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Auto Hypnosis

If You're in the Market for the Planet's Priciest Production Cars, Look No Further
Joshua Shapiro
From the Print Edition:
Pierce Brosnan, Nov/Dec 97

(continued from page 5)

Lamborghini is the newest marque among the over-$100,000 club. When it was introduced in 1963 by Ferruccio Lamborghini, the story goes, the manufacturer of farm machinery was so miffed by the treatment that he received from Enzo Ferrari that he decided to beat him at his own game. Lamborghini was a proud Taurean who loved bullfighting. Hence, the logo of his company is a raging bull, and allthe models (except the Countach) have been named for breeds of bulls. The current model Lamborghini Diablo VT's radical styling and aggressive performance truly befit the logo.

The driver who delivered mine told me that when other truckers inquire what he is hauling, he radios back on his CB: "I am hauling this thing to Washington from Area 51 in the Nevada desert, where the government has been hiding it the last 40 years." You can believe it. The chassis resembles a DeLorean, with scissoring doors and Nike swooshlike lines. Whatever its specs say, it is the fastest, wildest machine I have ever driven. As you change into second gear in under four seconds, a glance at the speedometer tells you that you're topping 60 mph; but then, this car can do 65 mph in reverse.

While its makers encourage buyers to drive it every day inordinary situations, I would pass. The car is as wide as a Hummer,but unlike the commanding view of the road ahead offered by a sport-utility vehicle, the Diablo VT sits so low to the ground (five inches) that while driving you can actually look up to a guard rail. This isnot a car to drive when learning to parallel park. It has too many blind spots, and a rear window that's only a tad larger than a mail slot. The optimum situation would be to have diplomatic immunity or a decent race track on your own estate. Otherwise, you might consider relocating to Montana, where highway speed limits have been abolished. City traffic and potholes are death to a car this low and wide.

The VT experience comes across as elemental and raw. It manifests the untamed exuberance of riding a rocket while holdingthe engine in your right arm. You get a steering wheel (adjustable),a stick shift (gated five-speed) and the largest tires (Pirelli Pzero 335/35 ZR17) found on any production car. No frills like traction control, ABS or even air bags clutter the 1997 model. Everything but the ethereal cabin sound is extraneous.

The sounds (not of the Alpine radio) are what you live forin this car. The revving engine shrieks like Valkyries. The wind howls in tandem with the blur past the windshield. Even the manifolds sucking in air scream with differentials in the throttle. Thisis the most excitement you can have as a civilian.

While the car comes with standard all-wheel drive, the mid-engine 492 hp double overhead cam V12 overpowers the 12.8-inch Brembo brakes. Accelerating up through the 7,000-rpm red line is akin to dumping jet fuel into an afterburner: "Warp drive, Mr. Sulu." In sum, consider the Diablo a beautiful ivory-handled, engravedand gold-inlaid straight razor--beautiful to look at and an incomparable performer when used knowledgeably. Otherwise, it can doserious and lasting damage.

Three things are worth remembering when you're buying a Wilsonmobile: 1) Specifications such as top speed and acceleration might be inaccurate and don't reveal what a car feels like to drive. The ownership and road experience for each of these cars is significantly different. Some, like the Diablo, require major driving time before you can begin to understand and appreciate them. 2) Despite appearances to the contrary, each car requires professional-level driving skills. Ferrari, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce provide their customers with factory driving schools. The other option is to go to a domestic performance-driving school, such as the programs run by Skip Barber, Bob Bondurant or Jim Russell. Learn your car's parameters. Experience its performance envelope in a safe track environment. Develop the reflexes for throttle steering and heel/toe power shifting. 3) Buy several. How else can you choose between getting that Ferrari in red or black, manual or automatic, coupe or convertible?

Joshua Shapiro is a freelance writer based in New York. Wilsonmobiles Porsche / Turbo Coupe* / $112,000 / www.porsche.com / Turbo S Coupe / $160,000 Mercedes-Benz / S 600 Sedan* / $130,300 / www.mercedes.com S 600 Coupe* / $133,300 / SL 600 / / $123,200 / Lamborghini / Diablo VT Coupe* / $249,000 / www.lamborghini.com / Diablo VT Roadster / $275,100 / Ferrari / 550 Maranello* / $204,000 / www.ferrari.it / 456 GT / $224,800 / 456 GTA* / $229,900 / F 355 Berlinetta / $127,000 / F 355 GTS / $133,000 / F 355 Spider / $137,000 / Aston Martin / DB7 Coupe* / $125,000 / DB7 Volante* / $135,000 Rolls-Royce Motor Cars / RR Silver Dawn / $159,000 / ww.rolls-royce.com / RR Silver Spur / $186,000 / RR Park Ward / $299,900 Bentley / Brooklands / $149,000 / Bentley Turbo R / $203,500 / Bentley Continental R / $307,100 / Bentley Continental T / $324,500 / Bentley Azure* / $329,400 /

* reviewed


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