By: Mike Ginsca
In 1998, Lamborghini was bought by the Volkswagen Auto Group and they decided to help Lamborghini develop a new car that would be more accessible to more customers. In 2003 they launched the Lamborghini Gallardo and it quickly became Lamborghini’s best-selling vehicle in their 50+ years of business. However, just because this is an entry-level model don’t think that it’s any less of an exotic supercar.
Performance – Where the flagship Lamborghini Aventador is powered by a massive V12 engine, the Gallardo gets its power from an engine with 2 fewer cylinders, a V10. The naturally aspirated engine displaces 5.2L and produces 552hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. The V10 engine in this Lamborghini Gallardo is one of the best engines I’ve ever had the privilege of controlling with my right foot. It is extremely responsive in “Corsa” mode, it has just enough power throughout the rev band, and it makes the most intoxicating sounds that human ears will ever hear. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the automated E-gear transmission. E-gear is essentially a manual transmission but with an automated clutch so there is no clutch pedal but rather 2 paddles behind the steering wheel. Around a race track in “Corsa” mode, the transmission does its job beautifully. Shifts are lightning quick and paddles respond to inputs immediately but it’s not as smooth as a dual clutch transmission… although on a race track it doesn’t really matter. On the road however, smooth shifts do matter to most people and this is the Achilles heel of the E-gear transmission. Regardless of what mode it is in (Auto, Sport, Corsa), it holds the gear for far too long and shifts are abrupt. The best way I can describe the feeling is that it’s similar to a 16 year old learning to drive a manual car for the very first time. That’s how the ECU is shifting gears in this Lamborghini Gallardo and it is terrible around city streets.
Happily, the Gallardo makes you forget about the horrible gearbox when those city streets become mountain corners. The V10’s power gets sent to all four wheels via Lamborghini’s own all-wheel-drive system. Most of the power goes to the back wheels so under very hard cornering the rear of the car will want to step out of line first before the front. However it is not that scary to drive this car at a great amount of speed because the steering responds to driver inputs like lightning and the massive tires provide exceptional grip. The tires provide so much grip that in first gear the car accelerates so violently that your brain cannot react fast enough to do something as simple as pulling on the right paddle to shift up. Apart from its cousin (Audi R8) and the Porsche 911 Turbo, the Gallardo is an Italian exotic supercar that can be driven year round in varying weather conditions. Stopping the baby Lambo are 8-piston calipers in the front with 365mm diameter discs and 4-piston calipers in the rear with 356mm discs. It takes very little effort to get the car to slow down quickly, in fact, the brake pedal feels a little on the sensitive side for daily street use and does require some mastering to be smooth.
Comfort – Claustrophobia was a word that accurately described the interiors of every Lamborghini model prior to this Gallardo. Thankfully it is no longer a word that can be used to describe the interior of this car because there is enough room for two occupants. Getting in and out is as easy to do as in any other sports car, there is leg and head room even for people that are 6’5”, and there is also superb outward visibility in all directions. The car also features creature comforts such as extremely supportive bucket seats, air conditioning that blows very cold air, satellite navigation (although that is a bit tricky to use), and an entertainment system that can play movies on the center screen. Features such as these were only dreams in the Lamborghini models of the past.
There are only two issues that I found to still be on par with Lamborghinis of old. First is the minute amount of trunk space and secondly, the rock hard suspension. Suspension as hard as the one found on the Gallardo is fine on a race track but most owners will keep the car on city streets where the suspension stiffness cannot be adjusted and is too stiff even when driving over the smallest of potholes.
Odds and Ends – Just look at it. It looks fantastic. This second generation model had some styling updates that took inspiration from the Lamborghini Reventon. The front bumper, headlights, and taillights are all copied over from the limited edition Reventon. In the back, the glass engine cover lets children and adults young at heart take a peek at the V10 although the LED lights in the engine bay are an addition by the owner of this particular Gallardo. The Gallardo is so uniquely styled that even in black and not lime green or fluorescent orange, 4 out of 5 people will take the time and stare at this Italian beauty.
The Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 may not be the perfect supercar on the market but it comes close to perfection. It is a thrilling and flamboyant supercar that will have everyone turning their heads and dreaming about owning and driving an Italian exotic like this one.
Thank you to the owner of this car for the opportunity to test drive and photograph it.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.