Like most Italians, Moreno Conti is a man prone to hand gestures. "Yesterday," he says, his hands swooping toward my face, "parking in the Via Internationale in Bologna, all of Bologna, it was like this." He raises his arms again, elbows dancing, and brings both fists down toward his belt buckle. I have no idea what this movement means, but it's followed immediately by more gestures, most of them too quick to decipher. He quickly realizes he's losing me and wraps things up: "Much handling," he says, hands on his hips, "for the tour bus."
Conti is trying to tell me what happens when you take the $1.4 million Lamborghini Reventón out into traffic. (As far as I can tell, tour buses make illegal U-turns, intersections grind to a halt, and the delicate fabric of society rips itself a new one.) He should know. Conti is the man in charge of Lamborghini's demonstration fleet and the Reventón's de facto chaperone, and as such, he's probably done more miles in the car than anyone else.
And so I am waiting in the courtyard in front of Lamborghini's headquarters, standing next to the irreplaceable, only-one-of-its-kind Lamborghini Reventón and wondering if my brain is going to implode when I turn the key. I climb into the car, stab the brake pedal, and fire things up. My brain doesn't collapse at the sound, the Earth continues to spin on its axis, and Paris Hilton is still alive and well. I am, I admit, somewhat disappointed.
To be a little disappointed in the Reventón, however, is to know the Reventón well. Lamborghini hawks the car as an all-new, world-beating model-one befitting a sticker price that's more than triple that of any other production Lamborghini-but in reality, it's little more than a tweaked and rebodied Murciélago LP640. The Reventón's 6.5-liter V-12 is standard-issue Murcié stuff, as are the car's all-wheel-drive system, paddle-shifted E-gear transmission, and basic body structure. It might look expensive, and it might be expensive, but it's ultimately not as get-your-hopes-up ridiculous as its price would make you think.
So what about that price? The million-dollar-yes, million-premium over a standard Murciélago buys you new carbon-fiber outer bodywork, new forged aluminum eighteen-inch wheels, new seats, new interior trim, and a new-from-the-ground-up digital instrument cluster. Not to mention exclusivity: Only twenty customer Reventóns will be built, regardless of demand, and all of them are already spoken for. (Our test car was labeled number zero of twenty; it also saw duty as the primary exhibit on Lamborghini's Frankfurt motor show stand.) The whole car was designed to look like a landed fighter jet, and the theme carries over into everything from the instrument cluster font (white military-look stencil) and trim (camo brown suede) to the paint (matte stealth-look diamond black).
In person, the Reventón isn't necessarily pretty-from some angles, it's just a mass of polygons and whack-your-knees-off sharp edges-and it's initially difficult to get your head around. The car seems entirely too one-off absurd, as if some rich customer came to pick up his Murciélago and, pinky to his lip, became a scheming Dr. Evil. ("Yes, yes, it's very nice. But can you make it . . . pointy?") Certain pieces of the Reventón's design are definitely very cool, and yet others look as if someone took a brush and a can of paint to someone else's finished work of art. All things considered, the ordinary Murciélago is a good-looking Mona Lisa of a car, and it probably didn't need fuzzy eyebrows and a Dick Dastardly moustache.
Still, cars are meant to be driven as much as stared at, and in that respect, the Reventón latest doesn't disappoint: Like the Murciélago that lives under its skin, the Reventón is an angry, unruly beast that feels barely tamed. Heavy steering, a jud-jud-juddering clutch takeup, torture-chamber unadjustable seats, and a driveline that winds up in tight corners all conspire to make you want out, and yet you keep driving. Like most Lambos, the Reventón succeeds in spite of itself-it kicks your ass six ways from Sunday, but the noise and the pain and the sheer drama of it all keep you glued to the wheel.
In the end, that's really all a million-dollar Lamborghini has to do. And as we pull back into the parking lot in Sant' Agata, a tour bus locks up its rear wheels and grinds to a halt in our path. Even in seen-it-all Lambo Land, mere feet from the factory's door, the Reventón has stopping power. Maybe that, in itself, is all those twenty soon-to-be-owners want. Much handling for the tour bus, indeed.