2008 Lamborghini Reventon First Drive

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2008 Lamborghini Reventon Coupe

(6.5L V12 AWD 6-speed Automated Manual)
  • 2008 Lamborghini Reventon Picture

    2008 Lamborghini Reventon Picture

    This is the hardest work the Reventón will ever see since it's destined for museums, not track days. | September 15, 2009

15 Photos

A V12-Powered, 211-mph Poster for Your Wall

The 2008 Lamborghini Reventón is about to pull out of the garage for the first time. If the photographer from the poster company is not here, he'll have to explain to the bank manager why he missed making that image for the bedroom wall of adolescent boys all around the world.

The rarest, most expensive and most powerful Lamborghini of all time is waiting for us.

You see, the $1.4 million Lamborghini Reventón has never before been seen on any earthly surface other than the plastic of the stand at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show, and has never been driven by anybody whose business card does not say, "Giorgio Sanna, Chief Test Driver."

Until today.

A Day That Dreams Are Made of
When we were young and had posters of supercars on our bedroom walls, we nurtured the standard-issue twin dreams of becoming a fighter pilot and of one day driving a Lamborghini. Today we're going to do both.

We're at a test track in Italy, and a transporter has fetched up with the 2008 Lamborghini Reventón. It's accompanied by an army of technicians similar in size to the Azerbaijan military, but with nicer uniforms.

We're nervous, and with good reason. This is the car that Lamborghini has built for those who think the Murciélago LP640 is a little understated, a little tame perhaps, a frisson light on power. Naturally enough, there are only 20 people in the entire world sufficiently nuts to believe this, and each of them has already shelled out the GNP of Sierra Leone to secure the Reventón of his dreams.

We can see a lime-green Murciélago parked beside the pit garages and it draws the eye with the exotic exuberance with which Sant'Agata has long been blessing the world, but it's a decoy. Behind it, its angular ass peeking out from the garage, is something that looks like a prop from a big-budget sci-fi movie. A geometric jumble of lines, angles and creases, it's the color and texture of granite, and it absorbs light rather than reflects it.

Maker of War
The dulled sheen of the color hits you first because it's so unthinkable. Cars should shine and glitter and fizz, but this is a jet fighter, capable of popping undetected over the border and posting a smart bomb through exactly the right mail slot from 50,000 feet. And just like a modern jet fighter, the Reventón is not made of metal. Lamborghini has gone to all this trouble to create a carbon-fiber masterpiece and then used a paint called Gray Barra due that by virtue of infusion with metallic particles resembles steel.

Somebody from Lamborghini starts talking about bombers, or more specifically the F-22A Raptor combat jet from which the Reventón crew derived inspiration. But a stealth fighter looks like it does in order to be invisible to radar, and the Reventón cannot pull off this trick. If the car truly could glide unnoticed at 211.3 mph past a policeman with a radar gun, then it would indeed begin to look like a bargain, even at $1.4 million. But bearing in mind you can't help but look at the Reventón, this Lamborghini is just slightly less stealthy than a knight in armor on a space hopper.

Even so, the Reventón has done its flying hours in the wind tunnel and emerged into a world in which its sister, the Murciélago, is no longer the slippery queen. Without the aid of body spoilers, yet armed to the teeth with the mother and father of aerodynamic undertrays, massive front air intakes, asymmetric side pods and a complex rear diffuser, the Reventón cuts the theoretical air like a scalpel.

The Pure Bloodline of Lamborghini
What matters is that there's integrity in this project, not mere posturing. The car is built not just to amaze but also to deliver, to perform, to overachieve against all expectation. In short, the Reventón is meant to reassure the doubters for whom the Italian company's pure bloodline was forever contaminated by marriage into the Audi family. This is why it carries the name of a famous bull (like all Lamborghinis): in this case the name of Reventón, which killed the well-known novillero Felix Guzman in 1943 at a bullring in Mexico.

And what is a Lamborghini all about if not performance, if not brutal acceleration, and cornering witnessed through the side window? What is rakish design without such performance? Today we find out. Except they don't want us to drive too fast. What?

They don't want us to extend the car too far, to get too close to the redline in any gear. Eh? The aluminum plate set in high on the rear bulkhead between the two seats reads "0/20," which means in a worldwide super-limited run of just 20 cars, this is car zero. Or, to put it less cleverly, it's the one earmarked for the Lamborghini museum.

But wait. Under all the aeronautical camouflage, this is still a Lamborghini, which means that on a tight, twisty track like this, we'll never get to the rev limiter in anything other than 1st and 2nd gear anyway. And as for 200 mph, well, that's just a fantasy. We've got 2 kilometers of straightway on the runway here, and not even an F-22 could hit warp speed in that distance.

But, sorry — bollocks to that. Lamborghini has taken the Murciélago LP640, a planet-crushing, chest-thumping beast of a car, given it to the geniuses in Centro Stile, the design studio at the company's headquarters in Sant'Agata and told them to "compress the DNA," "out-extreme the extreme" and "build the greatest automotive superlative ever." And now we're jolly well going to do what none of its 20 owners are likely to do — enjoy it.

Keep It on the Island, Please
The day gets off to a bad, bad start. It's raining when we arrive, and the track is greasy when Marco takes us on a familiarization lap of the circuit in a Nissan 350Z. Three corners after we take over the wheel, we're on the grass and axle deep in agriculture. Marco disguises his fear as laughter, but we're both thinking the same thing — thank God it wasn't the Lambo.

Hours later on a drying track, it is. Marco's already been lapping, showing how it's done, and we've heard the engine revs bouncing off the limiter as he fires up the back straight, but even at full chat, he's never properly into 4th gear. And despite the fact it's that V12, mounted behind our ears where we love it and feel it most — and despite eking 10 horsepower extra above the Murciélago V12's output to 641 hp — the engine nevertheless lacks a little drama. If you've listened to a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano yowling, you'll know the sound we're hoping for. And it's missing.

Then we're finally in the car, struggling to fit our large-size bucket into the carbon-fiber buckets molded around factory test driver Mario Fazanetto, who sits beside me, clearly deeply worried. The scissor door clunks down and we're face-to-face for the first time with...well, it's not exactly a dashboard. It's like confronting the instrument panel of the new double-decker Airbus passenger jet and being expected to get it off the ground.

The Reventón's instrument binnacle has been milled from a lump of aluminum and enclosed with a carbon-fiber case, and it houses the set of dials that a great icon ought to have been equipped with. OK, "dials" is the wrong word. We're talking about three liquid-crystal displays, housing data that is about the speed of the engine, not the speed of the car. If it's all too much, you can flick a switch and introduce a quasi-analog set of dials. As for us, we're concentrating on the two knife-thin carbon-fiber shift paddles tucked behind the suede-upholstered carbon-fiber steering wheel.

Drive, He Said
So we drive.

Our throttle foot is twitchier than a police marksman, and the first few corners are a mess of over-corrected steering and ill-advised lift-offs. But once we're through Turn 3 and past the gouges of my earlier gardening excursion, the Reventón comes alive.

The 48-valve 6.5-liter DOHC V12 may sound hesitant from the outside, but in here it thwarps pleasingly in your ear and tickles your diaphragm with each super-quick, electronically controlled shift of the automated sequential manual gearbox. Less violent and more linear than Ferrari's super-box, the Lamborghini's transmission massages the engine, woofling the revs back on upchanges and blipping sweetly on the downshifts.

The car grips tenaciously, corners with a fluid swagger and then boots out of the exits with the sort of whooping drama every Lambo owner will always demand. But the Reventón is not a track car. It's not a Ferrari, not even a Porsche. It's a sculpture, and that's what it looks like from outside and from within as it hunkers down onto the track to prove what it can certainly do, but will never have to.

Out on the road, we briefly discover that the Reventón is not a road car, either. Too wide, too low and cursed with a ride so harsh it genuinely hurts, this Lamborghini taunts you with its potential while you thread through villages in the Italian countryside, scattering wide-eyed, zombielike citizens and extremely curious law enforcers. Then you're supposed to quickly take it home, polish it once more and ease it into your temperature-controlled garage or, better still, your art gallery.

A New Poster for the Wall
We arrive back at the track to find a small cluster of people outside the gate, one of whom might perhaps be the man from the poster company, hoping he's not too late to immortalize the 2008 Lamborghini Reventón in the eyes of the world's teenagers just as his predecessors did the legendary Miura and Countach.

Has Lamborghini done it again, given the world another legend? The man from the poster company says, "yes!"

And, with a sigh of relief, so do we.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

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