You think you were excited about what Lamborghini was unveiling at Geneva? We talked to two of the three gentlemen who bought a Lamborghini Veneno for more than $4 million before they ever set eyes on the real thing. That's love... and a lot of faith in Lamborghini's designers.
The rumor of a front-engined GT from Lamborghini at Geneva turned out to be not more than a clever distraction. Instead, we got the Veneno, and it's been a week since Mr. Winkelmann presented the prototype at Geneva, so we all had some time to think about this anniversary special.
Chris Harris didn't get it, and also said that since the Gallardo is ten years old now, the warning bells are out there for Lambo. He has driven Lamborghinis before, while I haven't. But still, I respectfully disagree. The Gallardo is a very potent and good looking car even after a decade, and while a replacement is surely due, the Diablo was produced for eleven years and I'd still take a 6.0 VT SE from 2001 instead of an early Murcielago.
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So I'm with Travis on this. The Veneno is indeed the next poster on children's walls, and that's exactly what the two smiling men wearing Veneno pins on their jackets told us during the first two minutes of our conversation. Meet Antoine Dominic, former Ferrari customer and current owner of Lamborghini Long Island, and Kris Singh, Managing Director of Tequesta Investments from Florida. They just spent $4 million each on a car they haven't really seen apart from some renderings before putting down their deposits. But they've seen it now, and couldn't be happier.
We are clearly all fanboys at the table, the only difference is that they can buy their dream cars while Peter and I remain on the other side of the glass. Still, money was not enough if you wanted to own a Veneno.
Lamborghini carefully chose the trio, and looking at the American pair, I'm beginning to understand why the factory took their money. They're in love with the brand. Antoine used to own a Ferrari F40 which scared him out of his mind, an F50 which needed a braking plan in advance, and an Enzo which was great but not too user friendly thanks to its firm suspension.
He still has a Maserati MC12 and a special Bentley ISR in his garage just in case, but the fact that he became a Lamborghini dealer tells a lot. Kris is in his thirties, and not afraid to joke around a bit. He gives credit to Volkswagen for creating the best car in the world ( the Bugatti Veyron) by marrying a Beetle to an Audi TT RS. He also owned Ferraris before, and tells us that the last ones he liked were the 430 Scuderia and the 16M, but still he would choose a Gallardo Superleggera or Performante instead of those. They don't like Ferrari's new headlamps. I'm onboard.
Kris calls Lamborghini's Chief Designer, Filippo Perini a modern day Marcello Gandini, a genius in short. He also begged Winkelmann to sell him the Estoque, and will buy the Lambo SUV as soon as it hits the showrooms.
But it's not just the shapes that these guys prefer to other supercar makers. They love the direct feel of the single clutch gearbox (Kris can't see why anybody would need faster shift-times than 50 milliseconds), and the raw power of the new V12. Antoine puts it this way: "When you have the best design, the best engine and the best gearbox, you have an unbeatable combination."
Looking at Peter's MacBook, Kris is keen to give a high five for the old V12's firing order. He knows the numbers as he used them for codes in the past. I get my high five when I tell them how much I hate when people hide away their rare cars. They assure us the Venenos won't be hidden. Antoine will put his on display at the showroom in Long Island, while Kris will drive his around Florida as much as possible. He wants to be the guy sharing the poster car with the children on the street. The cars are in good hands.
We start to talk about performance, and since they both drive Aventadors, they know the figures. Because Lamborghini is fighting for reduced weight instead of having more horsepower, 691 horses and the all-wheel drive system can take the base car to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds. They believe that's better than what the McLaren P1 or the LaFerrari can do with all those heavy electrics.
If not, who cares? These guys find Veyrons soulless. They wanted "the spaceship that landed in the floor over there." And they got it. Only the color of the stripes on their cars remains a secret.
Look at this rear, and imagine it with a numberplate. Michael Lock, the boss of Lamborghini North America calls it "crazy" with a big smile on his face. I couldn't agree more. Crazy is what they've been selling since the Countach, and looking at the wheel arches of the Veneno, they clearly haven't forgot about that legacy. When I tell him that it surprised me two of the three cars ended up in North America, he says he wanted to sell all three. In the end, one went to the Middle-East. Still, Europe only gets the prototype in the Lamborghini Museum, so America pretty much won this round.
I'm curious what can he tell me about future Lamborghinis, but we start with the last few years instead. Since everybody loved the Estoque concept, I'm wondering why they choose to build a SUV as the third model.
Surprisingly, he says there is simply no sufficient platform at the VW Group, and before I could ask about the Porsche Panamera, he tells us that's too fat. Then he corrects it to "well-built" with another smile, but the facts remain. As he puts it, Lamborghini won't do badge engineering. So sticking Lamborghini badges and a carbon body on a Panamera chassis is not going to happen. The Urus is different, and they're just waiting for VW's green light to start. Having a better base for that, the engineers have enough flexibility to turn it into a proper Lamborghini. That means having less weight, radical styling and more power than anybody else on the market. That's the Lambo way.
We talk about China for a while, and it turns out that's the only market where Ferrari can't outsell Lamborghini like it does everywhere else. The reason is that Chinese kids neither had Lamborghini or Ferrari posters on their walls thirty years ago. Ferrari's motorsport heritage simply doesn't count in Asia, so it's all down to today's styling and performance. So let's look at those...
The Veneno might look like something that was designed by a child on LSD, but don't get fooled by that. The giant adjustable wing, that insane diffusor and the sharp spoilers in the front are all there to improve aerodynamics, meaning more downforce and less drag. Thanks to the completely new carbon fiber body and lightweight materials on the inside like the carbonskin trimming, the Veneno prototype is 270 pounds lighter than the Aventador. And the three production cars will be even lighter than that. The car also gets a modified suspension with new dampers, springs and anti roll bar to support that extra grip.
According to Lamborghini's Research and Development Director Maurizio Reggiani, every team involved in the process could finish with a happy feeling. The designers could go extreme, the aerodynamics team wasn't limited by styling, and the engineers could turn that V12 into something even mightier surrounded by the most advanced materials available.
The end result is 3,218 pounds propelled by 750 horsepower. Compared to the Aventador's V12, the Veneno's has improved back-pressure on the exhaust side, retuned engine management and a brand new camshaft for higher revs. The redline is at 9000rpm while maximum power comes at 8700. All that results in a car with an electronically limited top speed of 220 mph. He wouldn't tell us what it could do without the nanny, but I guess more would be the right answer.
Lamborghini will stay normally aspirated for now. That's the most responsive engine, and that's what they want from their cars. If they reach the point when regulations make it impossible, forced induction is the next step, and only when that's not enough will they turn to hybrids in their supercars. The reason is simple: low weight is the most efficient tool in the pursuit of speed, while electric systems are heavy and large. Packaging is an issue when you want perfect balance. The Urus SUV is a different story. That will be big enough for a hybrid power train, and the positioning shouldn't be a problem either. So it's not like they are living in the past at Lamborghini, they just have a strong idea of what's right for their products.
In the end, the critics are almost right. McLaren and Ferrari presented the new generation of supercars at the Geneva Motor Show, and Porsche is not far behind with their development. Lamborghini on the other hand went there to celebrate, with the craziest car we've seen in years. The only problem is that I don't think the hybrids could beat that spaceship on tarmac...
Photo credit: Peter Orosz and Máté Petrány