Think of them as street-legal race cars, though the cars that roll out of Lamborghini’s plant in Modena, Italy, might also pass for spaceships. In the 38 years since Ferruccio Lamborghini rolled out his first production car, the 350GT, the automaker has produced barely 2000 vehicles. It’s best known for the legendary Countach, an angular, spacecraft-like vehicle that adorned more posters than any Italian since Sophia Loren. It was replaced in 1990 by the Diablo and now the Murcielago, the tenth “volume” car in Lamborghini’s brief history. Yet another new model is under development, a not-very-well-kept secret. Dubbed the L140, it was a product of the Audi design studios—Lambo is owned by the German marque, itself a subsidiary of VW—and will most likely make extensive use of lightweight aluminum. It is expected to carry a price tag of a little more than half that of the Murcielago and debut in time for an early ’04 designation.

The name translates as “bat” in Spanish, and it’s pronounced “mercy-AY-lah-go.” But it is actually named after a legendary bull the matadors of Madrid couldn’t kill, a fitting image since a raging bull is Lambo’s mascot. Visually, this car virtually shouts, “I’m different.” And simply standing still, the latest in the Lamborghini line has raw visual power. Mounted at rear-midship, the Murcielago is powered by an aluminum 6.2-liter V-12 that will launch it from 0-100 kmh (0-62.5 mph) in 3.8 seconds. It has a rated top speed of 205 mph. Murcielago features the requisite Brembos, with huge, 14.0-inch rotors up front, and 13.2-inch in the rear. The brakes are coupled with an anti-lock system and traction control. Stability is further enhanced by full-time all-wheel drive.

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