Test-driving the Lamborghini Gallardo.

Reviews of cars, trucks, and other autos.
Nov. 23 2007 8:26 AM

Your Everyday, Run-of-the-Mill Lamborghini

The supercar you can drive to the supermarket.

The Lamborghini Gallardo 
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The Lamborghini Gallardo

Now I know what it's like to be famous. I know what it's like to walk the streets and feel the uncomfortable staring, the unrelenting pointing and smiling, and the unforgiving sense of "Holy geez, is that what I think it is?" I know what it's like to be stalked.

I know what it's like to be a Lamborghini owner.

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A few days in a two-seat Gallardo—Spanish for gallant—is enough to fix anyone's self-confidence problem. People will adore you. People will implore you to give them a ride. "Is there any way I can just sit in it?" asked one American tourist during a refueling stop with our Gallardo just outside of Munich.

Sure. No one can indulge alone. And that might be the best part of the Gallardo. Whereas sports cars are revered for their ability to set drivers apart, the downside is that they make for a lonely pastime. Engine noise often makes talking with passengers an afterthought. And they're not at their best on city streets: To fully appreciate them, you need to make time for them—take them out on the open road, etc. But Lamborghini's engineers have tuned the exhaust and handling so that the vehicle can be shared with a passenger. Comfortably.

A comfortable Lamborghini? Have I died and gone to heaven?

If there was one thing obvious during our three-day spin in the world's brightest yellow car (Witness Protection Plan members need not apply), it was that not only is the Gallardo a piece of magic at high speeds, but it is also a reasonable everyday vehicle. (That is, if you have an extra $185,000 or so for an everyday vehicle.) It's a luxury vehicle that makes a Monday to Friday drive a heck of a lot more fun. It is smooth. It is slick. It handles well. And you can take it through the drive-thru. It's not what you would expect from something so exotic. And that's the best part. Fire the 5.0-liter V-10 with the push of a button on the center console and the burble of the rear engine grinds to life. At low rpms, it is muffled and deep. During heavy acceleration, it sings to life—a whap, whap, whaaaaaaap as we tap paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. And then, at 185 mph around Munich on Germany's famed Autobahn, the engine actually quiets down and settles into a firm buzz that makes conversation possible and the ride intoxicating.

It might be functional as an everyday car, but there are other features that make the Gallardo special. The design—a collection of sharp creases and hard lines—is simply mesmerizing, like something out of a 21st-century comic book. And the pure power of 520 horsepower is hard to fathom until you actually give it a go.

Notch through the gears the right way and the G (as the locals call it) reaches 60 mph in just over 4 seconds. It stops increasing speed at 195 mph. It stops on a dime. It never gets boring—partly because the car never feels like it is going to break you apart, the way similar cars have a tendency to do.

After more than 1,000 miles on some of Germany's most scenic Autobahn runs, the G still felt as good as at mile No. 1. That's because Lamborghini has borrowed components off the shelf of VW Group's best vehicles. Audi and VW both had a hand in putting this car together. (Lamborghini is owned by Volkswagen Group in Wolfsburg, Germany, and falls under the Audi brand.) The engine is a current Audi 4.2-liter V8 with two extra cylinders. But this is still pure Lamborghini, where the technology is outstanding. The Gallardo offers two choices of transmissions, a conventional six-speed manual transmission, and an advanced six-speed electro-hydraulically controlled auto-clutch manual, or in Lambo speak, "E-gear." Our E-gear allowed us to make shifts much faster than an automatic transmission would, with the control that a manual offers.

The "baby Lambo" as some call it, is hardly a baby. It can be pushed through corners at ridiculous speeds. It can handle the slow speeds of city streets without feeling hindered. Added together, the G is a dream. It sticks to the corners like a true supercar, yet you can stick it in your garage and be ready to cruise in the methodical, Monday morning commute.

Can you have the best of both worlds in one car? You bet. Can you handle the staring and the pointing that will come with such a ride? Hey, we're willing to give it a try.

Jason Stein is an automotive writer based in Munich, Germany.