Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder
6 Sp E-Gear
4.2 seconds and a simple click of a right hand gear paddle……. that’s all it took for me to pilot 490 thousand dollars of Italian supercar to 100kph along an Eastern beaches road in Sydney last weekend.
I managed to let Lamborghini Australia to set me loose on a half a million dollar car on a sunny Sydney day but how did this event occur? Well a close friend Mr X (we shall have to call him) is in the market to part exchanging supercar A, a very accomplished well awarded supercar of a Bavarian nature for supercar B which could be a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. I was asked by my close friend Mr X to come along and test out the car on a bit of an advice basis.
Ok to put it another way, normally when friends ask for some help it’s to drive a rusty old pickup van full of dusty belongings as they move house at the weekend in return for a thankyou Pint down the pub afterwards. But when the call comes in to help test drive a brand new Lamborghini for a 2nd opinion for the morning, all bets are off.
In actual fact I spent 2 days with the car, a morning with the car in Eastern Sydney followed by some socialising with Lamborghini Sydney and onto the racetrack at Eastern Creek Raceway in Western Sydney in the following days.
Where’s the Keys
Picking up the car from the Lamborghini dealer we went over the usual mass of buttons configuration you normally go over when taking a luxury car for a drive. The most important buttons in this car (apart from the key of course) were the roof up and down button for the Spyder’s roof, equally as important is the button to raise and lower the front lip of the car by 3 inch’s . This is an $8,200 option but I’m sure it would pay for itself in saving front lip replacements in no time at all, saving a lot of embarrassment at the same time, and trust me in a bright Orange Lamborghini everyone is watching you from the pavement.
Lip raised by 3 inches we pull off from our temporary parking space on the pavement of a busy Sydney street and down onto the road and were off into the busy inner city roads. The first thing you notice driving in traffic is that this isn’t such a hard car to drive as you would expect relating to older supercars. The Lamborghini development 6 speed semi-manual gearbox know as E-gear does a very good job at letting a pretty bad driver, if you were, safely control the 382kw (513hp) V10 engine nestling behind your back in its mid engine configuration.
In traffic the paddle controlled E-gear really is easy to use with a simple up and down automated-manual shift action which shifts incredibly quick. Advice by Lamborghini when city driving was to shift up when comfortable but let the e-gear system downshift automatically when it drops to around 1000rpm for you, just concentrate on the perfect up-shifts.
This did start to feel natural after around 20 minutes of driving I found. If you do decide to downshift at slightly higher rev’s the system carries out a short and punchy throttle blip simular to the Ferrari 360’s first introduced semi-manual system just a lot quicker. This downshift blip generates a little bark from the V10 engine as if it’s complaining about slowing down; fortunately this is usually as you’re coming into a corner and you’ll soon be putting your foot down to exit the corner and keep the engine happy by releasing its long legs again.
The E-gear is a rather costly optional extra at $25,700 and I would love to compare the Gallardo with a 6 speed traditional gated manual box but with sales figures showing that approx 75% of Gallardo’s sold in Australia are E-gear equipped there must be some converted die hard E-gear lovers out there putting their money where their mouth (or fingertips) are.
Onto the engine, the heart of what a lot of this car is about. It really is no secret this is probably one of the best engines I’ve come to experience so far in my life, it really is, eclipsing my previous most impressed engines of TVR’s Speed Six and Porsches GT3 3.6 flat 6. Let it be known, no one builds a large capacity rev hungry engine like the Italians do, it must be something in the pepperoni that does it, they seem to come out spicy and smooth in one.
The amount of power and more importantly waves of jaw smacking torque on tap from the 5 litre V10 really makes your brain wake up like it does to a double short black with added Tabasco sauce. You see from a V10 engine there really is no lack of power down low like there is with 4 or even 6 cylinders, there’s no need for superchargers, no need for turbo’s and defiantly no need for nitro or anything else you care to bolt or squirt into your engine. With 10 cylinders at your control it’s all about just pure on demand power right through the rev range on command like a court order to a judge.
I found with the torque delivery of the car you could be on a flat bit of road, a hill, straight or corner, you didn’t need to recognise what gear you were in, you request power and it delivered and boy does it deliver. Anything over 5000 rpm and the flaps in the exhaust open up, combined with a shove in your back of pushing torque is produced with a scream from heaven from the exhausts bouncing off any object in the vicinity back to your ears, it’s just so much to take in at once. It makes you want to place the engine into this 5000+ rpm band again and again (we did on the track but more on that later) as it is just an intoxicating experience you savour.
I’ve often wondered watching old Clarkson on Top Gear for years when driving Lamborghini’s, he looks like he’s going to explode with excitement like a kid in a lolly shop if a bit over the top, but I found myself re-enacting the same emotions inside. Finding a section of inner city tunnel with no speed cameras around I wanted to keep blasting though this tunnel creating this symphony of Italian V10 singing to my ears again and again and from the thumbs up of other drivers in the tunnel I didn’t seem to be the only one enjoying this Italian petrol fuelled opera.
Taking one of my favourite twisty test routes in the Eastern beaches area I drive often I started to learn to trust the sheer amount of grip this car has. This is due to 2 things really, its super wide tyres with 235’s on the front and 295’s on the rear and very low centre of gravity, but also due to the 4 wheel drive system putting all this 500 odd HP down on the road so efficiently like only 4wd does so well.
A series of sweeping left right turns showed also that although the suspension is setup slightly softer than the hardtop coupe version to comfortably absorb all the roads little battle scars of badly done road repairs, it is still resistant against body roll as the cars weight shifted from side to side. I have to say the suspension in the Gallardo is really sweetly setup in my mind; it communicated the feeling of the road but blotted out its imperfections nearly as well as a German tourer would in its stride. Comparing to a Ferrari 360 I had the pleasure of driving a few months ago; the Gallardo certainly had it licked in body control and controls feedback to the driver.
An interesting thing happened during my drive which I felt just would not be the same if I was driving the same road on the same day in the like of a Ferrari model. People actively old and young were really positive to me in this bright Orange Lamborghini driving around with the roof down. Not once was there a frown of ‘snobbyness’ regarded to me with in fact a multitude of thumbs up and shouts of “that’s one sexy car” from people of different ages and backgrounds.
In fact there was a fun 15 minutes when a young guy in his old Blue Alfa Romeo, he must have been in his early 20’s chased me around the windy back roads with one hand on his steering wheel and one using his camera phone. Crazy I know but he was having the time of his life chasing down a rarity of a car like this in his neighbourhood grasping for footage on his mobile phone to bragging rights to his mates down the pub later that night it felt.
Back to the task in hand, surveying the neatness of the interior it seems very more German by design than the Italian’ness extravaganzas of an Italian Ferrari or ‘plushness’ of a Maserati or Aston Martin. Everything is laid out stylishly and purposefully where function and design are equal although you cannot help noting all the borrowed items from the Audi parts bin. Like certain switches laid out throughout the cabin and of course the steering wheel which shouts ‘RS4’ at you with its flat bottomness every time I look at it, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we all know the build quality and reliability your getting.
I found the $6,700 rear view camera option, which can just be toggled on and off at any time, to be quite useful when reverse parking as it is hard to judge the length of the rear of the car as there is a lot of space between where your sitting and the rear end of the car. This could save some embarrassing/costly nudging during tight parking. Lamborghini are swift to always tell you that the car is no larger than a Ford Focus but somehow when driving it you always feel it is a little bit wider than it actually is but that confidence of size will surely come with time of ownership of the car.
The fabric folding roof is very efficient and quick at raising and lowering but has to be done at a complete standstill unfortunately. Porsche has been creating convertibles what you can open and close the roof at speed for many years now, it would be nice to see a roof design of this type on a car in this premium price bracket. That said the roof does open and close cleanly and quite quickly. When the rear engine cover opens, you can look back and see this entire engine cover is made from carbon fibre to save some rear end weight. When the roof is in the closed position you can lower the rear window with a button to allow some natural cabin air circulation and with a side effect of this it allows the engine noise to roll into the cabin from behind which is a welcome addition to the cabin when in the mood.
Let’s test some numbers, to the Track squire!
A couple of days pass and I am joined again with the Gallardo Spyder but this time it’s at Eastern Creek Raceway Sydney to test some of its big performance numbers out. There were no briefings on how to handle this car on the track but after completing a morning on the track in my own Lotus Elise pulling in some competitive lap times and some coffee and complimentary pastries, my brain was switched into gear ready to tackle the task.
Piloting half a million dollars worth of car travelling at very much past drivers license destroying speeds is no task to be taken lightly, needless to say my first couple of laps were taken at nana speeds to embarrassment of those colleagues watching in the pit. Remembering how focused the cars driving experience was from two days previous helped me sink back into feeling that the car is capable and I started to exploit it.
Eastern Creek is blessed with one of the longest straights of any racetrack in Australia and coming onto it from the last corner free from any entanglements with the law I was determined to experience what this 382kw (513hp) and 376 Lb ft of torque felt like. Hovering the rev’s Mid way through 3rd gear coming onto the straight I floor the accelerator and the car lunges towards the horizon towards its peak at 8000rpm, before I know it we’re there and a pull on the right paddle and we’re in forth, air pushing against the car now as we are really picking up speed but the engine has surges or power relentlessly pushing again towards its 8000rpm limit but now in 4th. Another flip of the paddle and we’re into 5th and now pushing 240kph, a good 30kph’s over what I’ve ever had my own Lotus going at this point but I’m starting to run out of straight track and nerve.
At this point I let off the gas and cleanly slide through turn 1 of the track at 200kph, the now warmed up tyres and aerodynamic forces helped by the now automatically raised rear wing pushing the car down firm as we corner at such high speed. The rear section of the track is a series of twisty corners which are easily dispatched in 2nd and 3rd gear. I could have easily stayed in 3rd gear with all that torque from the engine on demand on the majority of the track but it’s just too much fun to hear those angry loud barks from the exhaust when the throttle blips on the downshifts, ok so yes I was enjoying this a bit too much now.
Bull loose on the track
Top speed, if you had a long enough straight, is measured at 315kph (195mph), due to aerodynamic drag to handle this speed I’d imagine this would have to be undertaken with the roof up and a tot of rum for the driver of course. Acceleration comes to 0-100kph in 4.3 seconds for the E-gear version unless you’re a seriously fast manual shifter. With a weight of 1570 Kg’s you can see just how well the 4wd system deploys the power and torque of the V10 engine so well to attain such great figures.
The brakes stayed solid throughout the session with 365mm 8 pot disks at the front and 330mm 4 pot disks at the back both made of steel. There is a carbon brake disks alternative on the options list, I believe, but for the duration of my session I did not experience any brake fade to talk of, despite the fact they probably cost the same as the GNP of a small African country.
Back into the pits and a few throttle blips in neutral to announce the fact the Lamborghini is back and its clearing its lungs and I park up to relax and collect my thoughts of the experience.
An amazing car of power and finesse when driving and strangely enough from its steering feel and precession handling I would liken it to a Porsche GT3 in many ways. Maybe this is from Audi’s thought process behind the car, “Ok you Italians create a V10 revving masterpiece engine like you do, make sure you add some Italian flare and passion and it must create a soundtrack that makes all revheads go weak at the knees and us German professors at Audi will create a working car around your engine”.
I think this has led to a car with the passion of Italy but the knowhow and German reliability of Audi, in other words it won’t have the reliability of a Italian supercar and cost you as much as a Italian supermodel to keep happy. This, for me then, is approaching what car heaven is all about, a usable, reliable, real driver’s car, and uniqueness (well in these parts – Australia) to round it off. I can’t wait to experience its successor the Gallardo LP560 when it arrives on our Australian shores early 2009 and how the experience could be improved.
Spec as tested: E-Gear transmission, Anti-theft System, Lifting system, Rear camera, Branding package, Electric & heated seats
Base Price: $460,000
Price as tested: $490,000
Positives: Best current convertible supercar there is, amazing tractable V10 engine, Everyone see’s you coming
Negatives: Feels larger than it is, V10 engines thirsty, Everyone see’s you coming
Rating out of five: 5
Words Mark Bedford, Photography Mark Bedford & Luke O’Neil