How do you improve a car that's already regarded as one of the world's finest?
That's the challenge Italian supercar maker Lamborghini gave its engineers in revamping the highly-successful Murcielago.
Their response is the Murcielago LP640 which made its public debut at this month's Geneva motor show in Switzerland.
The new take on the mid-engined supercar features what Lamborghini says are "considerable innovations in terms of body design and mechanics."
The name, Murcielago LP640, refers to its engine position - longitudinale posteriore (longitudinally mounted at the rear) - and to its power output of 640bhp.
Designers and engineers reworked the engine, suspension, gearbox, exhaust system, brakes and electronics to make the Murcielago LP640 the "most extreme and fastest sports car in its class."
They also made major changes to the interior and exterior design.
The LP640 is even more aggressive than the original Murcielago, with new front and rear bumpers. The exhaust outlets are contained within the rear bumper diffuser. The taillights have been restyled to make the LP640 instantly recognisable, even at night.
On the car's sides, the area behind the air intake on the right side is practically closed, but the left side has a vast aperture for cooling the oil radiator.
The rear view mirrors and the windscreen wipers have been modified to improve aerodynamics and 18-inch diamater Hermera alloy wheels are fitted. The graphics of the instrument panel lights in the cockpit have been revamped. The interior upholstery also has a new look thanks to the lozenge-shaped stitching.
Engine and technical stuff
Lamborghini has given the Murcielago's V12 increased bore and longer stroke, raising cubic capacity from 6.2 litres to 6.5 litres.
It's 60 horsepower more powerful than the old V12, now developing 640bhp (471kW) at 8000rpm. Peak torque is a massive 660Nm at 6000rpm.
The cylinder head and entire intake system (based on the Lamborghini variable geometry system), have been completely reworked. The crankshaft, camshafts and exhaust system have also been redeveloped.
The power and torque increases cut the 0-100km/h time by 0.4 seconds to an exhilarating 3.4 seconds. Top speed is more than 320km/h.
The engine's driveability has been enhanced by a continuous variable timing system (intake and exhaust) and a drive-by-wire engine management system.
To improve engine cooling, a considerably largeroil radiator has been fitted on the left side of the vehicle. Electronically managed air intakes open depending on the outside temperature and the need for cooling air, ensuring maximum aerodynamic efficiency.
The transmission has been beefed up with a modified six-speed gearbox, and more rubust rear differential and new axle shafts.
The e-gear automatic gearbox is available as an option.
The LP640 retains permanent four-wheel drive, based on the Lamborghini VT (Viscous Traction) system. The system is self-governing and doesn't have any electronic controls.
The torque split is rear-biased, with 30 per cent of the drive going to the front wheels and 70 to the rear in normal driving. An independent control circuit adjusts the torque distribution between the axles, and in extreme situations, up to 100 per cent of the drive can go to a single axle.
Modified engine control units improve engine performance and driveability using closed loop control.
Every engine and vehicle parameter is managed and controlled by three master control units and a satellite unit.
The master control units consist of two Lamborghini LIE engine control units, a Lamborghini GFA (Auxiliary Function Management) control unit and a Lamborghini PMC (Power Motor Control) satellite control unit. The control units are interconnected by a CAN Bus line.
The body, with its characteristic scissor doors, is made of sheet steel and honeycombed carbon fibre, glued and riveted together.
Driving, handling and stability at high speed are enhanced by new springs and stabilisers, as well as by a redesigned electronically controlled damper. Anti-dive and anti-squat are standard. There are two springs on each rear wheel, and single springs at the front.
The LP640 can be fitted with variously-sized Pirelli P Zero Rosso tyres. Standard fit are 245/35 ZR18 front and 335/30 ZR18 rear tyres.
For sports use, especially on racetracks, Lamborghini offers optional Pirelli P Zero Corsa (Race) tyres. Pirelli P Sottozero (sub zero) winter tyres are currently being developed.
The four-wheel disc brake system is enhanced by four-channel ABS with electronic brake control (DRP) and traction control.
Larger diamater ceramic brakes with six-piston brake callipers and greater resistance to fade, are available as an option. Safety gear includes dual front airbags (a 60-litre single stage airbag on the driver's side and a 130-litre two stage airbag on the passenger's side).
The seats in the cockpit have been changed radically. They're more spacious and have redesigned head restraints. The leather upholstery features lozenge-shaped stitching called Q-citura. The same design is used on the door trim panels, the firewall between the seats and the engine compartment, and on the roof panel.
The redesigned instrument panel isflanked by a new Kenwood car radio with a 6.5-inch widescreen monitor and DVD, MP3 and WMA player.
First examples of the Murcielago LP640 are expected to arrive in New Zealand before the end of the year.
* Lamborghini's Privilegio customisation programme allows customers to make their cars individual. Among customisation items offered are a refined carbon finish for the air conditioning control panel, the control lever console and the handbrake.
* Owners who want to show off the heart of their Murcielago LP640 can order a glass engine cover in place of the standard unit.
* Since the original Murcielago's debut at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show, around 2000 have been built in Lamborghini's factory in Sant' Agata Bolognese, Italy.
Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 specifications
Engine 6496cc, quad cam, 60-degree, all-alloy V12. Maximum power, 640bhp (471kW) at 8000rpm.
Peak torque, 660Nm at 6000rpm. Variable geometry ait intake with three operating modes. Four valves per cylinder. Lamborghini LIE electronic engine control unit, multipoint, sequential timed fuel-injection. Dirve-by-wire throttle.
Transmission Permanent all-wheel drive with Viscous Traction system. Six-speed gearbox.
Suspension Four-wheel independent articulated quadrilateral system. Hydraulic shock absorbers and coaxial coil springs. Dual front and rear struts, antiroll, antidive and antisquat bar.
Wheels 18-inch diameter alloy.
Tyres Front, 245/35 ZR18. Rear, 335/30 ZR18.
Brakes Ventilated discs front and rear. Front, 380mm by 34mm; eight-pot callipers. Rear, 355mm by 32mm; four-pot callipers. ABS antilock system. Ceramic 380mm by 38mm discs available as an option.
Performance Top speed, 320km/h-plus. 0-100km/h, 3.4 seconds.
Dimensions Length, 4610mm. Width, 2058mm (including exterior mirrors, 2240mm). Height, 1135mm. Wheelbase, 2665mm. Front track, 1635mm. Rear track, 1695mm. Dry weight (no fuel), 1665kg. Fuel tank capacity, 100 litres.