First Drives

21 December 2012

First drive: new Lamborghini Gallardo

"Where the McLaren is a tad sensible and the Ferrari a bit, well, prancy, the Lambo bellows and charges about..."

Ollie Marraige
Car image

This looks familiar.

Really? No, your eyes must be deceiving you. This is clearly nothing like a Lamborghini Gallardo. Nothing at all. Oh no.

Stop pulling my leg right now

OK, it's a facelifted Gallardo. With new bumpers. These have trapezoidal shapes now. This means the nose and tail have more lines that slope outwards and make the car look a fraction wider and lower.

And? There must be more to it than that.

It also has new wheels. They're round, 19 inches across and ‘Apollo-polished'. Before you ask, I have literally no idea what that means, but they are quite spangly.

So come on, what's been done to the engine, gearbox and suspension?

Um, nothing.

Really nothing?

I'm afraid so. This is a Lambo patch-up job, a quick fix to try to patch over the Gallardo's cracks - cracks that are very obvious if you drive it back to back with its chief rivals, Ferrari's 458 Italia and McLaren's MP4-12C-7D-FGX6F. The trouble is that the Gallardo is approaching its tenth birthday now and doesn't have the headline-grabbing technology and outright speed of its most direct opposition. It's not as new and so not as exciting in buyer's eyes.

Does this really matter, though?

As far as sales go, it does. When the Gallardo first appeared, it was up against the Ferrari 360. Since then Ferrari has given us the F430 and now the 458 Italia, and although the Gallardo has progressed, it's now long in the tooth and rather outclassed. Lambo needs a properly new Gallardo - and soon. That said, the old warhorse still has a place in the supercar pantheon. You see, it's brilliant fun. Where the McLaren is a tad sensible and the Ferrari a bit, well, prancy, the Lambo bellows and charges about. I'm not suggesting I'd have it over either of them, because unfortunately I wouldn't, but I am suggesting that it still has a role to play.

So you're saying it's fun, but ultimately a bit rubbish?

No, if you value pure driving thrills the Lambo remains pretty convincing. It has good turn-in, nice balance and steering that gives you plenty of confidence for what the car is up to. It's also small enough to fit neatly down a country road. So you can lob it into corners like a hot hatch, and use the 4WD to boot it out the other side like an Impreza, 5.2-litre 552bhp V10 yowling away delightedly. It really does get a shift on, too, Lambo quotes a 0-100kph of 4.0secs, but I remember testing one a few years back that did the sprint in 3.7secs. But what I like best about the Gallardo is that it doesn't feel precious, it likes getting stuck in and genuinely feels happy in winter conditions.

Come on, there must be a ‘but'...?

Of course there is. The brakes - long a Lambo weak point - aren't very nice to use, dead at the top, then too grabby further down (a similar complaint afflicts the McLaren, too) and the gearbox, not a twin clutch, but an old paddleshift sequential manual is rather... unsubtle in its operations. You have to back off the throttle to smooth changes. The cabin is starting to feel its age, too and being comparatively heavy at 1,550kg, it doesn't feel as nimble to drive, you have to wrestle it around a bit.

But it has an alcantara steering wheel and that automatically makes things better, doesn't it?

Absolutely. It also sounds absolutely tremendous, has brilliant throttle response, is cheaper than rivals and, really, deep down, we all love the Gallardo. I just pray that when Lambo does finally launch its replacement, they don't lose the essence of this car. It's a bit naughty. And we like that.

Photography: Rowan Horncastle

Tags: lamborghini, gallardo

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