The Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4

To drive the new 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 you need to be all of three things. First, not in the least bit shy, second, short – we’ll get to that later and third, rich – that goes without saying.

 The design for this new Gallardo has been refined to include flared nostrils for air intakes at the front while the rear sports cleaner lines and a new rear diffuser. The overall effect is stunning, aero-dynamically more efficient and downright sexy!

This brings me nicely to my first point. Park the Gallardo anywhere and within minutes a crowd will have formed. Often it’s there as you park. In service stations, hordes of kids and adults alike will gather respectfully around the car and silently mouth words of adoration. Park up in the Piazza of a tiny Tuscan village and the entire local population will be out to pay homage. Stop on a deserted mountain road to admire the view and still people appear as if from nowhere.

Strangely, there is no discernable sense of anti-climax amongst the gathered throng when they realise that the driver is just a badly dressed journo and not a famous soccer player or movie star. They are only interested in the car, but love you for having it.

Given the new-found attention, which you are now firmly at the centre of, the second point comes into play. The Gallardo has eschewed the ‘gull wing’ doors of its fellow stable mates in favour of the kind of doors found on the cars of most normal people. With an overall height of just 1.165m and a ground clearance of around 115mm, getting out of the car becomes an act of supreme agility and for some, requires quite some practise to master. Nothing quite says ‘it’s not really mine’ like falling chin first out of the car onto the shoes of a member of the adoring crowd. So, at 1.7m tall, I became adept at this soon after leaving the Sant’Agata factory; my much taller co-driver (wife) was not so lucky, but the doctors are confident she will be out of traction soon.

Four paragraphs about the appearance of a car may seem excessive but this is quite some package. On top of the tasteful facelift has come a host of mechanical improvements in the best traditions of pure evolution, rather than just technical tampering. All that was great before still is, while some of the great stuff just got glorious.

The engine size is up to 5.2 litres now and along with the new direct injection fuel system, 40 more brake horsepower lift the total to 552, providing a top speed of 325kmph. The car comes with either a traditional manual gearbox or the ‘e-gear’ automatic system, which I drove, all with six gears, plus reverse. In full automatic mode, the car can easily be driven around town and comfortably at distance on the motorways. ‘Sport’ mode makes the changes more aggressive, widely spaced, and introduces a very pleasing (and audible) throttle blip on the down changes. ‘Corsa’ mode is for the track and enables the ‘launch control’ which lets you get the majority of the 552bhp onto the tarmac for earth-shatteringly quick starts.

 Up and down paddles are also there for those who want more control and these too are responsive and fun to use. Reversing is achieved by pressing a thoughtfully provided ‘R’ button to the left of the steering wheel. This saves the frantic paddle flapping associated with earlier varieties of this system. One criticism I would make here is that the paddles do not rotate with the steering wheel so to use them on aggressive drives can require the same level of manual dexterity often associated with concert pianists.

The sound (I refuse to call it noise) produced by the mid-mounted engine immediately provokes the sort of stupid grin rarely seen on middle-aged faces. Even in full automatic, accelerating from just under 4000rpm upwards rewards the driver with a sound that is almost tactile, rising from growl to howl as your surroundings start to blur. There is none of the high-pitched whining associated with ‘other’ cars. This is pure Lamborghini and I defy anyone with a Y chromosome not to be moved by it.

 To borrow a quote from the old Pirelli Ad, “Power is nothing without control.” This car has it in abundance. The permanent 4×4 Viscous Traction System with limited slip differentials front and back mated to tires the size of small African countries provides grip that both flatters and excites. This car could climb vertical walls in the wet.

Inside the cabin, leather and smart design abounds. The individually crafted seats offer comfort and support and the driving position is spot on. Some people complain about the prevalence of Audi switch gear but I found it easy to use providing clear, Germanic control over a very Italian car. Anyway, if all you are interested in is the air conditioning controls with all the other stuff that is happening around you, then you are probably in the wrong car.

 I suppose it would be wrong to finish this without addressing my third point–cost. Yes, the Gallardo is expensive but not much more than the Ferrari 430, and it is more of a car. Parked next to one in a service station, everyone was looking at the Gallardo–even the Ferrari driver! And the Aston Martin DBS will cost you more but deliver less performance.

The Gallardo is a true supercar, but also one which can be driven by those who are strangers to the track. With all the aids switched on, you could take your driving test in it. Press two buttons and you unleash a very Italian beast.

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