Originally launched in 2003, the low-slung two-seat Lamborghini Gallardo is the brand’s “entry level” sports car, though it’s difficult to consider any vehicle that starts at close to $200,000 as being entry level. It’s also arguably the most “user friendly” Lambo that would suffice as an accommodating daily driver for an affluent owner. As is the brand’s tradition, the coupe’s name is taken from a line of 18th Century fighting bulls. It comes in all-wheel-drive coupe and Spyder convertible versions, with the closed roof model also offered with rear-wheel-drive.
For 2011, a rear drive Gallardo Bicolore LP 550-2 special edition is available on the that features two-tone exterior paint, specific alloy wheels and contrasting interior trim.
Wrapped in sharp-edged low-slung minimalistic styling that’s guaranteed to garner front-row valet parking, the Gallardo looks like a Transformers character about to unfold into its giant robot persona to do battle with the evil Decipticons. Running lights at the front and the vehicle’s taillamps are comprised of LEDs fashioned in a “Y-shaped” form, and are inspired by the Miura concept design as well as the classic Murcielago LP640 and Reventon production models. The car’s space-frame structure and body panels are constructed from aluminum as a weight-saving measure.
A 5.2-liter V10 engine employs a direct fuel-injection system – the automaker calls it Iniezione Diretta Stratificata – to generate 552 horsepower and 398 poundfeet of torque (543 horses with rear drive and 562 in the top Superleggara model) and rocket the Gallardo to 60 mph in well under four seconds with a top speed of nearly 202 mph. A dry-sump lubrication system ensures that engine oil continues to flow expeditiously, no matter how much g-force the car encounters in high-speed cornering maneuvers.
A six-speed manual transmission is available for purists, with a six-speed “e-gear” sequential shift automatic offered for clutch haters that comes with no less than five different driver-selectable operating modes. These include a “Corsa” mode for maximum acceleration with moderate wheel slippage upon launch, and a manual choice that allows the driver to shift through the gears via steering wheel-mounted paddle controls.
The engine’s longitudinal mid-mounted position affords a 43:57 front-to-rear weight ratio, with a center of gravity located next to the car’s vertical axis. With a sophisticated double-wishbone suspension at all four wheels this translates into exceptional balance and control. The car’s handling is further enhanced via either the Gallardo’s available all-wheel-drive system or – perhaps more organically – the beefed up custom suspension that comes with rear-drive models.
Under normal circumstances the available AWD system sends power to the axles on a 30:70 front-to-rear basis for sportier handling. It automatically adjusts the degree of torque fore or aft in milliseconds, as needed, to maintain traction. Stability control is also included. An extended rear spoiler deploys at speeds over about 75 mph to increase aerodynamic down force on the rear axle, thus further helping keep the car adhere to the pavement.
Sturdy antilock brakes with large Brembo-supplied calipers help rein in the Gallardo hard-charging horses; a set of lightweight carbon ceramic discs are optionally available to provide even better braking performance (at over $16,000 the price is equal to that of a compact car). For fashion’s sake the brake calipers can be ordered in either of four colors.
Tastefully trimmed, the Gallardo’s cabin features supportive leather-upholstered sport seats (Alcantara is alternately offered), along with driver-focused gauges and controls and ample amenities. The Superleggera version can further be fitted with ultra-cool-looking (and ultra expensive) carbon fiber trim. The power soft-top on the Spyder convertible is power-operated and raises or lowers in about 20 seconds. There’s only marginal room behind the back seat for storage, with what amounts to just a token trunk up front, however.
Optional high-tech gear includes a GPS navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone interface and a rearview camera and monitor, which is essential given the vehicle’s limited outward visibility. An available “lifting control system” raises the front of the vehicle at the push of a button for clearing inclined driveways and speed bumps without damaging the front fascia.
And as befits an exotic sports car, the Lamborghini Gallardo can be customized in extreme detail via the automaker’s “Individualisation Program Ad Personam.” All “entry-level” products should be this exclusive.
Lamborghini Gallardo Quick Facts
Engine: 5.2-liter V10
Horsepower: 552 @ 8,000 rpm, 543 @ 8,000, 562 @ 8,000
Torque: 398 @ 6,500 rpm
City/Highway: MPG 12/20
Transmission: 6-Spd Manual, 6-Spd Auto Manual
Wheelbase: 100.8 in
Overall Length: 171.1 in
Width: 74.8 in
Height: 45.9 in
Curb Weight: 3,042 lbs
Did You Know?
Ferruccio Lamborghini founded his namesake company in 1963 in the Italian village of Sant’Agata Bolognese as an extension of his then-successful business as a tractor manufacturer. As a lover of bulls and born under the sign of Taurus, Lamborghini adopted a bull as his corporate symbol, and most of the company’s models have or have had a connection to bulls. Lamborghini sold the company in 1972, and it languished in bankruptcy from 1977 to 1984. With Lamborghini enthusiast Lee Iacocca at the helm, Chrysler purchased the company in 1987 and operated it as a subsidy through 1994. The Volkswagen Group has owned Lamborghini since 1998.