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2005 Lamborghini Gallardo

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September 7, 2005

Test Drive:
2005 Lamborghini Gallardo
Review and photos by Tony Whitney

There's nothing more fascinating in the world of automobiles than the super-exotic sports car segment, populated by mystical names producing vehicles that cost as much - or perhaps far more - than a decent family home in most parts of the country.

Recent years have seen all kinds of changes in this segment, but the overall picture is one of amalgamation with major automakers, rather than a scenario in which great names gradually fade into history. Without big name automakers stepping in, few of those fabled nameplates of yesteryear would be around today to carry on their traditions.

A quick look at "who owns what" reveals that British manufacturer Aston Martin is owned by Ford (along with Jaguar), and Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley are part of the powerful Volkswagen/Audi group. Ferrari is part of Fiat, as is Maserati, another Italian sports car builder of great renown. Mercedes-Benz produces an exotic sports car in the form of its amazing 617-horsepower SLR McLaren, and Ford itself is firmly in the segment with its gorgeous re-creation of the 1960s GT 40 coupe.

The most successful independent upscale maker is Porsche, which seems to go from strength to strength. There are several other makers around the world building limited edition supercars, but most are so small they don't merit a mention here. The Geneva auto show throws up the most amazing stuff every year, but most of these flights of fancy rarely make it to the streets.

My most recent exotic car experience was with a 2005 Lamborghini Gallardo (pronounced 'Gy-ar-do'). Lamborghini is once again well established in Canada after a few years of rather vague distribution. There are now several showrooms around the country, reflecting VW/Audi's ownership of the company, no doubt. My test Gallardo came courtesy of Lamborghini Vancouver.

As most dyed-in-the-wool auto enthusiasts know, Lamborghini was once devoted entirely to the manufacture of agricultural tractors. Legend has it that owner Ferruccio Lamborghini was not happy with the Ferrari he owned and decided that he could build something better. In fact, when Lamborghini went to see Enzo Ferrari to complain about his car's clutch, the "Commendatore" made a comment along the lines of "what does a tractor maker know about cars," which must have cost him a lot of business in the ensuing years. A kind word and an offer of help from Ferrari and Lamborghini cars might never have been.

The Lamborghini shield that graces the noses of the cars bears the image of a bull - and a fighting bull at that. Ferruccio was born under the sign of Taurus and decided that bulls were what he wanted to symbolize his cars with. In fact, several Lamborghinis over the years have taken their names from fighting bull breeds - including the Gallardo.

The first Lamborghini appeared at the Turin auto show in 1963 and with some modification, later became the 350 GT, a model that earned widespread praise in the automotive press and is now a rare and highly collectible classic, along with its 400 GT successor. Even today, this is a beautiful car to behold and it really got the company off the ground. When the 350 GT went into production, cynical references to tractors ceased and from then on, Lamborghini created some of the most stunning automotive creations in history - many of them, quite literally, "cars as art."

Landmarks included the superbly-styled Miura (a favourite of the Shah of Iran), a unique 2+2 called Espada, and the remarkable Countach, which set the whole sports car industry on its ear when it appeared.

The Gallardo was launched as a "baby Lamborghini" and though it lacks the characteristic Lamborghini 12 cylinder, I don't think too many Gallardo owners will complain about its V-10.

The concept behind the Gallardo was to create a sports car that can be used on an everyday basis. Naturally, the car takes off like a rocket and legal speeds come up all too quickly. Handling would shame some race-cars I've driven, but when driven in city traffic, the car is surprisingly docile - not always the case in the supercar field.

The Gallardo is a truly beautiful car and you can look at it from any angle without seeing a discordant line. It hugs the ground in a predatory fashion and looks like it's seriously on the move even when standing still. The car is very light, weighing only 1,430 kilograms.

Incidentally, the car is built around Audi's proven aluminum space frame technology. It uses sheet metal, diecastings and extrusions to produce a bodyshell of exceptional rigidity and lightness.

The 5-litre V10, which uses dry sump lubrication like a race-car, develops a stirring 500-horsepower. Floor the gas pedal, if you dare, and you'll get a serious kick in the back as the Gallardo leaps off the mark. Lamborghini made extensive use of state-of-the-art electronics when it came to engine management, and throttle control is drive-by-wire.

One of the highlights of this car is that it has four-wheel-drive - something rare in this segment. What this means is that you can accelerate briskly even in pouring rain and never get out of control. Floor the gas pedal and the car just takes off down the road without the least drama. I've always believed that all cars in this class should have all wheel drive - it's the safest way to make use of horsepower this impressive. The system is related to Audi's Quattro technology, so it ranks as among the best there is.

The transmission is a 6-speed sequential system, operated by Formula One style paddles behind the beautifully-made steering wheel. There is no shift knob of any kind, which must alarm some first-time users. After a little practice, shifts can be lightning-fast and very smooth. There IS a fully automatic mode for times when a busy driver wants to leave everything to the electronics.

Suspension is by double wishbone front and rear and Koni shocks are used. With its Pirelli P Zero tires, the car handles as though it were ready to take to the track. All the usual safety bells and whistles are included in the Gallardo's spec sheet, including huge Brembo ABS brakes.

Find somewhere to safely exploit this car's performance, and you'll see 100 km/h come up in a scant 4.2-seconds and a top speed of 309 km/h. Clearly, the Gallardo goes as well as it looks.

The cockpit is, unsurprisingly, a great place to do business. It's beautifully finished, which has not always been common to cars in this class. A Lambo I drove a few years back had bits in the cabin that looked as though they belonged in an old Dodge pickup. There is some use of Audi components around the stereo and HVAC panel, but nobody will complain about that since Audi does great work when it comes to interiors.

As far as fuel consumption goes - well, let's not worry about that right now. It's doubtful that folk who shell out over a quarter of a million dollars for a car spend much time cruising the suburbs looking to save three cents a litre on gas. Suffice it is to say that this is one of the world's truly great sports cars and at $280,000 or so as tested, it's far from being the most expensive.

Of course, for most of us, cars like the Lamborghini Gallardo are simply for dreaming about and there's always the question of whether any car can be worth between $250,000 and $300,000 (not excessive in this segment, incidentally). I believe that cars like this are worth the money when viewed as what they are - hand-built pieces of automotive art with race-car performance.

It would be a dull world without cars like the Gallardo to lust after and the fact that it exists at all is an indication of how hard the world's automakers try to build something for every kind of buyer, whether it's a million dollar Bugatti or a $13,000 Hyundai.

Technical Data: 2005 Lamborghini Gallardo

Base price $252,000
Price as tested $280,000
Type 2-door, 2-passenger mid-size sports car
Layout longitudinal mid engine/all-wheel drive
Engine 5.0 litre V10, DOHC, 40 valves, CVVT
Horsepower 500 @ 7800 rpm
Torque 376 lb.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Transmission six-speed manual (optional sequential E-gear system with paddles on the steering column)
Tires Pirelli P Zero (front/rear) 235/35ZR-19 / 295/30ZR-19
Curb weight 1430 kg (3153 lb.)
Wheelbase 2560 mm (100.7 in)
Length 4300 mm (169.3 in
Width 1900 mm (74.8 in)
Height 1165 mm (45.9 in)
Cargo capacity 113 litres (4.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 29.1 L/100 km (9 mpg Imperial)
Hwy: 13.9 L/100 km (20 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Premium unleaded
Warranty 2 yrs/24,000 km
Assembly location Bolognese, Italy Edited by HarleyEarl

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