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Wednesday 6th August 2008


LAMBORGHINI LP560-4

By moving forward with the LP560-4 Lamborghini has managed to capture some of its past, reckons Steve Sutcliffe


On the one hand it’s hard not to bemoan the end of the era of independence at Lamborghini, for when Audi took charge of Santa Agata’s favourite car maker in 2001, a whole new way of thinking emerged at Lamborghini. And the cars, although far better made and massively better resolved in engineering terms, unquestionably lost some of their soul as a result.


But that was over half a decade ago now, since when a more considered approach from Audi has ensured that the brand has, in fact, gone from strength to strength in the last few years. And not merely due to the numbers of cars they make and sell at Sant Agata nowadays; up from around 250 a year pre-Audi’s stewardship to almost 10 times that in 2007.

Just recently the cars themselves have become more like Lamborghinis of old. The latest batch of Lambos, from the Murcielago LP640 to the Reventon to the Gallardo Superlegerra, have all been wilder and more exciting than their predecessors. And the latest example, the new Gallardo 560-4, is no exception to the rule.


Look at the kerbweight and the power/torque outputs if you don’t believe it. This is the direct replacement for the standard Gallardo and not the Superlegerra, remember, and yet it beats the Superlegerra on both power and torque-to-weight. And performance. That’s because of several key advances, each of which has been designed to reduce weight, add firepower and increase not only the Gallardo’s performance but also its fuel economy and its emissions into the bargain.

The biggest news is the fitment of a brand new 5.2-litre V10 engine, and when they say brand new they really do mean it. True, the bore sizes may well be the same as those of the previous 5.0-litre V10, but in just about all other respects this is genuinely a spanking new powerplant.


For starters it has direct injection, which helps improve emissions and economy no end, says Lamborghini (in this case no end approximates to roughly 17 per cent, which is not to be sniffed at). Even the firing order is different, and this makes it sound and respond quite differently from before, says Lamborghini.

Either way, the net result is that power has risen to 552bhp at 8000rpm while torque has swollen to 398lb ft at 6500rpm. The engine also revs a tad higher than before while the torque curve is flatter right the way across the rev range. Another significant claim made by Lamborghini is that this is the highest revving direct injection engine in history, although when Ferrari goes the DI route with the forthcoming revised F430 this is one claim Lamborghini’s engineers will have to retract.

For the time being, though, the 560-4 – on paper at least – must be considered king of the hill in the seemingly never-ending war of the middle ground between Lamborghini and Ferrari. No, it can’t take care of the F430 Scuderia on the road or on paper, but then at £147k it’s not really in direct competition with the Scud; instead it’s the regular F430 that must stand and face the 560-4, and for the time being it’s not a contest the Lambo looks likely to lose.

On the road the 560-4 feels instantly recogniseable as a Gallardo, yet at the same time quite different from its predecessor in the way it responds. It’s sharper, nimbler and keener to change direction, even though the steering is, if anything, even meatier than before and the onset of understeer more pronounced if you really start to lean on it through a long bend.


If the engine sounds and feels more potent than before, it’s actually not as obvious as the improvement to the car’s transmission. Lamborghini says the new e-gear paddle shift system swaps cogs 40 per cent faster than before in Corsa mode, and from the way the 560-4 snaps forwards every time it shifts up, you don’t doubt the claim. Even so, neither the upshifts nor the downshifts occur as smoothly as you’d want during a full bore gearchange.

On the way it’s been designed to deliver a deliberate thump through from one gear to the next, yet it’s not an especially satisfying experience, even though the shift time is impressively rapid. Going from first to second or second to third in Corsa mode you end up wondering whether it really needs to be such a violent physical experience. And if you knock it back into regular gearshift mode and do the same thing again the shifts occur much more smoothly.


Then, if you lift the throttle ever-so-slightly on the way up the changes become almost seamless, at which point you do begin to wonder why they bothered with Corsa mode at all. 'To satisfy the customer who likes to feel the thurst of a fast gearchange' was the answer I got from one Lamborghini engineer. Which just goes to show what a bunch of poltroons some Lamborghini owners continue to be.

No matter, because the rest of the 560-4 is, mostly, a big step forwards. Inside it feels beautifully built, if a little plain design-wise compared with some of Lamborghini’s previous efforts. The more important thing, arguably, is that everything works, even if the electric window switches operate somewhat curiously in reverse (you press up on the buttons to drop them and down to make them go up!).

And when you rally start to rag it the 560-4 doesn’t fray at the edges like some Lambos of old; instead it just gets better and better. At three figures through a long corner you can feel the new aero-package working at both ends; it’s one of those rare road cars that feels like it develops more grip the faster you go. And although the test car I tried was fitted with optional carbon ceramic brakes (yours for around £12k), it also stops extremely well when you need it to, even if the light pressure response isn’t as good as it is in some rivals (GT2 Porsche, Ferrari F430 Scuderia specifically).


All in all it’s a heck of car, the LP560-4, but it’s also one that shows very clearly how Lamborghini is thinking nowadays. It’s not just faster than its predecessor but also lighter, greener, cleaner and meaner too – and that has to be a good thing for the future of Sant Agata’s favourite car maker. If nothing else, it means Lamborghini will still be around in 10 or 20 years time, and for genuine supercar fans that’s very good news indeed.

SPECIFICATIONS

Lamborghini LP560-4

Price: £143,350

0-62mph: 3.7sec (claimed)

Top speed: 202mph (claimed)

Power: 552bhp/8000rpm

Torque: 398lb ft/6500rpmrpm

Power to weight: 391bhp/tonne

Torque to weight: 282lb ft/tonne

CO2 emissions: 327g/km (with e-gear transmission)

Economy: 19.2mpg (combined)

Range: 378 miles

Length: 4345mm

Width: 1900mm

Height: 1165mm

Wheelbase: 2560mm

Kerb weight: 1410kg

Fuel tank: 90 litres

Boot: n/a

Engine layout: V10, 5204cc, direct injection petrol

Installation: mid, longitudinal, four wheel drive

Specific output: 106bhp/litre

Compression ratio: 12.5:1

Gearbox: 6-speed manual (e-gear paddle shift fitted to test car)

Front suspension: Double wishbones, coils, anti-roll bar

Rear suspension: Double wishbones, coils, anti-roll bar

Brakes: Steel ventilated discs all round (carbon ceramic fitted to test car; 380mm front, 356mm rear)

Wheels: magnesium alloy, 19in

Tyres: Pirelli P-Zero; 235/35 ZR 19in front, 295/30 ZR19in rear

Author: sutters