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Lamborghini Gallardo

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Lamborghini Gallardo Car Review | 4 July 2003

Driven July 2003

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"So," says our driver, "Lamborghini." As he swings the nose of the Merc E-Class through the gates of the Sant' Agata factory something deep down in the pit of my stomach squirms, just the once.

Excitement? Well, yes of course. But let's be honest here, it's nerves as well, nerves and maybe a little fear. After all, this is the place where they build the monster cars.

Today though should be a low stress day because we are here to drive what is being billed as the most useable and most user friendly Lambo yet, the Gallardo. Or to use its affectionate soubriquet, the 'baby Lambo'.

Baby Lambo my ass. This one looks just as big and bad and brutal as anything that's gone before it. The original design was based on an Italdesign-Giugiaro style proposal. This was subsequently reworked by the Lamborghini Centro Stile team. It certainly isn't difficult to spot similarities between the Gallardo and Lamborghini Centro Stile's other recent work, the Murcielago.

Look at the car from the side and especially after examining the rear, it comes almost as a shock to notice how exquisitely beautiful it is. But still, there's something verging on the unsettling, something alien that whispers, 'Sure. Step in. We'll have a blast. But no guarantees which time zone or galaxy we'll end up in OK?'

Insert the key into the ignition, turn it once and there's an electronic whirring buzz behind your ears as the fuel pump takes a good, long draught. There's no starter button to bother with, all you've got to do is turn the key the rest of the way.

Anyone driving a standard Ferrari 360 Modena has a hale and hearty 400bhp at their disposal, thanks to that marvellous V8, but your discerning Porsche 911 Turbo customer can trump that with 414bhp from that unburstable boxer unit. Lamborghini, however, has gone one better. Actually make that two better if we are counting the number of extra cylinders over the Ferrari, and 78 better if we are counting the extra bhp over the Porsche. Lamborghini has given the Gallardo a 492bhp V10.

This V10 engine is awesome. There's a world of torque on offer. Lamborghini says that 80 per cent of the total 376lb ft is available from as low as 1,500rpm and it feels believable. Then there is a world of horsepower to revel in at high revs, with the engine not mustering its full 492bhp until 7,800rpm. The combination of big power and massive torque is a fantastic one and the screaming of the engine adds another almost live, almost animal dimension.

You get the same feeling under hard deceleration, thanks to the massive ventilated discs - 365 x 34mm at the front and 335 x 32mm at the rear - stuffed inside the alloy wheels and combined with the ABS and EBD systems.

After the size of the thing, the next confidence booster is the steering. It is superbly weighted and ultra direct. Think Lotus Elise but bigger and you are on the right track. Choose a line and the Gallardo sticks to it.

If you buy a Gallardo, there's probably a lot more technology under the skin now than there might have been had Lamborghini still been operating under its own steam and not Audi's. A lot of that technology is clearly in place to help keep the car on the road. But do not confuse safe with boring, for that is so not the case with this car. OK, so it does give you a lot of help, but it never, ever feels like it is doing everything for you. Behind the wheel you don't, for one moment, feel left out of the action. Instead, when you drive it hard, you sit at the epicentre of a storm of raw excitement. The Lamborghini line these days is that even with all the German technology and engineering, the Latin spirit still rules the car, especially on smaller, twistier roads where it feels trully amazing.

Could you live with one every day though once you have handed over the estimated £120,000 price and taken delivery early next year? I'd definitely have it over a Porsche 911 Turbo or a Ferrari 360. Of course the proof will be when we line up all three cars together, and even then, if I'm proved wrong on a technicality, I don't think I'll care very much. But that's for another day. Here we are back at the factory. With the Diablo you used to utter a little sigh of relief on returning, but all I feel now is despair, for this is one car you never want to hand back. Not ever.

Angus Frazer

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