Las Vegas. Bling capital of the known world. Cruising the Strip in Lamborghini's latest edition of their best-selling "Crumpet catcher"--as Sir Stirling Moss once said of a similar machine from 40 years ago. The Gallardo is a radical form, perfectly matched with the memorable styles of Vegas after dark.
In daylight, the Strip is full of family-friendly rental cars, but after dark even the rental fleet changes to match the ebb and flow of bling bunnies (crumpet) in search of bling resources. Attention is the game. Wild-eyed performance is the myth. Except in the puritanical white coupé with the world's greatest neon flowing all over the flanks of a Lamborghini LP560-4. All eyes feed the dream. Behind the tiny windows it is real.
Once over the shock of the Gallardo's swing-out door (why not use Lamborghini's signature scissors?), the interior remains one of the entry-level Lambo's strongest features. Demonstrating the wisdom of Stephan Winkelmann, central casting's perfect leader of the resurgence of Automobili Lamborghini, and his team of brand masters, there are no changes here; it remains artful, useful, comfortable and roomy. With Ad Personam, the company's latest individualization program, the customer is able to create any combination of colour and trim. Behind this program stands the philosophy that a super sports car should, after all, reflect the personality of its owner by enabling him or her to completely indulge their expectations and wishes. As a consequence, extreme exclusivity is the trademark of the new program. "Think the Impossible" states the motto, just one more element in Lamborghini's personal statement culture.
Only storage space remains a point of contention. There is very little inside and only a weekend bag's worth in the nose. Herr Winkelmann steadfastly refuses to call his cars exotics, they are super sports cars, and maybe that is the key to our passion and tolerance of their spatial shortcomings. In the not too distant past, luggage was strapped to the outside of anything called a sports car, but today, of course, we have Fred Smith's famous travel back up system, FedEx. Perhaps the Lamborghini Club should arrange a special rate. The best personal luxury is to arrive at the hotel where everything is already folded into drawers or hung neatly in the closet.
On the outside, both ends of the firm's most popular model have been changed to include a clearer family resemblance to the Murciélago LP640 and Reventón in their smaller sibling. The big cooling nostrils and low, central wing direct air under the perfectly flat belly pan and give the LP560-4 a much more serious aspect. And that is no styling exercise. As counterpoint to the nose wing is a newly designed rear diffuser that, together, contribute to the steering stability even at extremely high speeds. The result is 31-percent better aerodynamic efficiency than its predecessor. The new Gallardo comes nearer the Murciélago on top speed with 325 km/h (202 mph) now possible. And its implication of attitude and radical style is on every square centimeter of its lightweight aluminum couture.
Approximately 7,100 Gallardo models have left the Sant'Agata Bolognese production plant since its launch in 2003. "The LP560-4 will complete this success story," Mr. Winkelmann proudly pronounces. "It will outclass its predecessor in every aspect; its dynamics are distinctly breathtaking and its design sets new standards. With the introduction of the Gallardo LP560-4, we will consistently continue Lamborghini's growth strategy."
The new car's full throttle growl is also stronger and more Lamborghini-like now, but the power delivery from its new 560 horsepower 5.2-litre V10 is the real story. Most of the 398 lb-ft of torque is available from just below 4,000 revs to its peak at 6,500. The result is a quicker response on track day and less challenging drivability on a workday. A key element in the update is a compression ratio now raised to 12.5:1, a number rarely seen in road cars since the heavily leaded sixties, and the Volkswagen group's high-pressure, multi-nozzle, direct injection system. "Iniezione Diretta Stratificata" sounds even more exotic in a Lamborghini.
But to feed these sophisticated nozzles as the engine approaches its 8,500 rpm redline a new fuel delivery system was created for Lamborghini. And engineers were still able to achieve an 18-percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by injecting vaporized fuel at different times in the combustion process. We're talking nano-second differentials into specific parts of the chamber. That level of burn efficiency in a high compression chamber satisfies both ends of the consumption spectrum. In collaboration with the latest development in dynamic management and the all wheel drive system, the Gallardo fun factor has made a substantial leap. Think Audi Quattro in haute couture.
According to Winkelmann, the company makes super sports cars, not racing cars. Though the dynamic technologies of the latest generation did come from available racing data. Much of it, one suspects, comes furnished by the racing scientists at Audi AG and their years of experience with high performance all wheel drive. The LP560-4's Pirelli P-Zero (235/35 ZR 19 front and 295/30 ZR 19 rear) tires have a special relationship with the asphalt. While delivering awesome grip, they have a particularly low rolling resistance that also helps keep tire wear to a minimum.
The new braking system includes eight cylinder calipers in front to grasp the 365 mm (14.37-inch) diameter brake discs. At the rear, four cylinder calipers act on the 356 mm (14-inch) brake discs. In addition, the new disc ventilation system improves thermal stability in extreme situations. Optionally, discs made out of Carbon Ceramic are offered. At the front, the CCB (Carbon Ceramic Brakes) discs measure 380 mm (15 inches) in diameter, while those in the rear measure 356 mm (14 inches).
All of which helps explain the smiling journalists during the racetrack segment of the company's Gallardo LP560-4 Global Dynamic Event. Las Vegas Motor Speedway's multi-option infield road course and about two-thirds of the outer circuit was the journalists' test facility. Even among that most overindulged group it was hard to get those new swing-out doors open for an occasional driver's change. But almost as memorable was the long slow drive the length of that legendary, urbane thoroughfare being stared at by all the... Well you get the idea.
Note from the editor: Canadian cars will get more standard features than their American counterparts and therefore will be priced higher than the US MSRP of $201,000, although details about the extra features we're getting and how much more they'll cost are not yet available. We won't have to wait long, however, as the first run of LP560-4s will start arriving at dealers in July, with a window sticker expected to be somewhere north of $240,000, according to a very reliable source.
Specifications (Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4):
Base Price (est. MSRP): $240,000 ($201,000 USD)
Body Type: 2-door coupe
Layout: mid engine, AWD
Engine: 552 horsepower, 398 lb-ft of torque, 5.2L, 40-valve DOHC V10
Transmission: 6-spd manual (opt. 6-spd e-Gear sequential transmission)
Brakes (front/rear): disc/disc, ABS
Acceleration (0 - 100 km/h): 3.4 seconds
Top Speed: 325 km/h (202 mph)
Dimensions (L/W w/o mirrors /H/WB): 4,341 / 1,900 / 1,161 / 2,660 mm (170.9 / 74.8 / 45.7 / 100.8 in)
Track (f/r): 1,633 / 1,582 mm (64.3 / 62.3 in)
Curb Weight: 1,501 kg (3,310 lbs)
Tires (f/r): 235/35R19 / 295/30R19
Cargo Volume (trunk): 110 L (3.9 cu ft)
Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 21.4 / 10.2 L/100 km (11 / 23 mpg)
Warranty (mo/km): 36/unlimited comprehensive
Competitors: Ferrari F430, Porsche 911 Turbo / GT3