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Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Bull is broadening its horizons

SANT'AGATA BOLOGNESE, Italy — The car Lamborghini will unveil at the 2008 Paris Auto Show will be something completely different, Inside Line has learned. Following the release of the teaser photo for the concept, sources in Italy today told IL: "You have no idea. There have been phone calls and e-mails from every country on Earth."

IL sources also say the Paris car will not be at all retro in the fashion of 2006's Miura concept, nor will it be so closely influenced by the Revent as so many people seem to think.

So we should not expect to arrive in Paris and see just another Versace version, or a Super Veloce, or even the obvious Superleggera something or other.

What we should expect is a four-door Lamborghini high-luxury gran turismo with the engine in front but behind the front axle, most likely sharing the architecture with the next Audi A8. "Safe to say," says our source, "that they have every resource available from the family of companies." Rumors of any tie-in with the Panamera architecture, given recent Volkswagen-Porsche developments, "are out of the question."

We are also advised to not expect anything warm and predictable harking back to a Marzal, an Islero, an Espada, a Jarama or an Urraco. And, it can here be inferred, no super SUV.

IL learned that the project began less than five months ago and was green-lighted independently by Lamborghini bosses before they sought Ingolstadt's approval. The goal with the new four-door is to bring the brand out to a wider luxury sporting public. The showcar has been constructed completely in Italy, purportedly in the Sant'Agata studios with the assistance of some Audi design workers.

So, it seems that the big story in Paris is bound to be the advent of the luxury exotic sedans: Lamborghini's four-door is joined by Porsche's Panamera, and we eagerly await the definitive iteration of the Aston Martin Rapide.

"Lamborghini is at a point where it can set off in new and plausible directions with the entire brand image," says our source. "In a sense, it needs to be able to tell customers what they ought to like about the brand. The experts are at Lamborghini." In this vein, IL also learned that no advance focus groups were convened to get approval of likely heavy-hitter customers.

In addition, we learned that this new super sedan is meant to do comparatively significant volumes and carry a range of engines which includes the current V10 in the Gallardo and probably the V12 from the Murci駘ago. While getting down to a V6 is improbable, a new-generation V8 is likely for a base model. There is no word on whether or not one version will provide rear-wheel-only traction.

What this means to you: The bull is ingeniously broadening its pasture and stealing every headline. Can a Ferrari four-door response be far off?