It’s not easy being a car enthusiast these days. Everywhere we look there is pressure to downsize, de-power, and slow down. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for driving nirvana. The other day I pondered for hours on the current economic climate, petrol prices, climate change, the lack of Cod in our seas, and of course, the bees disappearing.
After this period of serious contemplation, and with the rain clouds gathering in the sky, I decided there was only one car that I simply had to get behind the wheel of: The 8mpg, 520bhp, 5.2l V10 powered, 400g/km emitting Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. Sorry Greenpeace. Could this be one of the most appropriate cars on the road today? Quite possibly, so what does it feel like to drive?
Pop open the heavy, Germanic feeling door, and swing your buttocks down, what feels like about 10ft into the shapely leather clad-bucket seats. For me, this is what a supercar should feel like inside. Snug, like you’re driving an Alcantara letterbox. Look around the cabin and those of you who’ve owned a recent Audi with feel a sense of deja-vu coming on.
The Sat Nav system, climate control system, and a few other ancillary controls are straight from the A6 and A8, but in view at least, they integrate nicely. Some feel that these parts have no place in a car like this, but I’m of the school of thoughts which teaches function over form – and the ergonomics of the interior are fantastic.
Everything is close and within reach, everything works with a satisfying clunk and everything feels like it will last. Though if I’m being picky, some stereo controls on the steering wheel wouldn’t have gone amiss…
So here I am, cocooned in the Gallardo, ready for the off. As I look down at the centre console, I’m slightly disappointed to be reminded that there is no shiny gate and stick there, but a row of three buttons. This is a Gallardo e:Gear, and I have not heard amazing things about it. You see, I have driven ecurie25’s older Gallardo Spyder, but it was a manual – and ranked amongst my favourite ever cars so this paddle-shifter has a lot to live up to.
Foot on the brake pedal, a simple old-school twist of a key, and after a typically Italian-supercar-length turning of the starter motor, the V10 bursts into life what feels like inches from your head. Something is lacking though – ah yes – a press of the roof button, and a look in the rear view mirror shows a complex display of moving fabric and body parts.
After no time at all, there is nothing but sky above me, and a lot less between that fantastic engine and my head. Already the engine note has developed into a more mechanical, higher pitched sound, without the cabin’s sound deadening doing its job, and it bodes well for what is to come.
Foot on the brake pedal again, a flick of the right hand paddle selects 1st, and I’m moving off into London traffic once more. This is the most frightening part of picking up one of these cars for me, being a non-Londoner – I don’t think I’ll ever get used to piloting a £150,000 car with limited visibility though our capital’s streets.
I know some say that a supercar shouldn’t be easy to drive, but I find the Gallardo remarkably so as I crawl through Shoreditch at 15mph. This is one area the e:Gear really suffers though - at low speed it will slip the clutch, and the throttle mapping is remarkably sensitive, so you have to be a little careful to avoid either sitting in an all-encompassing smell of burning clutch or kangarooing down the road.
But once moving the steering is not too light, the brakes are well modulated, and the ride is very composed on our notoriously bad roads. One thing that I feel really helps is the fact that the Gallardo is shorter than a Focus (and only 40mm wider), and the nose is very short from the driver’s seat, so it’s very easy to position the car on the road - which really helps when you have motorbike couriers missing the £500 wing mirrors by millimeters.
Once out of the city and onto some proper roads, the Gallardo comes alive. First derestricted section of road, I slow to about 20mph in 2nd, then bury the throttle into the bulkhead. Good Lord, I’d forgotten what 500bhp feels like… I’m pinned into the seat like a rat in a trap, and past 3500rpm the exhaust valve opens and there is an aural explosion behind my head. Such a noise deserves to be put on vinyl and listened to by the finest musical scholars on the planet, such is its multi-tonal brilliance.
Before you shift up though, it’s best to back off the throttle a bit. E:Gear doesn’t like full-bore changes, but my chiropractor does. One of those changes keeps him working on my neck for days. But back off a little, flick the paddle again, and the g-force punches you in the face once more. It is good to always have your hands on the wheel, I’ll concede that, but for me I’d still have the manual gearbox. Call me a Luddite if you will, but I still get pleasure from perfectly heel-and-toeing a downchange, and love the ‘clack-clack’ of an open gate.
Once the twisty sections come around, there’s no need to be scared of this raging bull either, as its handling more than lives up to its performance. Perfectly balanced entering a bend, you flick the paddle down, revs blipping and giving your ears another blast, turn in and the steering is weighted on the heavy side, but you’re getting more than enough feedback.
A light throttle to balance the car just before the apex, then foot to the floor again, putting your faith in the 4wd system and its immense grip. Sure enough the car just squats a little more and carves round the corner, back end feeling like it might give way if you push a little too hard, but when you do it progressively breaks away, requiring only a little opposite lock and a steady throttle to bring it back into line. I could do this all day, and as it turns out, I do…
Parked up near the Leigh-on-Sea seafront this Ferrari rival looks fantastic. In my eyes it knocks the F430 Spider clean out of the ring. The short, stubby nose, the angular flanks, the long swept back headlights, everything gels to give this car the most incredible presence. I think the dark grey of this car is perfect too. Some think Lamborghinis should be lairy yellows or oranges, but I think the battleship grey of this Spyder suits it down to the ground, especially when I park it near some old military equipment for some photos.
Stealthy even, and I think this gives it as much subtlety as it’s ever going to get. This is a very rare convertible in that it looks just as good with the roof up as it does down. Admittedly the roof is only about 2ft long, but it’s a stunning car no matter how you look at it.
The ‘Callisto’ rims of this particular example also give the car an extra edge, they are gorgeous. If I were forced to find a negative about the looks, it would be nose-on, squatting – it looks a little too low and wide, almost like it’s been squashed. But like I said, I’d have to be forced.
In manual guise especially I would happily drive it all day, every day (until my bank denied any more funds for fuel, that is…). It has also served to whet my appetite even more for the forthcoming LP560-4. Another 40bhp, a much improved 4wd system, revised looks, and even better economy are all on the cards. If what I have read so far is true, it raises the bar even higher. Here’s hoping…