On a recent rainy afternoon, Antoine Dominic slid into the driver's seat of his gleaming $4 million Lamborghini Veneno. He pressed a red start button on the dashboard, and the 740-horsepower V12 engine roared to life.
"Do you know how to drive this thing?" I asked.
"We'll figure it out," he said. "What's the worst thing? You're gonna crash a $4 million car."
Thus began a rare moment in the rarified world of multimillion-dollar supercars. Dominic, a former tech CEO turned luxury car dealer, is one of only three people in the world who own a Lamborghini Veneno—the most expensive production car on the road today.
Dominic plunked down $4 million for the car without ever seeing it. Even after the Veneno was delivered, it stayed in the showroom of his Bespoke Motor Group dealership attracting gawkers and Lambo pilgrims from around the world. Dominic simply had never carved out the time to drive it.
But this spring, CNBC showed up and begged for a ride. Dominic was not only kind enough to take us on his maiden voyage, he also let us drive. Great cars, he said, are meant to be driven. And true car enthusiasts love to share them rather than treat them as museum-piece financial investments.
"This is a car that I'm gonna enjoy," he said. "It's a car. And I've loved cars ever since childhood."
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Lamborghini didn't allow just anyone to buy a Veneno. It hand-picked three buyers based on their knowledge and appreciation of the Lamborghini brand and, of course, their buying history. The other two buyers include Kris Singh, a Florida investor, and an unnamed client in the Middle East.
Dominic was an ideal Veneno buyer. A former accountant from Sri Lanka, Dominic rose to become CEO of Excel Technology, a laser systems company that he later sold. An avid car collector, he wound up owning Bespoke Motor Group, a mega-dealership that sells Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Lamborghini cars.
When Dominic was invited by Lambo to buy the Veneno, the car hadn't even been built. Lamborghini just sent him a sales contract and asked him to quickly wire the $4 million sales price—based only on a rough artist rendering.
Dominic wired the money, then wondered if he had just made a $4 million mistake.
"I said 'what the heck did I just do?'" Dominic recalled. "'Did I do the right thing?'"
The answer turned out to be yes—at least judging by Dominic's smile as he guns the Veneno from a leisurely 20 miles per hour to "blur speed," when everything outside the windows becomes a fading blur as we drive along the back roads of Long Island, New York.
The exterior of the Veneno looks like a space-age destroyer from the Transformer movies—menacing, sleek and bristling with angled panels, air scoops, exhausts and razor-sharp fins. The car's exterior is made entirely from carbon fiber. All those cartoonish angles serve a purpose—to bring huge amounts of cooling air to the engine and create downdraft to keep the car on the road as it reaches its top speed of 220 miles per hour.
The inside of the Veneno feels like a luxury fighter jet, with bright red and green switches, hand-stitched Italian leather wraps, a carbon-fiber dash and a large flat screen. It has all the creature comforts of a normal car—except for a radio.
"You don't need one," Dominic said. "The music is the engine."
Riding in the Veneno is a surprisingly comfortable experience. It's low, tight and rigid, but not so jittery that you feel your teeth clatter. When Dominic takes sharp turns at 50 miles per hour, it feels effortless.
Driving the Veneno, however, is the real fun. The steering wheel, which has soft leather grips and a bright red ring at the top, urges you to go faster. With each gear click, a new surge of power courses through the car—and 65 miles per hour feels like idling. Once the carbon ceramic brakes warm up, they stop the car with confident, but not too sudden, strength. While plenty of cars turn heads, the Veneno stops cars dead in their tracks, leaving a trail of gawkers idling along the road.
But as much fun as it is to drive the Veneno on the road, the only way to unleash the true talents of this car is on a race track. Maybe next time.
After his first drive, I asked Dominic if he liked it.
"I don't like it," he said. "I absolutely love it."
It's not been a bad investment either. Dominic has already had offers to buy the car—for far more than $4 million.
—By CNBC's Robert Frank