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Wednesday 2nd December 2009

Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Balboni

Riggers gets a go in the rear-drive Gallardo



In the pantheon of cool jobs, being a test driver for Lamborghini probably ranks somewhere beyond lottery winner, beer taster or roller coaster tester

For the past few decades the job was held by Valentino Balboni, who was recruited to Sant'Agata by Ferrucio Lamborghini back in the late 1960s and who has been instrumental in the development of every single Lamborghini produced since 1973.

Valentino's retired now but, as a final flourish to send your envy-o-meter off the scale, Lamborghini has given him his very own Gallardo model as a retirement gift. By which we don't mean that his employers bunged him a boxed 1:18 scale Maisto number - the folks at the factory named a model after him.


So here it is - the Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni. It's intended as an 'entry-level' model, although at £137,900 it's only £3400 cheaper than the full-house LP 560-4. For your £138k you get 10bhp less (542bhp at 8000rpm rather than 552bhp), while top speed drops from 202mph to 199mph, while the 0-62mph time is 0.2secs slower at 3.9secs. There's also the small matter of 90kg shaved from the car's kerb weight. Think of it as a 'Clubsport' Lamborghini and you're getting close to the concept.

But the headline difference is that you only get two driven wheels, making it the first rear-wheel-drive Lamborghini since the 1995 Diablo SV.

And what a difference dropping four-wheel drive makes. One simple change (okay, it's not that simple; the springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, tyres, and even the aerodynamics have been adjusted to suit the new drive configuration) transforms the Gallardo. Gone are the surefooted, grippy but slightly aloof and unadjustable all-wheel drive handling characteristics of the LP 560-4, to be replaced by something altogether more involving and challenging.


The Balboni is still a solid, assured handler (well, as much as any 500bhp+ mid-engined supercar can be), but the back wiggles under braking, and is more than prepared to kick out through a corner.

The absence of all the heavy drivetrain bits around the front wheels also makes the steering feel lighter, while the turn-in now has sharp, pivoty feel, making the Balboni feel almost like a big Lotus Elise.

This is also the first Lamborghini I've driven with a manual gearbox and boy, does it suit the LP550-2's back-to-basics nature. The beautiful, chunky open-gate gearchange does require some precision as you flick between ratios, but take a bit of time with it and you'll soon learn to love it. The combination of an oily-smooth feel and a satisfying metallic click-clack as you go through the gate is utterly intoxicating. You can have it with the eGear flappy paddle shift, and you would be able to drive the car faster and more easily- but you would miss out on so much.


The manual gearbox is actually a rather effective analogy for the rest of the car, because the essence of the LP550-2 Valentino Balboni - what makes it more than just a fast car - is interactivity; true driver involvement.

There are too many performance cars out there that require little of the driver to go fast other than a heavy right foot. A standard, eGear-equipped four-wheel-drive Gallardo is one of those. Sure, a little understanding and delicacy of operation is rewarded, but you always get the impression that a cack-handed, lead-booted football player would be almost as quick as a silver-toed driving genius.

The LP550-2 is different. What makes this car such a hoot is that, to go fast, you have to go beyond the simple process of 'go, stop, turn, grip'. This is a car that you need to feel working, letting the back end move around through corners, executing a satisfying heel-and-toe move with the zingy V10 as you brake for a turn, feeling the surprisingly supple suspension move the weight to the outside front wheel as you turn in to a sharp corner.


The Balboni is a car that wants you to go slightly beyond its limits to get the best out of it - heck, even the ESP will allow you a greater angle of slip than in the regular car before it intervenes.

As a car that bears the name of one of the greatest test drivers in the automotive industry, of course, it should do no less. Still, Mr Balboni should be thoroughly proud of his legacy.

 




 


Riggers
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Author Discussion

E21_Ross

Original Poster:

14,644 posts

96 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
rear wheel drive, over 500bhp, lovely styling and a lambo to boot. what more could you want?

Gridl0k

1,058 posts

67 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
Not seen this answered anywhere so maybe here's the place - did they actually give one to Mr Balboni or not?


Gruffy

5,090 posts

143 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
I know he's genuinely excited about the car but that he really wanted a Miura. I don't know if he now owns a Balboni though.

RobM77

25,005 posts

118 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
E21_Ross said:
rear wheel drive, over 500bhp, lovely styling and a lambo to boot. what more could you want?
cloud9

dele

1,002 posts

78 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
I think this has just become my new "Lottery Win" car
Advertisement

soad

18,624 posts

60 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
Car porn, such a beautiful motor cloud9

james_gt3rs

3,229 posts

75 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
That's my new favourite Lambo. Brilliant!

al1991

4,352 posts

64 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
If Balboni himself wanted a manual gearbox for his car, then why do Lambo insist on making flappy paddles?

Anyway, this is my favourite Lambo for a while; I would have one over the LP560-4, LP640 and the LP670 SV.

kambites

40,073 posts

105 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
First Lamborghini I've actually wanted since the Miura.

qooqiiu

720 posts

81 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
E21_Ross said:
rear wheel drive, over 500bhp, lovely styling and a lambo to boot. what more could you want?
4 wheel drive and a folding roof...seeing as you asked smile

leon9191

711 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
Gridl0k said:
Not seen this answered anywhere so maybe here's the place - did they actually give one to Mr Balboni or not?
No they didnt, well thats what EVO said anyway.

jimjim150

188 posts

68 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
RobM77 said:
E21_Ross said:
rear wheel drive, over 500bhp, lovely styling and a lambo to boot. what more could you want?
cloud9
+1

adycav

7,615 posts

101 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
Old Skool Car Porn - RWD and (gasp!) a MANUAL 'BOX!!!

I want.

Gridl0k

1,058 posts

67 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
leon9191 said:
Gridl0k said:
Not seen this answered anywhere so maybe here's the place - did they actually give one to Mr Balboni or not?
No they didnt, well thats what EVO said anyway.
Poor bd.

Lambo owners club should make everyone chip in whatever it takes. This guy made their enjoyment possible, to a large extent...

Anyone here met him? I can only assume that 40 years testing Lamborghinis has made him look like this:


leon9191

711 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
Gridl0k said:
leon9191 said:
Gridl0k said:
Not seen this answered anywhere so maybe here's the place - did they actually give one to Mr Balboni or not?
No they didnt, well thats what EVO said anyway.
Poor bd.

Lambo owners club should make everyone chip in whatever it takes. This guy made their enjoyment possible, to a large extent...

Anyone here met him? I can only assume that 40 years testing Lamborghinis has made him look like this:

I remember a program/video clarkson did in the 1990s and he was on there testing a Diablo, had it fully sideways rear wheels pouring out smoke.

No The Road.

Legend.

Medic-one

2,427 posts

87 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all

Ok now it's defenately time to win the lottery...

Salgar

2,983 posts

68 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
Yep I heard they didn't give him one. That's like not giving a Dino to Dino (ok it's not really the same given he was already dead when the car came out.)

RobM77

25,005 posts

118 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
leon9191 said:
Gridl0k said:
leon9191 said:
Gridl0k said:
Not seen this answered anywhere so maybe here's the place - did they actually give one to Mr Balboni or not?
No they didnt, well thats what EVO said anyway.
Poor bd.

Lambo owners club should make everyone chip in whatever it takes. This guy made their enjoyment possible, to a large extent...

Anyone here met him? I can only assume that 40 years testing Lamborghinis has made him look like Popeye.

I remember a program/video clarkson did in the 1990s and he was on there testing a Diablo, had it fully sideways rear wheels pouring out smoke.

No The Road.

Legend.
I remember the video, but remember the main sideways scenes as being on a runway and he spun the car every single time, and tried to hide his mistake by doing a few doughnuts afterwards.

I thought the general consensus was that he was a rubbish driver? Evo did a feature a few years ago on test drivers, where they wrote a piece on legends such as Walter Rohl, Dirk Schoysman, Mike Cross etc. The write up on Balboni described him as an embaressment, spinning constantly on product launches and generally showing no degree of car control at all.

Don't shoot the messenger, but that's what I'd heard.

Edited by RobM77 on Wednesday 2nd December 16:27

Mr Whippy

18,865 posts

125 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
My fave current supercar.

Just does everything right.

911 Turbo/Ferrari 458 etc just pale next to the drama of this imho smile

Wasn't a big fan of the Gallardo before, but the LP560 and now the Balboni really are very desireable!

Dave

Riggers

1,851 posts

62 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 quote quote all
Mr Whippy said:
My fave current supercar.

Just does everything right.

911 Turbo/Ferrari 458 etc just pale next to the drama of this imho smile

Wasn't a big fan of the Gallardo before, but the LP560 and now the Balboni really are very desireable!

Dave
Couldn't agree more. (Not that I've had the pleasure of a 458, but I would genuinely give an important piece of my anatomy to own a Balboni. Not so the 911.)
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