First Drive Review: 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4
This 2007 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2012.
By Steve Siler of Car and Driver
Hugging the outside wall of the banking at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at about 130 miles per hour, we had a thought: "This dash-top stitching looks perfect."
Yes, the fencing was whizzing by in a blur, along with banner ads for cigarettes and motor oil and car wax and other assorted stuff. We were coming up fast on the braking cones that would prepare us for our slow, second-gear, 170-degree left-hander leading into the infield road-course portion of our track drive of the 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, and we're focusing on dash stitching?
Well, it is really nice. But we wouldn't have noticed it — at least not right then — if the new Gallardo weren't so calm, so collected, and so composed at that speed. Indeed, it was only at about 120 mph that we even started hearing any wind noise. This is a car that lives for triple-digit speeds.
A Really Good Car — No Bull
The Gallardo has been given a thorough refresh for 2009. And we should make one thing clear right now: This is more than a nose job. It has more power, a better interior, and a more cohesive design. It also has a new suffix — LP560-4 — to reflect its engine layout (longitudinale posteriore, meaning the longitudinally mounted engine sits behind the driver), power output (560 PS, which equals 552 horsepower), and the number of drive wheels (four).
This Car Is Gonna Be on Tons of Bedroom Walls
The body sides and the rear decklid have also been smoothed and filled, with single slits replacing the dozens of gills on the original Gallardo. The skinnier taillights no longer wrap up onto the decklid, and they now sit atop a wide band of grillwork that visually widens the rear end for that extra-exotic look. Taking a page from Ferrari's time-hewn handbook, Lambo fitted the decklid with a new plexiglass "window" to show drooling bystanders what's underneath.
More Power, More Torque, More Fun
The first twist of the key (Lamborghini hasn't yet embraced the starter-button thing) floods the cabin with an engine note that is sharp and clear. And unlike the Audi R8, with which the LP560-4 shares a few structural bits but no powertrain components, the Lambo is loud. Deliciously loud. As loud as legally possible. And thus, perfect.
Pull back on the e-gear's right shift "paddle" (it actually looks more like a hook fixed to the steering column), and after a split second of clutch uptake, the LP560-4 starts forward. The Gallardo has never been unruly, and it's still not. But there is some serious — serious — power behind that right pedal, and the farther one dips into it, the more it returns controlled and thrilling acceleration. Within only a few feet, we know one thing for sure: This is a fast car.
Prepare for Takeoff
Nothing happens for a nanosecond as the gear engages, but then the coupe rockets forward as if a truckload of TNT had exploded 10 feet from the rear bumper. Fun? Well, sort of. In spite of what is undoubtedly our best acceleration stunt, it sounds like it hurts the car. So we only do it once — okay, twice — fearing that we might spend the balance of our time with the Lambo in limp-home mode. Street starts, however, are a different story. After slowly rolling into an intersection in Vegas, we just hammer it; we break all four wheels loose for a second in a straight line — and then simply catapult forward, squealing and grinning like schoolboys who have just stolen the keys to Dad's, well, Lamborghini. This doesn't seem to hurt the car. But we know we are going straight to hell anyway.
For what it's worth, Lamborghini claims the LP560-4 is capable of charging from 0 to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds, which is quick. But we've driven many 3.7-second cars, and the LP560-4 feels a lot quicker. The last Gallardo Superleggera we tested weighed less than the LP560-4 and could hit 60 in 3.5 seconds. And that was with 40 fewer horsepower and 22 fewer pound-feet of torque. We can't wait to strap our test equipment to the LP560-4 and see just how far off Lambo's claims are. Ditto the quoted 202-mph top speed, which is up from 196.
Supremely Fast on the Road; Better on the Track
After our track experience, during which we lapped the speedway's infield and about half of the banking at least two dozen times, we can tell you that Corsa mode does indeed work, but the shifts are quite brutal. Thus, we'd say the mode is appropriate only in 10/10th driving. Anything less, and the Sport mode is a far better compromise — still quick but not neck breaking. Both modes automatically raise the stability-control threshold commensurately, and the automatic mode is pleasantly comfortable and thus suitable when carrying a weak-stomached passenger.
Naturally, we spent most of our track time in Corsa mode, which allowed the 30/70 front-to-rear torque split of the VT (viscous traction) all-wheel-drive system to do its thing, and the LP560-4 to slide around a good bit with some easy-to-catch tail-out fun before reining it in. Steering is quick, light, and precise, with good feedback through the Alcantara-covered wheel. The feeling of porkiness of the Gallardo has been mitigated somewhat, and body roll, if there is any, is absolutely undetectable.
All the LP560-4s present at the launch had the optional carbon-ceramic brakes, which never exhibited a trace of fade even after the cars had been track-driven for three hours without a break. They feel better calibrated than before, seeming less grabby. However, they are still far from supersmooth, especially with the transmission in Sport or Corsa mode, both of which downshift automatically (and occasionally harshly) during deceleration, making for herky-jerky stops in city driving. Oh, and the brakes still add $15,600 to the price, which is now $203,000, including the gas-guzzler penalty and freight charges.
All Grown Up and Better for It
Summarily, the Gallardo is all grown up, feeling every bit as solid and sophisticated as the Audi R8, only louder and faster. And although it isn't quite as raw as, say, the Porsche GT2 or Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series, neither does it have a big vacant space in the rear where seats were yanked out in the interest of turning things more hard-core. This Gallardo is hard-core enough.
Is it as good as its main rival, the Ferrari F430? Well, if it's not, it's closer than ever to matching the legendary cavallino's refinement and appeal. Looks like we'll have to put them side by side at 130 ticks to find out which has the better dash stitching.