Lamborghini became the Audi-VW owned supercar company that it is today, on the 12th of June 1998. (Lamborghini 2014) And, although a very strict and ordered German corporate car giant taking over a purist, and emotional Italian car company, may sound like the beginning of the end; the complete opposite is true. The same could have been said about Bugatti, as they were taken over by VW just a mere one month earlier, and look at where Bugatti is today! (Bugatti 2014)
Lamborghini had been on shaky ground for a very long time, and after a long period of fluctuating levels of success, the Volkswagen group finally brought some stability to the company. During, and after the takeover, Lamborghini continued manufacturing the extremely successful Diablo, and its plethora of variations. However, the biggest leap forward was just a few short steps away.
After having acquired the company, the Diablo’s replacement, the Canto, was scheduled for the go ahead. Thankfully, and already showing a positive change, Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, chairman of the VW group at the time (Volkswagenag 2014), decided that the Canto was not a suitable candidate to be the successor of the Diablo. (Lambocars 2000-2013) This led to the creation of the beginning of the Lamborghini image we all know so well today, this led to of course the mighty Murciélago.
Released in 2001, the Murciélago was not designed by Italians anymore, however the German car company sure did manage to make a strong starting point with this first one. Designed by Belgian Luc Donckerwolke, at Audi design, and working in conjunction with the Lamborghini engineers, the Murciélago was a massive hit. It was reminiscent of the Countach, a progression of the Diablo and also used some Miura influences. One could have been sceptical about a German designed Lambo, but it could not have looked any more fierce. The car featured an angular design, which Lamborghini is so famous for, but also combined it with a fresh and simple form, while making use of clean geometric lines. It’s not a surprise it looked so good, as Donckerwolke had previously designed cars such as the Audi A2, A4 avant, Skoda Fabia, and Octavia, and the Audi R8 Le Mans race car. (Lambocars 2000-2013)
After the 2001 release of the Murciélago, work quickly began to expand the range of cars available in the line-up. The idea of a new baby Lambo was on the brink, and by 2002 the L140 development had begun. The next year, by 2003, the Company was ready to debut the long awaited for surprise, and new affordable Lambo at the Geneva Motor Show, as well as a spin-off of the Murciélago at the Detroit Auto Show. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)
The latter, was known as the Murciélago Barchetta, which was essentially a new roadster version, with a brand new redesigned rear, and roof section. This was only a prototype for now, but the Geneva Show was about to unveil a totally new idea. The car in question was the all new entry level Lambo, the Lamborghini Gallardo, (ga:yàrdo). (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)
The Gallardo, was designed to be a driver’s car, which is quite unlike for the flamboyancy of the Lamborghini brand. Until now, Lamborghinis were usually difficult, and a handful to handle and keep at bay, but this car changed that altogether. It needed to be easy to drive and comfortable, to fit its driver in every situation, but still managed to keep with the Lambo lunacy, and adhere to true Lamborghini performance. VW had made a very nicely balanced car with no compromise, as it featured a 500bhp V10 engine, which was also used in the Audi R8. Combined with a permanent four-wheel drive system, it was able to reach a top speed of 192mph (309km/h). (Lambocars 2000-2013)
The design was a collaborative work between Fabrizio Giugiaro of Italdesign, and Luc Donckerwolcke, and added quite a new and refreshing aesthetic to the Lamborghini range. It still made use of hard angular lines, but had a nice flow, and a softer overall look. Smaller than the Murciélago, with small overhangs, and the use of large intakes for cooling, the car looked muscular but also dynamic at the same time. The styling, combined with the performance and driving comfort, even featuring normal opening doors; and at low price when compared with its bigger sibling, meant that the new car was all set up for success. (Lambocars 2000-2013)
With the two new cars released and up for sale, the general public, who could afford them, as well as the publications started to see, just what a difference VW had made to the Lamborghini brand. Although purists and owners of previous Lamborghini models would argue that the brand lost its emotion; but what it lost in passion, it gained in refinement, and thus created a reimagining of the Lamborghini brand. The Gallardo actually ended up being so successful that it was manufactured all the way up until 2013, giving it a 10 year reign in the small supercar segment.
Right after their release, both the Murciélago and Gallardo had many variations released over the subsequent years, this is a common and logical step for Lamborghini. The next year, 2004, saw two quite special cars release. One of them, marking the 40th anniversary of the company was the limited edition Murciélago 40th Anniversary, essentially, a “basic” Murciélago, with new and bespoke 40th anniversary accessories. The second, was the long awaited for Murciélago Roadster, and after its initial preview the year before in prototype form, expectations were high. Thankfully, the Roadster remained true to the concept and did not disappoint. It was the definition of open top supercar driving pleasure, especially with that screaming V12 sitting just behind the driver. (Lambocars 2000-2013)
2005 saw the release of the limited edition Momo Gallardo, as well as the Gallardo SE. Both only had slight modifications over the standard car, although the SE (Special Edition) was limited to 250 units, and featured a nicely contrasting high gloss black roof, which carried through into the engine bay (Lambocars 2000-2013). Another type of Gallardo that year, this time, full production car, was the long awaited Gallardo Spyder. With the success of the Murciélago Roadster, an open top Gallardo was imminent. This car, once again was not a mere, chop job; as the entire car was a self standing model, and made a name for itself in its own right. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)
I can say from personal experience that this open top Gallardo sounds amazing, when its pedal to the metal, especially with only having a thin soft canvas roof. The power was also increased by 20bhp to 520bhp, (Lambocars 2000-2013) and although turned into a soft top, the Spyder grips to the standards of a true Lambo. The open top story didn’t end there however. In the same year, Lamborghini also previewed the Concept S Prototype, which used a “saute-vent” roof, (Lambocars 2000-2013) whereby, a traditional roof is not present, but instead divides the cabin into two sections, which allows air to rage through between the two passengers.
The beginning of 2006 marked the 40th anniversary of the Miura, and thus, came the Miura Concept. A new revamped and restyled, modern approach to the original Marcello Gandini design of 1966. The year also followed with new and improved versions of the Murciélago, namely the LP640, “Longitudinale Posteriore”, 640bhp. (Lambocars 2000-2013) This car was an evolution of the standard Murciélago, and with the 520bhp Gallardo on the market, the Murciélago needed a power upgrade. It also featured various aesthetic changes, using larger air intakes, a new front bumper, new lights, and new rear vents. The bore of the engine was increased, larger brakes were added and a new transmission system was installed, among many other performance enhancements. This also resulted in the release of the LP640 Roadster, as well as a Versace Edition, celebrating the new partnership between Automobili Lamborghini SpA, and Gianni Versace SPA. (Lambocars 2000-2013)
By this time the Gallardo was also receiving some updates; a new track car, the Gallardo GT3-R by Reiter Engineering was being development and even had a road going version release the next year, the Gallardo GT3 Strada. This year also gave birth to the Gallardo MY2007, and the better known, Gallardo Superleggera. This was a more hard-core, stripped out version of the standard Gallardo, and with 10 extra horsepower, and with 100Kg of weight shed; the car could manage a 0-60mph (+-100kph) in just 3.8 seconds. (Lambocars 2000-2013)
The year 2007 also comprised of the release of a very special, exotic Lamborghini of which only 20 units were made; the Lamborghini Reventón. This was an extremely exclusive car, and obviously extremely rare, making it an instant collectors piece, costing a nice round € 1 million. Its general proportions and styling was not dissimilar to the Murciélago, but had a much harder, almost chiselled, geometric feel to it. (Lambocars 2000-2013) The aesthetic details, on both the interior and exterior, such as the triangular air intakes, sharp headlamps, and glass blade finished engine cover, reminded one of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter jet.
2008, showed more upgrades to the Gallardo, in the shape of the LP560-4, as well as its’ open top Spyder version, and the Murciélago LP640 Versace Roadster. The most interesting car of this year however was the Estoque. The Estoque is a four-door Super saloon, and a true embodiment of the stylings and indeed power of Lamborghini. With the use of the Gallardo LP560 engine, it was ready to take on the likes of Aston Martin, Maserati and Porsche, with their 4-seater model ranges. This however was only a prototype car, but prospects were looking very good. Lamborghini had hoped to start producing this car by 2010, but didn’t happen, and as of now, there is still no news on the prospects for a Lamborghini saloon. (Lambocars 2000-2013)
By 2009 the Gallardo series had included the LP550-2, a 2-wheel drive variant, the Gallardo LP560 GT3, and the Blancpain Super Trofeo. A further release of the Murciélago was also on the table in the form of the LP650-4, and the brilliant Murciélago LP670-4 SV. In reality the SV, (Superveloce) was really more of a hypercar, and really the high performance version and swan song of the Murciélago series. It made use of a large carbon fibre spoiler, as well as a new front and rear end, all dressed in dry carbon fibre, while integrating an all new hexagonal design for the glass engine bay cover. (Lambocars 2000-2013)
The next year included further refinement to the Gallardo range, such as the LP570-4 SV and also included the very last version of the Murciélago, the LP670-4 SV China Limited Edition. This was not the big news though, as that came in the form of a hardcore stripped out carbon beauty, the Sesto Elemento. (Lambocars 2000-2013) This outrageous car, limited to a ridiculous unit of only three, is an unbelievable work of wonder. “Sesto Elemento“, means sixth element, in Italian, which is not by chance, as the sixth element on the periodic table is carbon.
The car is based on a Gallardo platform, and is also driveable, although a non street legal, track-attack concept monster. It features a body made entirely out of carbon fibre and makes use of a very geometric, almost “edgy” styling. It uses characteristical features such as the rear hexagonal air outlets for the engine, and combines a monocoque chassis, all the way from front to the rear wing. The engine is accessed by removing the entire back of the car in one piece. It was designed to save weight, to such a degree, that only some sections were painted with a veneer of red, to accentuate the features on the car. It totally worked too, as it weighs just under 1000kgs, and has a 0-60mph time of just 2.5 seconds!
Lamborghini was not going to stop there yet, they needed to keep up with the steady supply of dream car reality; and thus, in the shadows of the following year lurked some very big news; the state-of-the-art replacement for the Murciélago.
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