Car: Lamborghini Gallardo Valentino Balboni LP 550-2
Owned since: August ?2017
Previously owned: Ferrari F430, Porsche 911 (997.I) GT3, BMW M3, Audi RS4
"Having enjoyed two fantastic years with the prancing horse from Maranello, I thought it was time to move on to their noisy neighbours at Sant'Agata. Filled with trepidation, I finally opted for the flamboyant Valentino Balboni attracted by the combination of a decent price, stellar reviews, rear-wheel drive, astonishingly limited production (only 10 RHD officially made it to the UK) and a full specification (without carbon ceramics, but more on that later) including Balboni stripes and bi-colour leather. I was in luck: Lamborghini Manchester had a stunning white (Bianco Monocerus) Balboni e-gear for sale. Interestingly, there was also an orange manual for sale at the same time from an independent dealer for around £105,000. Yes, manual. However, I decided upon having the safety net of a main dealer, which I don't regret in terms of reliability - my car has not missed a beat. However, in terms of my bank balance it would have been nice with manual versions now commanding an eye-watering £300,000!
"I purchased the car remotely without having seen it in the metal. Lamborghini also threw in a two-year warranty for good measure and a generous coating of G3 paint protection. The memory of the Balboni being reversed out of the transporter onto my driveway in the bright autumnal sunshine will be something I will never forget. It looked absolutely stunning for a four year-old car. My first drive in the car was nerve-wracking. Getting used to the size (well, more the width), the e-gear and the offset pedals was a bit of a challenge initially. A real contrast from the 997.1 GT3 that I owned at the same time. It was such an event driving the car and rather naively I had not really expected all the circus-like attention it attracted both from fellow road users and excited pedestrians."
"Being a petrolhead and having done my 'Top Gear research', I was already aware of the slightly grabby standard steel brakes (although much better than the ceramics, apparently) and that the e-gear meant slow manoeuvres such as parking would take some practice. The brakes can be mastered with a bit of practice and the outright stopping power is brilliant.
"Also, being a fair-weather car I soon realised that the Lambo-embossed trickle charger was not just for show and regular outings ensured that the engine was kept in fine condition. Finally, I'd wish I known that the manual versions would almost treble in price!"
Things I love:
"I genuinely love this car. The F430 was a slight letdown in terms of power, handling and reliability. The GT3 is a handling god but is not that special in terms of road presence. The Balboni has it all: the looks, the limited-edition supercar status, the sound of that apocalyptic 5.2-litre V10 - rising from a trumpeting bass to a concrete-shredding shriek at 8,500rpm - the performance, the torque, the drama and the Audi-inspired reliability. The handling may not be quite as sweet and dynamic as my pocket-rocket GT4 but that is not surprising. You feel the additional weight of the Balboni but it handles flat and it feels very securely planted to the road. The front wheels having been given freedom from driving the wheels and provide much more clarity to the steering; it feels lighter than in a Superleggera, say. The rear is what can be honestly described as 'playful' and one should respect the 550hp being dispensed exclusively via the rear wheels, particularly in the wet. 'Sport' is my default mode with the fruitier exhaust note as the valves open earlier but Corsa adds a level of ferocity to the gearshifts that surpass even those I felt via the SMG gearbox of my long-departed (but never forgotten) M3. The double-clutch shifts of the Huracan that I drove round Oulton Park were just silky smooth in comparison.
"And so we get to the heart of the matter: the Balboni has an intrinsic rawness to it that is utterly addictive and keeps you engaged and wanting to come back for more, time and time again."
"Given my review so far you will have guessed that I do not hate anything about this car. The attention it attracts can be wearing sometimes but at the end of the day if you are fortunate enough to drive one of these wonderful machines, you shouldn't really complain. The embarrassing burst of revs on a cold Sunday morning usually has the neighbours peering out of their curtains with disdain. You also should take care to ensure that the parking brake is fully engaged when parking on any incline; invest in some car wheel chocks to avoid any expensive, unsupervised excursions... A few Audi bits have crept into the cabin but overall it is a lovely, cosseting place to be in and wears extremely well; the condition of the interior is not far off brand new. An obvious point too, but with a collectable car I do have to keep an eye on my annual mileage; that's a pity as I just want to go out and drive it most of the time!"
"The real surprise for me is that I have not had to auction any of my organs to maintain the Balboni. It has not suffered any of the histrionics of my 430 and been a pleasure to own. The Audi influence is clear. The servicing costs have been surprisingly manageable, particularly with the fixed-service plans on offer nowadays from the main dealers. In comparison, my classic 360 Spider is far more expensive to maintain. The only additional costs over and above the annual service items have mostly been consumables such as brake discs and a fresh set of Lambo-approved tyres recently set me back less than £900. Plus a new specially treated powder-resistant rear grille cost just over £200 from Lambo Sevenoaks - bargain! And while it's not the most economic vehicle I can get 14-15mpg even after a spirited drive. Insurance is around £1,000 (group policy) from First Point with all the bells and whistles and the annual Vodafone tracker subscription is £217. Road tax is a steep £515 per annum but only if you wish to use the car all year round of course. Also, when you factor in the steady capital appreciation, the Balboni is not a bad investment at all and much more fun than an ISA!"
"I would like to say the Stelvio Pass but I have to confess that despite a few shows and car meets, the Balboni spends more time than I would like in the garage. I do enjoy detailing the car and keeping it pristine. However, I try to stretch its legs on most Sundays - particularly in the summer - and I am sometimes joined by my friends' Superleggera and Turbo S for some supercar frolics."
"Two words: Huracan Performante!"
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