. The scenery starts to blur at the edges and I find myself holding onto the steering wheel, just hanging on, as the huge motor churns out massive power that pushes the seat into my back and pins my head to the headrest. Every time I do this, I feel my stomach’s some 250 metres behind, trying to catch up, and the crazy part is that I’m only using around 80 percent of the power.
Understandably this leads to some mild disorientation initially. However, as soon as the brain catches up with the car, I squeeze the pedal more and for longer and even more heroic burst of power. Remember this is not 300, 400, 500 or even 600bhp; it’s freaking 631! Not so very long ago, F1 cars made similar power. Push in even more fuel, still driving in a very smooth and deliberate manner.
At least that’s what I think I’m doing. The car however is doing something else. I get thrown forward in the seat as I brake for the corner, there’s some mild judder from the steering as the front wheels squirm and the rear shimmies as it struggles to put the power down, the genie getting loose in the rear.
But it’s only when I use all 8500 rarified rpm, unreal for a motor of this size, do I experience the crazed beast of Bologna in full glory. My neck is snapped back as the Lambo screams up the powerband. 6000, 7000, 8000 . . WAAAAAAAAAA, click paddle, WAAAAAAAA. The track turns to mush, kerbs, lines and other features dissolving into each other, and everything happens at twice the normal speed. Off the brakes, kerb, steer, thottle, reel in the horizon. No supercharger, no quad turbos, just a massive engine and crazy revs. And it goes on. Sustained acceleration feels like a series of controlled explosions are being set off behind me as that nuclear reactor of a motor over my shoulder goes critical. Every burst of acceleration squeezes your internal organs into the backrest and you have to use your muscles to keep your hands and feet on the controls. What it must feel like to drive on normal roads is anyone’s guess.
As if this were not scary enough, the rear of the Murciélago carries massive momentum with it and at times wants to carry on straight, long after you’ve turned into a corner. Sitting at the busy end, you are more than aware of this, as the car screams WATCH IT, WATCH IT, CAREFUL to you. And the worst part is that there isn’t really all that much you can do at this stage, if that heavy ‘pendulum’ in the rear decides it wants to overtake you. The faster you go, the more aware you become of this, and the more controlled and deliberate you have to be. The contrast is huge. On the one hand the car is pummeling you, like King Kong himself is hurling you forward under brakes, sideways in a corner and the back as you accelerate hard out, exhaust screaming. And on the other you need to be very precise and accurate behind the wheel, always two steps ahead of the car. As the usually unperturbed Narain Karthikeyan said when setting a lap time earlier in the day, “This car is a scary, scary car”.
Then when driving photographer Ashley back to the pits at only 80 percent, and with even less concentration, I get distracted by what I think is a car coming the other way. My foot comes off the accelerator for only an instant in the middle of a corner, but it’s enough. Before I can react, the Lambo slews sideways and then the other way. We don’t spin, but I come to a stop at a jaunty angle, knees trembling. Yes this is one of the most exciting and fastest cars ever, up there with the McLaren F1 and Bugatti Veyron. But it’s also a car that has the power to give you instant diarrhoea. You can’t mess with the slip angle of the 335 tyre, the humongous momentum the car builds or the mass of that huge V12 engine.
How Narain got it sideways regularly, I’ll never know. The LP 640 isn’t cheap at Rs 3.5 crore, but then it is very, very special. It is brutally fast on the road, turns heads everywhere it goes and is a car that has timeless appeal. If you think your stomach can take it, go for it. You’ll remember it clearly even decades later when it’s time to say goodbye. “Ahh the Lambo, best thing I did.” That’s a promise.