Lamborghini LM002 (Rambo Lambo)

The Lamborghini LM002 looks intimidating – threatening, even. And these looks aren't deceiving. This monster's V12-sized bite is just as bad as its bark

Words and Photography Dennis van Loenhout

L

amborghini’s gigantic SUV came into being more or less by accident, the residue of a military project that, sadly, failed to impress the military. That DNA oozes from this car. The evil howl of its engine and the shadow it casts over anything in its path confirms just how intimidating this machine is. If a Countach or Diablo is a rarity, an LM002 is from another world completely. That’s it – maybe alien is a better word.

In its day, people who knew about cars scrambled over each other to say how Lamborghini was too good for the LM002; how the company should go back to making the cars it was famous for. Never one to care much about other people’s opinions, Lamborghini didn’t kill the LM002. It stuck with it, and exploited the car's 'specialness' to enhance its own aura quite masterfully. Granted, Lamborghini never made another SUV after the LM002 disappeared in 1993, but it really didn’t need to. The LM became the stuff of legend, maybe even more than the Countach – that may explain why the likes of Tina Turner, Sylvester Stallone and Mike Tyson all owned one. It attracted unsavoury types too – including Muammar Gaddafi, Pablo Escobar and Uday Hussein. Time to get in and explore that. Terry Pratchett would probably have enjoyed the ride, because the combination of surrealism and parody is striking.

Arguably, there isn’t a car in the world that is as defined by its clutch as this. Of course, with its four-wheel drive and that amazing 5.2-litre Countach V12 engine up front it was always going to need a heavy-duty clutch, but what Lamborghini came up with is frankly baffling. 'Heavy' doesn’t begin to cover it – it feels like you're physically removing the gearbox from the engine using your left foot only. Reversing the thing down a narrow road with obstacles on both sides is pure torture. You’ll find yourself trying to feather the clutch so you’re going slowly enough to see every obstacle around you. You can’t expect any help from the wing mirrors, because they'd frankly be too small even on a Fiat Panda. Continued use of a clutch like this causes so much leg ache that you have to stop and rest every minute or so.

lm002_3.jpg

Hard work, then – but this beast does reward as well. Take the engine – it mesmerises from the second you start it. It snorts, hisses and roars, shooting fireballs through its exhaust. And it is huge – it hardly fits under the giant bonnet, and even then only with the help of two gigantic bulges that completely obscure the front-seat passenger's view out of the windscreen. Rev it, and the hisses, roars and fireballs keep on coming. Lamborghini definitely understood that, when it comes to soundproofing, less sometimes really is more. It is thrilling to hear.

Once you're rolling, you're immediately aware of the weight of the thing – all 2700kg of it. Every movement in the suspension is accompanied by a rebound caused by the near-three-tonnes of mass shifting about.

You’ll soon stop noticing it, though, partly because there are more things to get used to – including a gearlever that's a good stretch away for those of us without freakishly long arms. And the Pirelli-designed bespoke Scorpions – in the outrageous size of 345/60 R 17 – tramline noticeably. However, the steering has a good feel to it, making it surprisingly easy to place the LM002 on the road.

lm002_1.jpg

Indeed, once you've summoned up the confidence to take the Lambo by the scruff of the neck, lead it to a favourite stretch of road and drive it like you would a hot hatch, it's very satisfying – the gearchange is sweet and the brakes do a fine job of slowing this behemoth.

And that addictive V12 howl is accompanied by enjoyably rapid progress when you give it some, combined with impressive roadholding for such an enormous car. It even makes a decent job of cornering at speed, albeit with a healthy dollop of body roll thrown in. When you become tired of driving it like a hooligan – and driving an LM002 does take quite some effort, as we established earlier – you can switch into 'cruise' mode, which gives you some time to take in your surroundings. You sit up really high, in a cabin that reeks of luxury. There’s leather everywhere and the carpets are almost deep enough to hide in. The stereo system (Alpine originally but replaced in this one by a more modern JVC unit with satnav) is mounted on the roof, just in case you feel the need to listen to something other than the V12.

Mind you, you may feel the need to listen to some calming, chill-out sounds after the trauma of filling up. In recognition of the LM002's catastrophic 9mpg thirst, Lamborghini fitted a 37-gallon (169-litre) fuel tank. Brim that, and you're looking at about £202.80 per fill-up, based on pump prices as we go to press.

And that may not even make it on to the list of really big bills: regular servicing costs will make all but the super-rich wince, and a set of tyres costs a small fortune. The price of repairing any damage to the aluminium and glassfibre body doesn't really bear thinking about – which is why we didn’t venture off-tarmac. We did try out its transfer box, though, and in low-ratio it feels like it could pull the very foundations from under your garage.

What an experience. Shame the GIs never got these – it would have been worth joining-up just to drive an LM002.

Lamborghini LM002

Engine: 5167cc/V12/DOHC

Transmission: 4WD, five-speed manual

Power: 450bhp @ 6800rpm

Torque: 369lb-ft @ 4500rpm

Performance

0-60mph: 7.8sec

Top speed: 130mph

Economy: 9mpg



Lewis Plumb