The wild Lamborghini that flies in the face of reason
From the bowels of an Italian aircraft carrier, it emerges. Neon light bounces around, the music rouses anticipation and the hydraulic platform rises to join the main deck of the Cavour. On it sits the Lamborghini Veneno Roadster – a car that stretches the definition of the word “insane” further than practically any before it.
The Cavour sits high and proud in the waters at Mina Zayed in Abu Dhabi, here to strengthen trade and military ties between this region and Italy, but it’s Lamborghini’s show tonight and all eyes are on this outrageous automobile. It could very well have been dreamed up by Tim Burton for one of his Batman films, so unreal does it look. It’s almost reptilian in form. Angry-looking. Alien. It’s scary, intimidating and totally, gloriously impractical. It’s quite ugly, yet there’s beauty in its details. It’s totally unique and, in a world of amorphous, androgynous car designs, it serves as a reminder that Lamborghini really is important. We need this company because it’s extreme and unafraid to thumb its nose at the establishment.
And, on that basis alone, it has survived. Survived against all the odds, emerging from numerous bankruptcies in the 1970s and 80s to become strong under the guardianship of its parent, Audi. Anyone who said that the Germans would dilute what made Lamborghini so special in the first place would now be busy munching on their hats, because the Veneno drops jaws like no other car since the Countach. It’s no beauty, granted, but it is utterly sensational.
It’s sensational in every respect. Putting the visual shock and awe to one side for a moment, consider its price tag. At US$4.5million (Dh16.5million), it’s pretty much twice the price of a Bugatti Veyron, which itself is the world’s most expensive production car. The closed-roof Veneno, which was unveiled earlier this year, was some Dh2.5million less expensive, meaning that less (as usual) costs more. And yet, despite the sheer stupidity of the car and its unfathomable price, by the end of this week Lamborghini expects to have completed deals to sell all nine examples that will be built. View the Veneno Roadster not as a car, but as a sculpture, a piece of rolling art, and it somehow starts to make sense.
The Middle East is Lamborghini’s third-largest market (after the US and China), so it’s understandable that Abu Dhabi would make an ideal venue for the new car’s first public appearance. But on an aircraft carrier? Lamborghini doesn’t do things by halves, that’s for sure, and the Veneno does look like something that could have been dreamed up by the aviation sector.
So what, if you’re tempted to write that deposit cheque, do you get for your money? Apart from exclusivity, that is? Well, just as the limited-edition Reventón of 2007 was based on the bones and drivetrain of the then contemporary Murcielago, the Veneno is a wildly disguised Aventador. It has been fettled to produce more power (750hp) and an even greater turn of speed (it maxes out at 355kph and hits 100 from rest in 2.9 seconds).
But more than that, the Veneno Roadster serves as a test bed for Lamborghini’s carbon fibre technology. I have toured its CF facility, just down the road from the factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese, and what’s being achieved there is truly groundbreaking. The car’s body is almost entirely fashioned from the stuff, making it light and extremely stiff, as well as safe in the event of an accident.
It’s basically a prototype racecar that’s road legal and it will forever be held up as an example of automotive art. When Jeremy Clarkson referred to the Reventón as being more rare than a unicorn, I wonder what he’d make of this. A total of 20 Reventón coupes and 10 roadsters were produced, all immediately snapped up by collectors. Yet only three Veneno coupes were built for customers and nine of these open-topped versions will ever emerge from the factory. Somehow I believe in Lamborghini’s confidence – expect the order book to be closed by the time the ink has dried on this newspaper.
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Updated: December 5, 2013 04:00 AM