History is a powerful commodity for an automaker, but also a dangerous one. The line between reverential and pastiche is often fuzzy, and the list of retro-themed products that fell on the wrong side of it is long and ignominious. Who can recall Volkswagen’s front-wheel-drive New Beetle without wincing?
The risks for a supercar maker are greater still, and never more so than when dealing with a car as utterly famous as the Lamborghini Countach. The original was a sensation when it debuted in 1974, Marcello Gandini’s wedge-shaped design impressing every bit as much as the performance of the hand-built V-12 engine mounted behind the passenger compartment, a combination that has inspired every mid-engined Lamborghini since. Yet none got to share its name—until now.
The Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4 is not meant as a replica; it’s an attempt to reinterpret the original car’s spirit for the 21st century. It shares the Aventador’s carbon-fiber core but uses the same supercapacitor-boosted, 6.5-liter V-12 mill found in the Lamborghini Sián super sports car. That gives it a peak of 802 hp—more than twice the output of the original.
Even by Lamborghini’s high standards of theatricality, the Countach LPI 800-4 has superstar presence. First, it’s bigger than the original model, with the length alone increased by 29 inches. Then there’s the multitude of details that pay homage to the classic, from octagonal wheel arches like those found on the original Quattrovalvole version to a front-end graphic clearly derived from the 1988 25th Anniversary Edition.
The interior will feel familiar to anyone who has been behind the wheel of an Aventador, filled with a contemporary trim of carbon fiber and Alcantara, while a touchscreen anchors the dashboard’s center. Much of the internal architecture is shared with the Sián, including the flat-bottom steering wheel unsullied by controls or buttons.
The Aventador defines the way the new Countach moves as well. The 12-cylinder heart is an endlessly charismatic companion, its power delivery building with a linearity very different from the abrupt punch of turbocharged rivals. And it sounds spectacular, brooding and muscular low down in the rev range but increasingly snarling and angry as it approaches its 8,500 rpm limiter.
Performance is predictably savage, the 3,516-pound (dry weight) car surging from zero to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 221 mph. And although it’s impossible to discern the contribution that the supercapacitor’s 34 hp input makes to acceleration, it certainly helps to smooth out upshifts from the automated single-clutch transmission, which feel far less brutal than in the Aventador. The ride is firmer, though, even with the switchable dampers in their softest mode. Grip is huge, and the all-wheel-drive system finds massive traction; an original Countach would be lost after a few corners.
But the real question: Is the new car worthy of its famous name? For the 112 buyers who have paid $2.64 million each, the answer must be yes. Yet such is the nostalgia for the original that the Countach LPI 800-4 will always be regarded as a tribute act to its groundbreaking predecessor, despite being empirically better in every measurable metric.