Re­strained? Un­der­stated? Not a chance. The Lam­borgh­ini Gallardo is the epit­ome of mid-noughties su­per­car ex­cess. John Evans finds out more

Autocar - - CONTENTS -

If you think Lam­borgh­ini Gal­lar­dos are crazy, you want to meet their own­ers. Like the lurid shades many of the cars are fa­mously painted in, there’s not a shrink­ing vi­o­let among them.

The model at­tracts all sorts, from the track-day hero who roasts the car’s brakes to the vinyl fetishist who wraps it in ‘chrome’. It’s why you need to be ex­tra vig­i­lant when buying one, es­pe­cially given how, when that bull mas­cot hoves into view, the heart can take over the head.

A more sen­si­ble soul might pop to a Porsche show­room for that most ra­tio­nal of su­per­cars, a 911 – a 2013reg S PDK with barely 10,000 miles on the clock is yours for £75,000. The same money will just about buy the rare and sought-af­ter man­ual Gallardo coupé, but it’ll be nine years older than the Porsche, have cov­ered 32,000 miles and be pow­ered by the less well re­garded 493bhp 5.0-litre V10, not the much-im­proved 552bhp 5.2 that re­placed it in 2008.

The same sum will also buy the more plen­ti­ful (so cheaper) Spy­der au­to­matic – an 06-reg with 27,000 miles and the slightly fruitier 513bhp 5.0-litre that ap­peared in 2005.

Older, higher-mileage Gal­lar­dos such as these make that 911 look a shoo-in but for the fact that the Porsche will never turn heads like the Lam­borgh­ini. And that is the Gallardo’s chief ap­peal.

Well, that and the fact that un­der­neath those eye-catch­ing lines, it’s an Audi in all but name, al­beit with, cru­cially, Lam­borgh­ini’s DNA run­ning through it.

With strik­ing looks, ex­plo­sive per­for­mance and the prom­ise of A3 lev­els of qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity, the Gallardo was a hit from the mo­ment it was launched in 2003. It had a light but stiff alu­minium space­frame, alu­minium pan­els and a mid-mounted 5.0-litre V10 pow­er­ing all four wheels on de­mand via a sixspeed man­ual gear­box or a six-speed E-gear pad­dle-shift auto. In 2005, along with the en­gine up­grade, the gear­box ra­tios were short­ened and the sus­pen­sion made sportier. In 2007, the light­ened Su­per­leg­gera ar­rived with a 523bhp V10.

Nice, but Fer­rari’s F430 begged a more se­ri­ous re­sponse and in 2008 it ar­rived in the form of the Gallardo LP 560-4, a much-re­vised model pow­ered by the afore­men­tioned 552bhp 5.2 V10. Lighter and with up­rated sus­pen­sion, it breathed fresh life into the Gallardo, which now faced com­pe­ti­tion from closer to home in the form of the Audi R8 V10 (now there’s a thought: to­day, a 70,000-miler is around £50,000).

The re­vived Gallardo spawned a mul­ti­tude of de­riv­a­tives, in­clud­ing the LP 550-2 Bal­boni, a rear-drive ver­sion with 536bhp and named for Lam­borgh­ini’s leg­endary test driver. In 2010, the Su­per­leg­gera made a come­back, this time with 554bhp. It and other rare spin-offs en­sured the Gallardo would end its days in 2013 as eas­ily Lam­borgh­ini’s best­selling car. Cue some great used car pick­ings, but beware the crazy gang.

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