2009 Lamborghini Gallardo
2009 Lamborghini Gallardo Expert Review:Autoblog
A 5.2-liter V10 with 560 horsepower, 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, a top speed of over 200 mph and one of the most beautiful modern designs to ever come out of Italy. It's the new Gallardo LP560-4, and Lamborghini wants us to drive it. There are certainly more lucrative ways to make a living than being an automotive journalist, but it's moments like this that we know we made the right career choice. The best news is that we got to drive the new LP560-4 with about two dozen Lamborghini owners. Lamborghini of Orange County recently opened up a new dealership in Newport Beach, and they invited all of their customers down to see the new showroom and go for a Sunday drive. We tackled some of California's best back roads in the LP560-4 with other Gallardos, Murcielagos, and even a few Diablos. Follow the jump to read on.
All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
We arrived at the dealership early in the morning with many of the Lamborghini owners having proven their superior punctuality. The parking lot quickly filled up even more with brightly colored Italian machinery, and we had to pull ourselves away from looking at each one to go track down the keys to the LP560-4 that we'd be driving. Compared to the lime green, orange, and yellow Lambos surrounding it, our car actually looked somewhat subtle, but beautiful nonetheless.
The other cars actually provided a good chance to compare the differences between the original Gallardo and the latest design. Starting with the exterior, the LP560-4 has a more aggressive yet cleaner design. Larger cooling intakes up front allow better air circulation and combine with a newly designed rear diffuser and smooth underbody to improve aerodynamic efficiency by 31%. The new Bi-Xenon headlights are slightly wider than before and feature LED lights in a Y structure, which is also found in the redesigned taillights. Those taillights are part of a cleaner rear end design that features a seamless engine vent and new quad exhaust tips. The changes might seem small, but Lamborghini did an excellent job in updating a design that didn't need much fixing in the first place.
Having given the exterior a once over, it was time to take a look at the interior. Not much has been changed from the original Gallardo, but it's still easy to appreciate Audi's influence in the design and quality of materials. The leather seats are extremely comfortable and the alcantara-covered steering wheel is perfectly positioned and easy to grip. The monotone colors might seem lacking in the usual flair of an Italian supercar, but Lamborghini's "Ad Personam" program ensure that customers can create any combination of color and trim. If a customer wants yellow seats and lime green trim they can get it. We'll stick with gray.
We barely had time to get adjusted in the seats when the other Lamborghinis started lining up to head out of the parking lot. We didn't want to get left behind, and so brought the V10 to life and engaged Reverse by simply pressing the "R" button to the left of the dash. And then we remembered how much of a pain it is to back up a Lamborghini. The Gallardo actually has one of the better views out its rearview mirror, but it's still pretty limited. Fortunately, Lamborghini has integrated a small camera into the rear spoiler that is displayed on the multimedia system, which makes backing up a much less stressful event.
With a clear path in front of us, we pulled the right paddle and first gear engaged. Pulling away, we could instantly sense that this wasn't just an automatic transmission with paddles. The feeling of the clutch engaging is actually transmitted through the pedal, an unusual sensation when your left foot is sitting idly by. The e-gear transmission has actually been completely redesigned for the LP560-4, reducing shift times by 40% in Corsa mode and weighing significantly less than the previous version. It can be a little rough during the shift from first to second, but it smoothes out in the higher gears and works best with a slight lift of the throttle. The paddles are slightly higher and farther away from the wheel than we would like, and many times we needed to partially remove our hands from the wheel to shift. While we found the e-gear to be a relatively satisfactory method of changing gears, it still baffles us that so many owners choose the option over the standard 6-speed. Yes, the e-gear is able to shift much faster than we ever could on our own, and it does offer the option of a full automatic, but come on, do you buy a car like this to putter around town? For us, there's nothing more enjoyable than maneuvering through a well-sorted gated shifter, but we can't blame Lamborghini for making what its customers want.
While the transmission executed its duties fairly smoothly, the same couldn't be said for the brakes. Our LP560-4 was fitted with the $10,000 carbon ceramic rotor option that made it very hard to modulate the brakes, particularly at slow speeds. Even moderate pressure resulted in no response from the brakes, but slightly more pressure would cause the calipers to bring the car to a jarring halt. We would probably opt for the standard 14-inch Brembo iron rotors that are more than up to the task of carrying out braking duties for driving on the street and the occasional trip to the track.
It might sound like we weren't enjoying our drive in the LP560-4 so far, but we had mostly driven at slow speeds in town and hadn't been able to let the bull stretch its legs. That soon changed, however, as the train of Lamborghinis took to the freeway and we were able to finally experience the brutal acceleration of the LP560-4. Our lack of excitement with the e-gear and (mild) frustration with the brakes melted away and a broad smile emerged with the sound of the Lamborghini V10 behind our heads. Like the transmission, the motor has been significantly updated and now displaces 5.2 liters (compared to 5.0) and utilizes a new direct injection system and upgraded variable valve timing to produce 552 bhp and 398 lb-ft torque. That's good for a 0 to 60 mph run in 3.7 seconds and a top speed north of 200 mph. Despite knowing the motor would willingly pull to 8,000 rpm, our instincts were to shift around 6,000-7,000. It didn't seem possible that the power would just keep coming, but it did!
The drive only got better from there, as we headed toward some twisty back roads that gave us the opportunity to experience the potential of the LP560-4's chassis and suspension. Lamborghini hasn't left this untouched either, and added an additional tie rod to the rear suspension as well as upgraded to slightly firmer bushings. Not having driven the original Gallardo, we can't provide a comparison, but what we do know is that the LP560-4 is one of the most planted and capable cars we have ever driven.
After a short stint through an especially enjoyable section of road we were amazed at the immense capability of the LP560-4. The car seemed to be telling us, "Seriously? That's all you've got?" The stiffness of the chassis can be felt going through turns with elevation changes, making the car extremely predictable. The specially developed Pirelli P-Zero tires, combined with Lamborghini's AWD system, provide levels of grip higher than would ever be needed on public streets. The twisty roads also allowed for the transmission and brakes to come into their own. Once warmed up the carbon ceramic brakes allowed for better modulation, and the e-gear provided audible bliss with every rev-matched downshift.
The drive ended all too soon and we began heading back to the dealership. Fortunately, the fun hadn't ended and we were able to get a taste of what it's like to be a Lamborghini owner. As the train of Lamborghinis passed by shops and businesses, people literally were coming out of buildings and watching the cars go by like it was a parade. People waved, cheered, took pictures and gave us thumbs up. We had attained instant celebrity status. Of course, achieving that status will cost you north of $200,000, and even then you'll have to deal with a nine-month waiting list, but it's worth every penny. Or, in our case, it's worth forgoing a higher paying job to be able to drive it for free.
All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Fast, exotic, and refined.
The Lamborghini Gallardo surprised us in a number of ways, but mostly in terms of its refinement and quality. The Gallardo is a bit intimidating initially, due to its radical styling, its dimensions, the sound of its highly tuned Italian V10, and advanced features such as its available E-gear electronic gearbox. But the Gallardo quickly became our friend and bonded as a teammate, more so than, say, a Viper or even a Corvette. Granted, it has a couple of quirks related to some of its most exotic performance options, but we were impressed with its drivability in traffic and by the ergonomic excellence of its interior. The more time we spent with the Gallardo, the more we came to love and enjoy it.
Climbing into the car, we were immediately reminded that Lamborghini is owned by Volkswagen and supervised by Audi. The cabin doesn't exude Audi or German engineering, but the interior is high quality and ergonomically well designed. The materials are handsome and well matched, everything fits together well, nothing rattles, all the controls were in logical, expected locations. Everywhere we looked in the cabin, we saw quality and elegant design. Initially put off, we even grew to like the hard, shiny, carbon fiber door trim in the Gallardo Superleggera.
Operating the Gallardo is intuitive, with a traditional ignition key and a traditional hand brake. Some of the latest luxury sedans from Germany are much harder to operate than the Gallardo. At the same time, the Gallardo benefits from the same sophisticated navigation, audio and climate system found in the latest Audi models. The controls are sophisticated yet elegant (meaning simple) and easy to operate.
Getting in and out is fairly easy. The seats are roomy and comfortable. Outward visibility is much better than expected. The cabin is quite phenomenal, really, and it makes the Gallardo a joy to drive on a frequent basis.
On the outside, the Gallardo benefits from Italian design. It looks exotic and flamboyant. A closer look reveals high-quality construction with body panels awash in quality paint that fit smartly and evenly.
Gallardo comes in coupe and roadster versions, plus a lighter, more powerful Superleggera model. We've only driven the latter, but two of us have driven two different cars in two locations, and came up with the same conclusions.
As expected, the Superleggera is lightning quick and blindingly fast. It grips the road so well that you'll likely work the tires only on a racing circuit. And it has fantastic braking capability. The acceleration performance is truly exhilarating and at full song in the Sport mode the E-gear changes gears like a race driver in anger. Yet, around town, in the automatic or normal manual modes, it shifts smoothly and is quite tractable at low speeds. It's not as docile as a Porsche 911 Turbo but nor is it a Viper.
The biggest driving challenge comes when it's time to park: The corners of the car are not visible, so we were happiest when a spotter was directing us in tight confines. Also, jockeying into a parking spot in tight confines is challenging because the E-gear transmission is depressing and releasing the clutch as you give it little jabs of throttle and the carbon-fiber brakes are grabby when cold. Familiarity and some special driving techniques help, but you may not want to toss the keys to just anyone to park it. Then again, why give the keys to anyone? For that matter, why ever park it?.
The 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo comes in Coupe ($186,250) and Spyder ($217,000) versions. The Superleggera ($222,800) comes only as a coupe.
Options for the Superleggera include a stationary rear wing instead of the standard articulated wing that rises and falls with the speed of the car. Also on the options list are eight-piston carbon disc brakes ($10,000), as well as a window net, fire extinguisher, and a bar for competition seat belts. The six-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option. Navigation and entertainment systems are available for the Gallardo, but not the Superleggera.
Safety features include seat-mounted side air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, and all-wheel drive.
All Lamborghini Gallardo models are built on an aluminum space frame, with aluminum extruded parts welded to cast aluminum joint sections, and an aluminum body structure with thermoplastic hang-on parts such as fenders and door skins.
From the outside, the Superleggera is nearly identical to the standard Gallardo coupe, with the exception of the Superleggera logo on the lower portion of the doors.
But the shape hides a whole menu of lightweight parts that come on the Superleggera, including a carbon fiber rear diffuser, carbon fiber outside mirror housings, a carbon fiber driveshaft, a polymer rear window and engine cover instead of glass, carbon fiber intake manifold, lightweight exhaust manifolds, forged aluminum wheels, and titanium wheel nuts, to make the car as light as possible.
Inside, the Superleggera has shiny gray carbon fiber door panels, a carbon fiber dashboard panel and carbon fiber console to save weight. The carbon fiber look is becoming a cliche, but the door panels are handsomely designed and fit well. Best of all, it's easy to clean: Simply wipe it off.
The seats in our Gallardo Superleggera were supportive and comfortable. Finished in alcantara with a small dash of body-colored trim, they are very attractive. The seats are equipped with seat-mounted side air bags and three-point seat belts.
The driver and passenger can reach all the audio, climate, window and other controls in the center of the dash quite easily and comfortably.
Audio and climate controls and the navigation system come from Audi. A seven-inch color screen in the center of the dash displays Audi's Multi-Media Interface, or MMI. A dial surrounded by four buttons are used to control most functions. This system gives the driver control over many functions without filling the dash with buttons. Audi's MMI features a shallower menu structure than BMW's iDrive, so you don't have to burrow as deeply through a maze of menus to get to the adjustment you want.
The climate controls are separate, however, and this is a good thing. Heating and air conditioning have more traditional controls mounted below the MMI controller. So you don't have to call up a menu to change the fan speed or cabin temperature. You simply press a button and twist a dial.
Between these two interfaces is a set of power window switches. This is the least ergonomic aspect of the cabin controls; you have to actually look at them to raise or lower the windows, less convenient than having the switches on the doors.
The sharply angled windshield and the deep dashboard give the feeling that you're sitting far back in the car, and you are, just ahead of the rear window and firewall that separate you physically but not aurally from that fire-breathing, V10 engine. We quickly adjusted to this.
Visibility is quite good all around, not as clear as the view from a Porsche 911 Turbo, but far better than that of traditional exotics. For example, we were alert when driving around LAX, one of the world's busiest airports, with shuttle vans, cabs and distracted motorists jostling into neighboring lanes in their efforts to pick people up, but we weren't terrified and would do it again. Big side mirrors offer a good rearward view. The rearview mirror offers a good view; the rear wing on the Superleggera blocks the view a little, and at night it can look like someone behind you is flashing their headlights as the wing obscures and reveals them when the cars bounce around.
The biggest issue with visibility comes with parking in tight quarters. The body work falls out of sight up front so it's difficult to judge where the corners of the car are located when pulling into a one-car garage. Fortunately, you are farther from the object than it appears. The Gallardo is wide, so you don't have a lot of space to work with. Exacerbating this are the touchy carbon-fiber brakes and an electronic gearbox depressing and releasing the clutch for a highly tuned V10. We found it very useful to have a spotter, though we were able to do it on our own. Sometimes it helped to push on both pedals at the same time, other times a light touch combined with experience with the E-gear was best. Familiarization with the throttle, E-gear and brakes quickly improved the situation. But it's not a car you want to drive in and out of tight places in a hurry or haphazardly nor is it one you allow someone inexperienced with it to park it.
Storage in the Gallardo is almost non-existent. There's no cubby storage to speak of. We discovered, however, that the trunk, in the very front of the car, holds a small, carry-on trolley bag, the size designed to fit in an overhead storage bin. So picking someone up at the airport is only viable if he.
To drive the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera is to drive one of the most exciting, powerful and capable sports cars in the world today. Lamborghini quotes a 0-62 mph time of 3.8 seconds, and a top speed just under 200 miles per hour.
The six-speed manual transmission is a very good transmission hobbled by a Sixties-style shifting gate built into the floor console, an anachronism that makes it difficult to shift cleanly and smoothly. Although we spent some time with the clunky-shifting 6-speed manual version, we spent most of our test drive time on the roads around Scottsdale, Arizona, and at Phoenix International Raceway with the much more attractive E-gear version.
The E-gear transmission is a combination of manual and automatic that is shifted up and down by paddles on the steering column (not to the steering wheel itself, so they don't move with the wheel). With the paddles and buttons used to control the transmission scattered about the cabin, it might not at first appear intuitive, but we quickly adjusted to it and found it easier to work than the electronic shifter on the BMW 7 Series sedans. To get Neutral, you pull back on both paddles at once. To drive in automatic mode, push the console-mounted button with a large A on it. To engage Reverse, touch the R button on the dashboard. Although the E-gear transmission can be clunky, too, especially as it downshifts into first before coming to a stop, it is a joy to use in performance driving situations, shifting in lightning-fast fashion under full throttle and blipping the throttle on downshifts to match engine rpm to road speed. This transmission, coupled to a 522-hp engine that doesn't run out of revs until 8000 rpm, makes for an exciting driving experience. We found the different modes useful, depending on whether we were cruising around town talking (Auto), cruising (Normal, shifting manually), or driving fast (Sport, shifting manually). The big blips when downshifting are addictive, and we found ourselves downshifting just to hear it. You need do nothing with your feet.
The thoroughly sorted-out racing-style suspension system on the five-year-old Gallardo works in concert with a front/rear weight distribution of 42/58 percent, the huge, sticky Pirelli P Zero Corse tires, the car's low center of gravity, and its viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive system to deliver acceleration, cornering and braking that few other cars on this planet can match. The viscous coupling can send up to 100 percent of the engine's torque to either the front or rear tires, but normally operates at 42 percent front-drive and 58 percent rear-drive for maximum performance on dry pavement.
At the same time, the steering is ultra-direct and quick, and the ride is reasonably plush and quiet, though it does crash pretty hard on rough pavement and potholes. In daily driving, it's actually quite pleasant, though we wouldn't drive a Gallardo with a cappuccino in one hand.
The stationary wing optional for the Superleggera is said to add more than 370 pounds of aerodynamic downforce to the rear of the car at high speeds. At night, however, it sometimes looked like cars behind were flashing their headlights at us as the wing obscured and revealed the headlight beams.
Braking performance, even without the $10,000 optional carbon ceramic brakes, is exceptional, with a 60-0 braking distance of only about 109 feet, and a powerful feel that will pull you right up against your seatbelts in a panic stop situation. The carbon brakes seem grabby and hard to modulate smoothly at low speeds, especially when cold, but when driven hard they were smooth, easy to modulate, and quite effective. The pedal softened a bit as they got hot on a winding hillclimb.
The Gallardo Superleggera quickly instills a huge degree of confidence in a good, experienced driver.
At the same time, the Gallardo Superleggera was comfortable in heavy traffic and when motoring around town at low speed.
We think the Lamborghini Gallardo was a very special sports car as it was, easy to drive, dramatic to look at, an all-around sexy beast. But with the advent of the Superleggera version, the Gallardo becomes even more exciting and more special. Only about 350 of these cars will be available worldwide, making them instant collector's items.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw drove the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera in Arizona; nctd.com editor Mitch McCullough drove the Superleggera pictured in Los Angeles.
Lamborghini Gallardo Coupe ($186,250); Spyder; ($217,000); Superleggera Coupe ($222,800).
Sant'Agata Bolognese, Italy.
Options As Tested
carbon brakes ($10,000).
Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera coupe ($222,800).
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