What's New for 2006
For 2006, there's a new Lamborghini Gallardo SE. Production of this model is limited, and it features a number of mechanical updates, including shortened gear ratios for quicker acceleration and an extra 20 horsepower courtesy of revised intake tuning and a new exhaust. Lamborghini has also revised the suspension tuning, added Pirelli Corsa tires, and quickened the steering for a claimed improvement in handling response and ride quality. Cosmetically, the SE features new wheels, exclusive exterior paint choices (all with a black-painted roof, engine cover and rear vents) and special interior trim details. In an odd twist, however, Lamborghini has stated that the SE's hardware updates will also be applied to the regular Gallardo as well. So when is a special edition not that special? When it's the 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo SE, apparently.
The Lamborghini Gallardo serves as this Italian sports-carmaker's most "affordable" product. In years past, this might have been cause for concern. (The prosecution presents exhibit A, your honor: the 1980s Jalpa.) But the Gallardo is the first Lamborghini to fully benefit from the stewardship of Audi/Volkswagen, which purchased Lamborghini in 1998. Audi's mission for the car's development was to keep the style and attitude of V12-powered cars like the Countach, Diablo and Murcielago but make the car much more usable and livable for daily use. Since the Gallardo's debut in 2004, it has been greeted with very positive reviews and strong sales.
The Gallardo packs a midmounted, aluminum V10 engine. Power, which has been upped slightly for 2006, tops out at 520 hp at 8,000 rpm and 376 pound-feet of torque at 4,500. The V10 features an 18-degree offset crankshaft for even firing, continuously variable valve timing, dry-sump oiling and a variable-length induction system. Suspension front and rear is a double-wishbone design, and all that V10 power is fed to the pavement through an all-wheel-drive system that can vary torque front-to-rear as necessary. Beefy Brembo brakes handle the stopping duties, with eight-piston calipers clamping things down up front. The chassis is a mix of alloy stampings, extruded elements and castings. Except for the doors, which are made of steel and swing out conventionally instead of upward scissor-style, the exterior is composed of thermoplastic panels. Audi clearly has left its mark inside. The handsome furnishings deftly blend form and function -- the Gallardo's interior looks great and is comfortable to boot.
Though hyperbole is always dangerous, there's no doubt that the Gallardo is Lamborghini's best car ever. It doesn't quite have the outrageousness of the Murcielago, but in all other respects it's a better overall package. The Gallardo's primary competition, however, comes not from the Murcielago but from the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, the Ferrari F430, the Ford GT, and when Porsche gets around to releasing it, the latest 911 Turbo. Potential buyers for this class of car aren't going to go wrong with any of them so choosing mainly comes down to personal preference.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The exotic Lamborghini Gallardo is currently available as a coupe only, though a convertible is in the works. For the 2006 coupe, there are two trim levels available: base and SE. Standard equipment for the base car includes 19-inch alloy wheels, 235/35R19 tires in front and 295/30R19 in the rear, HID headlights, full power accessories and an Audi-sourced CD audio system. A winter package is available as an option; it adds heated exterior mirrors, seats and windshield washer jets; winter tires with "Cassiopeia" style titanium-colored rims and a power outlet in the trunk. A sport suspension, a navigation system and a rear-backup camera are also optional. And as is typical for this class of car, the Gallardo can be customized in terms of trim and colors. The limited-production SE trim is pretty much identical to the base car but has its own set of unique interior and exterior colors and includes some of the base car's optional features as standard.
Powertrains and Performance
A 5.0-liter V10 engine is positioned amidships. It develops 520 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. Power is fed through a six-speed manual transmission and an all-wheel-drive system. An automated, sequential-shifting manual transmission is also available. Dubbed e-gear, it can be placed in an automatic mode or shifted via steering wheel-mounted paddles. Lamborghini claims a 0-to-62-mph time of 4 seconds and a top speed of 196 mph.
Antilock brakes, traction control and stability control are standard equipment. Head-protecting side curtain airbags are also standard.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Audi influence is obvious inside the Gallardo, with plenty of properly fitting leather and soft-touch materials. Despite the fact that this is an exotic, seating is comfortable enough to accommodate the occasional road trip. Though not as flamboyant as the exterior, the interior styling is still suitable for a vehicle that commands such a high price of admission. Storage space is minimal; just a bit of room is available behind the seats and in the nose-mounted trunk.
At full throttle, the V10 produces a sweet soundtrack truly befitting a Lamborghini -- no Dodge Viper UPS truck exhaust note here. With 520 hp on tap, the Gallardo is capable of warp speed from any gear. It's true that the big V10 and all-wheel-drive system do make the Gallardo a bit portly for this class of car. As such, it doesn't quite provide the same razor's-edge responsiveness that one can get from, say, a Ferrari F430. Additionally, the brakes, though immensely powerful, can be inconsistent in feel when pushed to their limit. There's still plenty to like about the Gallardo, though. This year's suspension updates help the car to be a more willing handling partner and the shorter gearing makes one more inclined to rev the V10 to its absolute limit. And thanks to that AWD system, the Gallardo is indeed the car you'll want when the roads are slick and unfamiliar.