from Auto Express http://www.autoexpress.co.uk
What a way to say Happy Birthday! It's 40 years since Lamborghini charged on to the scene, and as an anniversary present it's launched an all-new car. For the first time in nearly three decades, the Sant Agata firm has a two-model line-up, so it can really lock horns with Ferrari.
Meet the Gallardo (pronounced Guy-ardo and named after a breed of fighting bull), the £115,000 'baby' entry-level Lambo. Backed by the VW Group, the Italian firm has been able to innovate. So the Gallardo boasts an all-aluminium spaceframe construction, an optional paddleshift gearbox (set to account for 75 per cent of sales) and, as with the Murciélago, four-wheel drive. But the way it looks is more important to most buyers. Lamborghini calls it cutting edge and, in terms of proportion, aggression and stance, the Gallardo is spot-on.
It's also compact for a car with such visual power, being smaller than a Porsche. However, the rear looks blocky and some of the detailing fussy. The 19-inch wheels hide some special Brembo brakes - needed to rein in the mighty engine. The 5.0-litre is a V10 purely because it betters a Ferrari 360 by two cylinders, while V12s are reserved for top Lambos. The same applies to scissor doors, so this model's open normally.
But with five valves per cylinder delivering 493bhp and 510Nm of torque at 4,500rpm, you'd expect the Gallardo to be faster, particularly as the aluminium construction keeps the weight below 1,500kg. A 193mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of 4.2 seconds are impressive, but the car is very long-geared. From rest, first takes you to within 2mph of the motorway speed limit, so twisty roads are second-gear affairs. In third, the Gallardo lacks punch when exiting corners. We'd also stick to the traditional open-gate lever. The E-Gear paddleshift may be one of the best of its kind and makes the car easier to drive, but for sheer involvement, the manual adds to the intoxicating driving experience.
Climb into the snug, low-slung cabin and the first thing to strike you is how good the driving position is - both seat and wheel are widely adjustable. After that, your eyes are drawn to the Audi switchgear on the centre console. This isn't a problem - Ingolstadt's heating and stereo controls are among the best - we're more disappointed by the plastic door handles and lack of stowage. At least there's a decent boot up front.
The real action takes place further back. The V10 may not wail like a V8 or bellow like a V12, but find a tunnel and it'll send tingles down your spine. As the Gallardo is designed to be driven every day, it has a long wheelbase to improve ride and stability, and 4WD for traction.
On the road, it's capable, planted and sure-footed, with a trace of understeer at the limit - traits it shares with the 911 Turbo. However, with less steering feel, a long-travel brake pedal and duller throttle response, it's not as communicative or nimble as the 360. But unless you're a track-day regular, you won't mind. The Gallardo is not only more reassuring, it's also every bit as eventful to drive. Oliver Marriage