On Test: Lamborghini Gallardo

Watch the video review here

On 25 November 2013, the last Lamborghini Gallardo rolled off the Sant Agata production line, after 10 years and 14,022 examples. Now its been replaced by the Huracan, Only Motors takes a look back at the car that probably saved Lamborghini from extinction.

Design

When the Gallardo was first launched in 2003, it looked like no Lamborghini we had ever seen. Largely because, by Lambo’s usually mental standards, it was remarkably restrained. But the flat-surfaced, set-square styling could only have come from Sant Agata. And its aged rather well, our LP560-4 Spyder test car still looking fantastic in bright white.

The interior, on the other hand, doesn’t hold up quite so well. The row of rocker switches across the dash look great, but the rest of the interior, the instrument cluster and satnav system in particular, do look and feel like yesterday’s technology.

Performance

The LP560-4 has a 552bhp, 5.2-litre V10 engine. So performance is… brisk. 60mph passes in 3.9 seconds from rest and the top speed squeaks over the magic double-ton at 201mph. But the numbers don’t tell the full story. With 398lb/ft of torque, it doesn’t really matter what gear you’re in, or even especially how much throttle you use, it relentlessly piles on speed. Yes, it can pin you back in your seat very hard, but the way it just keeps pulling is much more impressive. And useable.

It’s just a shame the automated manual E-Gear gearbox pretty much ruins it, with incredibly slow changes. Maneuvering is a proper pain and one upchange on a motorway bend made the car go distinctly light, like it was about to snap into lift-off oversteer.

Ride & Handling

Within its context, the Gallardo’s ride is remarkable composed. It thumps over lumps and bumps, but it doesn’t transmit them into your spine, so it is actually perfectly comfortable.

With four-wheel-drive and huge tyres, the Gallardo is hugely capable – only an idiot would take it anywhere near its limits on the public road. But even at medium speeds, the handling doesn’t quite make sense. The steering reacts immediately, but it keeps oddly quiet about what is actually going on under the front wheels. The chassis is a bit more talkative, it just takes some time to build trust in the car’s enormous abilities.

Refinement

When you’re just cruising along, the Gallardo feels much like an Audi. Which is hardly surprising as there’s a lot of the four rings in it, so it’s quiet and comfortable when you want it to be. But if you’re in a more… playful mood, the full thrash-metal orchestra that lives in the exhaust plays a searing, howling aria.

There’s a lot of tyre roar, but no wind noise, even in our convertible. One peculiarity of the Gallardo is the pedal position, offset to the left seemingly somewhere behind the centre console. To avoid treading on the wrong one, I brought my left foot up to the seat, with my knee bent. Working out where to keep your spare leg is just one of the joys of Gallardo ownership…

Space & Practicality

Well, there’s plenty of space for two people, but only if they share a drink from the single cupholder. And the passenger footwell probably has more free space than the luggage box under the bonnet. Pack lightly or send your luggage ahead.

Equipment

Our test car came completely standard with leather interior, climate control, an OK stereo and a satnav familiar from a 2006 Audi A8. Luxurious it isn’t, but neither is it spartan and it didn’t feel like it was missing anything.

The Rivals

The Gallardo lived through three generations of ‘baby’ Ferrari, the 360 Modena, F430 and the current 458 Italia. All were more exciting to drive, but none were as easy to live with. Later on, Audi launched the related R8 which, with the same V10 engine, rather stole the Gallardo’s thunder. Add in the recent McLaren 12C and the Porsche 911 Turbo, and there was some very stiff competition.

In Conclusion

The Gallardo is difficult to live with and temperamental (there’s procedures for turning it on and off), impractical, not quite as good to drive as its competition and just a bit old fashioned. But it is bursting with charisma and it makes that noise…

Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder

Engine: 5.2-litre V10

Gearbox: 6-spd automated manual

Power/Torque: 552bhp; 398lb/ft

Economy/Emissions: 20mpg; 330g/km

0-60mph: 3.9 seconds

Top Speed: 201mph

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

V8 milk float

The V8 milk float

Forgotten firsts

Top 5 forgotten firsts