Wednesday

2008 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera

I’m sure many of us have had visions of our dream garage. My garage has been, in my opinion, fairly modest – only 3 cars. My tastes change through the years as do the 3 cars, but they fall into 3 categories: a family car, a daily driver, and a fun car. Most of the time I’m limited to reading magazines and watching shows to decide what these 3 will be at any given time (remember we’re dreaming). But recently I had a chance to experience a potential “fun car” for my dream garage: the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.

As many know, what makes this Leggera “Super” is a drop in body weight (200 lbs.), stiffer suspension, and about 10 more bhp. Some decals and carbon fiber body work add to the car’s exclusivity. And if you’re the designer-type, you may be able to add your own extra features to the Gallardo – one owner was experimenting with a carbon fiber bonnet and roof.

But before I go further I should tell you that I’ve never been much a fan of Lamborghini. All of my experiences with Lamborghini prior to this have been lousy. At the auto shows, the pavilions remind me of rap videos with their flashy cars, sexy girls, a lot of attitude, and no help. (Lamborghini even had the audacity to allow a Murcielago to be used as a showpiece for some ghetto stereo booming contest at the New York Show). Going directly to a dealer left a similar bad taste in my mouth. Lamborghini started as a war with Ferrari and has frankly maintained the same antagonistic stance for decades.

But then the Germans took over and the Gallardo was introduced. As was an apparent change in philosophy: “let’s make our cars and our brand more accessible.” So I climbed in.

Climbing into any Lamborghini will ensure one thing: you will be noticed. You will be seen. You will be heard. In every other exotic that I’ve driven, I’ve been able to exercise a measure of self-control against the urgings of my fellow road-goers to put on a show. Not so with the Lambo. For some reason I still can’t explain, I felt compelled to oblige the adolescent desires of myself and every other passerby. Perhaps it was the incredible Rossinian chorus of 10 right behind my ears. Perhaps it was the instant gratification of the e-gear shifting. Perhaps it was the Ferrari F40 performance at your fingertips. Perhaps it was the bright orange of the Arancio Borealis paint gleaming in the sunshine.

It takes considerable effort to drive this car “normally.” Even modest throttle rockets you to felonious speed in any city. And watch those bumps in the road. In fact, it may be wise to observe how well your local Department of Transportation paves the roads you will be traveling prior to purchasing the Superleggera. But if you’re on a smooth road, there are plenty of bystanders, and driving “normally” is not your intention, then you’ve found the natural habitat for this raging bull to play. But it does not always play nice. A full-throttle gear change is almost guaranteed to engage the traction control in the form of a fuel shut-off. Though it only lasts a few milliseconds – enough time to ensure the massive Pirellis will not cower to the taunts of 530bhp – the car will buck much in the manner of the bull on the marque. While the Gallardo may not approve of your reckless abandon on the accelerator, the slam from the traction control is highly preferred over turning it off entirely.

Stopping is not much better. For most of the drive I let the engine do the stopping via quick downshifts, all the while taking in the angry snorts of the animal I was trying to tame. I was loud and obnoxious at every intersection and stop sign, and that’s the way I wanted to be. Though you are everything your mother taught you not to be, this stopping method will be more comfortable in the long run. The alternative stopping method is to employ the carbon ceramic brakes. But be warned: the car will stop instantly under 10mph. I mean hit-a-brick-wall stop instantly. The brakes were designed to stop you from 200, not 30. Through the entire drive I never pressed the pedal softly enough to prevent this painful approach to a stop sign.

In short, the Superleggera will beat you up on a public road. It will not like you running through poorly maintained city streets and freeways, and it will insist that you check your driving morals at the door, and (via the engine note) yell and scream at every other driver that may or may not want to listen to you. I was a different person driving the Gallardo – spiteful, arrogant, wanting only to be seen and heard. And if I saw an owner spending most of his time on public roads, knowing the pain the raging bull was inflicting on him, I would think he was the same. I would feel sorry for him – much like I feel sorry for the metro-sexual city dwellers wearing too-short, too-tight, overly-revealing, unflattering dresses and 4-inch spike heels in the New York City winter.

So the best place for this car? A racetrack. The Superleggera was bred to be a pure racing machine – an exotic for those who want nothing but performance. I’ll risk saying it again: the Superleggera is a raging bull. It should only be allowed to run free on a track. And if you buy one for this purpose, the Superleggera is nearly perfect.
But I also think it was bred to show off, to give an ego-trip to the guy who merely wants everyone else to know what he has.

This being said, it’s easy to question the relevance of some of the features available in a typical Gallardo. 1. ipod integration. I have over 40GB of music and have yet to find something I’d rather listen to than the Lamborghini. 2. Navigation. I didn’t bother turning the nav system on. And honestly… if you can afford the 13mpg binge the Gallardo takes on fuel, you can afford to get lost – and I dare say many onlookers will love you for it. 3. TV. The television turns off when the car starts moving, but if you can tell me why you’re spending so much time in the car when it’s NOT moving, then I’ll give you a good reason to use the television. On the other hand, the rear camera is an essential if you actually want to see what is behind the car, and perhaps the only good use for the large screen of the onboard computer. Thankfully many of these frills are not offered on Superleggera in order to conserve weight. But features such as these are the price one pays for Audi financing the development of Gallardo. Despite the insistence of Lamborghini that the Germans put little more than money into the Gallardo, I can’t help but think otherwise.

So does the Gallardo in any form belong in my dream garage? Sadly no. More frightening, I’m not sure a “fun car” belongs there either. Since we’re dreaming, the sky is the limit on a daily driver, in which case I quickly turn to Aston Martin (review here) or Maserati (review here). An ultimate daily driver provides me all the excitement I need on the road. To get a purpose-built “fun car” that justifiably exceeds the performance of another ‘ultimate’ requires that I buy and drive something the likes of Superleggera… and subsequently get beaten up. After 30 minutes in the car, I had experienced nearly all the excitement that the Gallardo had to offer, and I was ready to get out. With the cathartic feeling of speed and power gone, I simply look at the Lamborghini and think “I just paid $248,000 for those 30 minutes.” I won’t deny it, after some weeks or months, I’d be game to climb in again if for nothing else than to hear the noise.

But only to drive the Superleggera for an hour or so on a nice summer day? Only to see myself turn into an angry road menace? Only to thumb my nose at the other exotic track cars, thinking (incorrectly) that I am better, prettier, louder? – it may not be the wisest use for my $248,000. But hey, it’s fun to dream.

2 comments:

Chris said...

Please join me in welcoming Boz to Melted Rubber as a contributing author. He has had a number of experiences in some fantastic cars, and he'll pop in from time to time to share his unique experiences with you.

In some cases, we've both had a fair amount of seat time in similar vehicles, and in those instances you'll see a point/counter-point style discussion to get both of our viewpoints.

As always, enjoy the site.

Chris Horner

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