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Lamborghini Veneno: The Hypercar That Surprised Even Its CEO

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Of all the hypercars on display at this week's Geneva Motor Show, the Lamborghini Veneno may go down in history as the least rational and most astonishing. With only four copies total to be made, the 220-mph, $4.6 million carbon-fiber is a lawn dart aimed right at the heads of the competing McLaren P1 and LaFerrari, launched almost simultaneously on Tuesday.

The Veneno might also be the only car in recent memory to go from sketch pad to show floor without a final glance of approval by the company's CEO. In the rush to get it ready for the annual auto show, the only complete Veneno in the world went right to Geneva's Palexpo center before Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann could see it complete for the first time.

While it launches concept cars in other venues like Paris or even Pebble Beach, Lamborghini says only the Geneva Motor Show would do as the venue for the debut of the Veneno, a tribute to Lamborghini's 50th anniversary, says Maurizio Reggiani, director of research and development.

"Geneva is the most important venue in the world," says Reggiani, "Every supersport brand tries to have something to say: 'This is my vision of the future.'"

Geneva, he adds, is where the company puts out its most important news, and models, like the Aventador and Gallardo, reserving concepts like the Urus and Estoque for auto shows like Paris, Shanghai, even The Quail, to gauge public opinion, "to attack the market and to see the reaction, to allow us to take a decision" on whether to proceed to production or not.

A most extreme statement

This year, the statement from Lamborghini is arguably its most extreme yet.

"We want to say, this is our DNA. Nothing is forbidden to Lamborghini. We can be extreme in design, in technicality, in use of different materials, in different technology."

The mission handed to Reggiani and his engineers was to also make a car that could be fully homologated, and sellable.

The result is the Veneno, a name like every other Lamborghini, coined from a fighting bull, but also derived from the Spanish word for venom. Its Le Mans-ready look aside, the Veneno has 740 horsepower courtesy a 6.5-liter V-12 engine, a 0-60 mph time estimated at 2.8 seconds, and a top speed figured at 220.5 mph.

The engine is naturally aspirated, and Reggiani says for now, at least, that's a Lamborghini hallmark--in marked contrast to the hybrid packs added to the McLaren and Ferrari hypercars also on the Geneva show floor.

"At the moment, from an engineering point of view, we want to be top, but to also guarantee the DNA of Lamborghini," Reggiani says. "If the rule of the game will change, we will see what is the best choice on maintaining the DNA of Lamborghini."

He acknowledges that those other hypercars are changing the equation--but still insists there's no need yet to alter Lamborghini's reliance on conventional powertrains.

"We see the road, we see the landscape of what is happening in the future. For us [it] is, what is the best in terms of sportiness to maintain our DNA? Until it is not a must, naturally aspirated is perfectly fitted in our DNA."

The car is developed to a top speed that's not coincidentally higher than the figures quoted for both the LaFerrari and McLaren P1, but far off the benchmark set by another VW Group hypercar, the Bugatti Veyron. Reggiani insists the Veneno's development wasn't held back by anything, and confirms it's been tested in prototype form to its top speed at Italy's Nardo test track.

"We decided in the end, 355 kph [220.5 mph] is a good number," he says, "something we can achieve without trouble. You are really at the limits of the car. I think about the customer and I say, this is enough."

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