How To Simultaneously Attract and Evade the Paparazzi
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Look at me. Don't touch. Chase me. That's enough. Good-bye. Like the biggest tease you've ever met, a Lamborghini has stunning lines that irresistibly attract your attention, yet it's expressly designed to run away from just about anyone and anything in a heartbeat.
And so it remains with the 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, only more so. Cruise slowly, troll the cityscape, be seen, sneer at the gawkers and pretend you don't love it. This is a car that displays a raging V10 engine under a hatch that's inset with glass, and yet it can get away from the rabble at a top speed of 202 mph.
First, Some Italiano The 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 replaces the apparently alphanumerically deficient Gallardo coupe in the Lambo lineup. The LP part stands for Longitudinale Posteriore, Italian for "the engine is back there, mounted longways" and accompanied by the appropriate thumb jerk over the shoulder. No surprise here.
Next in the sequence comes 560, the horsepower rating in CV or Cavalli Vapore: literally "steam horses." In American, this translates to 552 SAE horsepower, about 40 more than the weakling Gallardo coupe had last year. Credit goes to an all-new 90-degree 5.2-liter V10 engine.
Finally, the "dash four" part refers to Lambo's favored viscous traction all-wheel-drive system that directs all of that equine fury to the pavement. As the name implies, a viscous-type center differential divides the torque between front and rear: 30 percent front and 70 percent rear in this case. Apparently the wacky Lamborghini LM001 4x4 had more of an effect on the company's engineers than any of us could imagine at the time.
So, of Course, Las Vegas What better place, then, to introduce this mechanically invigorated Gallardo, a fantastic high-speed driving machine that can peel your skin off, than the Strip in Las Vegas?
Surely Vegas is a mecca for enthusiast drivers and is known for its world-class driving roads. Umm. How about, no?
Las Vegas is all about seeing things and being seen. It's about neon lights, outrageous hotels, unashamed displays of wealth, artful inebriation and sins of the flesh. In short, Vegas is the epicenter of Lambo country.
Don't laugh. Lamborghini has leveraged this image into a business plan that has resulted in a 1,000 percent increase in sales over five years. Last year, Lamborghini sold 2,406 cars worldwide, an increase of 15.3 percent over the year before, and its overall revenue increased 34.0 percent. In the U.S., 1,001 cars were sold, a new record for the company. And this increased cash flow in recent years has funded the development of the improvements we see in the 2009 Lamborghini LP560-4.
They Do Have a Racetrack Here Sure, Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a NASCAR oval track, but it contains a passable interior road course for Gallardo-flogging. Here we finally get to see if the 2009 LP560-4 is more than a pretty face with high, Euro-style cheekbones.
The V10 engine roars to life and rumbles patiently while it waits for us to shift the reworked e-gear six-speed automated manual transmission out of Neutral. As before, there's no console-mounted shift lever in sight: just a trio of flat buttons labeled "Sport," "A" (for automatic) and "Corsa," plus a pair of shift paddles on the steering wheel and just two pedals.
The Sport setting tightens up the shifting and liberalizes the electronic stability control. Corsa, newly added to the LP560, takes both a step further toward the full-race mode by making shifts 40 percent quicker than last year. Thrust launch control can be enabled for demon standing starts, and a stability control defeat switch exists for the highly skilled (or highly stupid).
After selecting 1st gear by tugging the "+" paddle, the car doesn't move until we squeeze the throttle gently. They say this thing can achieve zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.7 seconds. Let's see if they're riiiigghht....
WOW! We'll have no trouble matching that back in the lab.
Where the 560 Comes From The new V10 engine develops this massive wallop by way of a displacement bump from 5.0 liters to 5.2, a compression ratio raised from 11:1 to 12.5:1, the addition of direct fuel injection and revisions made to the variable valve timing system.
The VVT acts on the intake and exhaust cams as before, but reductions in bearing friction and inertial mass enable it to respond much more quickly to demands from the onboard engine computer.
In addition to the extra horses, the LP560-4 gains a flatter torque curve that peaks at 398 pound-feet instead of 376. It's likely that the impressive 18 percent increase in fuel economy will pass unnoticed by Gallardo owners, but a similar decrease in CO2 emissions will doubtless make good cocktail party chitchat: "Hey baby, I'm doing my part."
A dry-sump lubrication system provides superior oil pickup on racetracks and allows lower placement of the engine in the chassis for a lower center of gravity without fear of grinding a hole in a big oil pan. Following this theme is a 3,109-pound overall weight for the new Gallardo LP560-4, some 44 pounds less than before.
Entering Turn 1 Our sample Gallardo is equipped with the optional carbon-ceramic brakes (CCB), a $10,000 premium that replaces the 14.4-inch ventilated and drilled steel front rotors with humongous 15-inch carbon ceramic ones and swaps eight-piston front calipers for slimmer six-piston units. The rear brakes change, too, but the sizes remain the same.
When the CCBs get up to temperature on the track, they bite like mad and haul the Lambo down to a stop in a hurry, but on the street they run cooler and tend to feel a bit erratic. The lightweight rotors reduce unsprung weight by a pound or so at each corner, but the big payoff is a heroic resistance to brake fade with track use.
The chassis turns into corners crisply and the road talks to us through the front 235/35ZR19 Pirelli P Zero tires and lightly assisted steering, but as we gain confidence and increase cornering speed, an undeniable trend toward understeer creeps into low-speed corners where the aerodynamic downforce from the revised front bodywork is in short supply.
Even so, altered geometry in the double-wishbone rear suspension and huge 295/30ZR19 rear meats contribute to an overriding impression of immense grip and poise. Profilers will be happy to learn that this car isn't a kidney-rattler, as the thoughtfully tuned springs and dampers filter out more of the impacts than we expected on the open road.
Inside the Leather Cocoon The overriding theme inside the revised Gallardo is one of leather — lots of it. In addition to power-adjustable leather-upholstered seats, our LP560-4 had leather covering the dash and the center console — even the headliner was smothered in the stuff. Sumptuous? Yes, but such an interior is a bit monochromatic.
The navigation system, climate control interface and certain switches look like pieces from the Audi R8, because they are. The same goes for the flat-bottom steering wheel and the main instrument binnacles. All this is well integrated into the Italian architecture, but in the end it's still recognizable as Audi stuff. There are far worse parts bins to dip into, we suppose.
A display between the main instrument dials clearly tells us what gear we're in, but up and down gearchanges with any appreciable steering input are hampered by the shift paddles, which are fixed to the steering column and too short to reach. Parking this Gallardo is a bit of a trick, too; you must pull back both paddles together to engage Neutral and remember to set the parking brake so the Gallardo doesn't roll over the valet.
The Other Nine-Month Wait If you haven't already put down a deposit on a 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, you're looking at a nine-month wait, minimum. At the end, the lucky few will be obligated to fork over $212,600, including $2,600 in gas-guzzler tax. If you choose the traditional six-speed manual transmission with a conventional clutch pedal (a version not presented to us in Vegas), you'll part with only $203,000.
They'll sell every one they can make, too. From a business standpoint, Lamborghini is making all the right moves. Despite a weak economy, Lamborghini's sales and profit are higher than they've ever been and the brand has never been stronger.
But from the point of view of the dedicated enthusiast (who incidentally will never be able to afford one), the 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 seems like a crime against engineering. All that outrageous performance, locked away and relegated to a life trolling for phone numbers and teasing the unwashed masses. Sigh.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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