“Lamborghini! Oh my God! It’s a Lamborghini!” Instant recognition.
This feature was first published in MOTOR's June 2004 issue.
George Street, Sydney, Friday 5:30pm, there’s clear and obvious love for yellow Lamborghinis. After a working week, in the heart of Australia’s biggest, busiest city, people are relaxed. The sun is setting, and large rectangular beams of sunlight lift the darkening corridors of concrete. We’re in what photographers call ‘the golden hour’.
The pearlescent yellow mica paint glows, contrasting with concrete and brick. The gaping, low snout of a Lamborghini hovers over the white-painted pedestrian line as the massively raked windscreen reflects the city’s skyline like a mirror.
Lamborghini’s Gallardo is like the road Moses, magically parting a sea of traffic and people. Hundreds mouth the L word. Hundreds more yell it. Dozens are jumping in front with mobile phone cameras, others are calling friends: “you gotta get down here, NOW! Two yellow Lambos!”
People walk in front and double-take, heads turn, faces are pressed against bus windows, many try to ID the rock star driver: Dean Evans? Barely rates mention on Googlism. You don’t get this reaction with Porsches; Ferraris come close – but a yellow Lamborghini in the heart of the city is exciting.
Two in convoy is the stuff a flummoxed, pointing young boy will remember for life.
Inspired by ace shooter Thomas Wielecki, others pull cameras, flashes pop and one guy unashamedly yells: “That Gallardo is f&#king awesome, man!”
Three 20-something girls look like clowns at the fun park, heads swivelling in unison, mouths agape. Anyone without a camera is staring at our mobile display of Lamborghini’s entire range, taking mental pictures to preserve what they may never see again. And all are smiling like Disneyland employees on Happy Day, realising the rarity of the occasion. It’s not just the initial shock of a new Gallardo, but also the second blow of big daddy Murciélago tagging along like a chaperone on formal night.
In neutral, Gallardo’s 4961cc V10 gets a tickle to around 4000rpm. You know, as if you need an excuse. The heat haze filtering through the engine’s hood vents distorts the rear view to the Murciélago, which, in some kind of incestuous automotive mating call, bellows back with six grand of 6.2-litre V12. Visually, audibly, magnificent. As far as sightings go, it’s like seeing Bigfoot, the Aurora Borealis and Elvis at the Playboy mansion.
Lamborghini’s Gallardo (it’s Ga-yar-doe) is as much an event as a car. It creates its own atmosphere, magnetises and hypnotises. Tonight, many will find the G spot right in front of them.
It has huge presence but isn’t hugely intimidating: it’s the length of a 350Z, 50mm wider than a Falcon GT and lower than a homie’s belt. Especially that shovel masquerading as a front bumper.
Earlier, Sydney Lambo’s Greville Bogard impressively kept a straight face when he firmly requested we not scrub Gallardo’s low nose.
Ten minutes later: kkssshh over a hump at 2km/h. Then k-r-r-r-r as it diagonally crawls over a driveway at 0.5km/h. It’s a good thing the design not only hides scratches, but uses an alloy, replaceable skid-plate underneath – which also seems to amplify the sound. Deal with it, and the rest is dead easy, and so alive.
Hit the Audi-like button on the key fob and it starts. Not the engine, but the wonderful procedure. As the locks softly click open, h-z-z-z-z-z, pre-pumps prime the fuel system for four seconds. Flip up the flush, thin handle and the deceptively thick door swings wide. It’s easy to glide across the Gallardo-badged sills into the low seat.
The strong smell of new leather wafts throughout the cabin. The seat is snug, but comfortable once lowered with the right rake, tilt and lumbar – all electrically, of course. I’m comfortable.
Re-check badge: yep, still a Lamborghini. The flat-bottom steering wheel, with a centre seemingly from a dodgem car, tilts and telescopes perfectly. Two alloy pedals are offset to the left – the accelerator in line with the steering column – but a few minutes later it’s forgotten and Gallardo is as good as tailor-made.
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Key in, and a cute yellow mini-Gallardo appears in the dash. Twist wrist… nothing.
It’s in gear and needs a momentary pull-back on both shift paddles to engage neutral. Still nothing! Not until a harder shove on the solid brake pedal unlocks the electronics and z-r-r-r-r-r. Music from the whirring starter motor: the mechanical high-pitched metal-on-metal whine lasts a full second – to build oil pressure from the dry sump – and the beast comes alive like a lion clearing its throat, taking its first, smooth morning growl.
When cold, it develops a pulse, beating through 500rpm of inhale, exhale. Idle soon settles at 1000rpm and a light prod evokes an obscene sucking noise over your right shoulder from 10 cylinders gasping. Press harder and the snappy engine revs like a sports bike, apparently free of any reciprocating mass. It’s louder than you’d expect, and all you’d hoped for.
The numbers are pornography. Gallardo sprints to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds, wastes a quarter-mile in low-12s, through to 309km/h. Uh-huh, not interested today. We scooped a world-first drive in the Aug ’03 issue; strapped one an issue later in Italy. Gallardo is even the reigning PCOTY champ, so if you want specs, see back issues.
This is the PCOTY encore performance, maybe the slowest test of a Lambo ever and a chance to see if the $25k for the optional e-gear six-speed paddle shift is really worth the price of a new Civic.
Supplier to Ferrari/Maserati, Marelli’s robotised manual e-gear box has four modes for low traction, full auto, and manual shifting, with a sport mode that tightens shifts to as good as instantaneous and raises the stability control threshold.
No need to pull neutral before reverse, just hit the lonely R button, isolated on the right facia, and a series of whines, clunks and thunks from the tail engages gears. Rear vision is good and the mirrors large and effective. Parking sensors would be better, though, because reverse disengages if the driver’s door is opened for a backwards peek.
Ready to fly? Then pull on the right, perfectly sprung lever and it quietly knocks into first gear. In full auto mode, the gearbox ECU portions clutch clip and it’s smo-ooth. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s not as jerky as BMW’s and doesn’t stink the clutch like a Ferrari. But it does have a curious idiosyncrasy: shifts are speed- rather than speed-and-throttle-position-dependent. Cruising around town in full auto mode at 60km/h, it may as well be a two-speed, waiting until 68km/h to grab third.
Tap a paddle, though, and it gels. Be stupid, upshift to sixth gear at 10km/h and it’ll allow it. Excellent! Mash the throttle and it’ll insanely run to 104km/h in first with a deep, powerful, sonorous blast so explosive, you need second or third gear to really feel, learn and love its powerband.
Go for a mad-man blast and a growl starts from just 2250rpm, exploding around four, and kicking hard again around six, a shove it maintains to the high 8200rpm limiter. All in a V10!? Downshift, hard, and it aggressively blips the throttle. Be lazy and it politely, automatically downshifts right when you want it to – rarely when you don’t – even engaging neutral if you forget. It’s an aggressive ’box. If it’s mathematically possible, Gallardo will obey. Downshift to first gear at 100km/h? Certainly sir, have 8000rpm! Brilliant!
Although lacking the Murciélago’s brutish wallop, Gallardo’s all-wheel drive is devastatingly effective. More fun than a 200SX, it slides the rear just enough to adrenalise, rather than scare, the quattro smoothly pulling it straight. Forget Ferrari’s 360 Modena, Gallardo’s on equal ground to Porsche’s agile 911 Turbo.
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Gallardo has more parking privileges than the disabled, too. At The Rocks, mesmerised zombies invite us to stop in a No Standing zone. Instantly, 50 people appear as Gallardo’s talking to us with the ticking, creaking and groaning of cooling metals.
“Must be a shocking ride with those rubber bands around the wheels,” offers one watcher. Um, no. The Pirelli P Zero Rossos may spray on from a can, but the suspension has this cushy layer. Most impressive of all are the incredible 24-piston brakes, which, stone cold or stinky hot, bury the nose so hard you expect to see bitumen folding in front of you.
“It’s my 17th birthday today,” swoons a girl. “Can I p-l-e-a-s-e sit in the Lambo?” Gallardo love is put on hold as she spots the Murciélago’s more photogenic scissor doors, fulfilling at least one birthday wish.
So yes, Murciélago is still the pimp daddy of Lambos, the absurdly ostentatious supercar you’d buy if you had a week to live. If it is running with the bulls in Pamplona, the Gallardo is a stroll through a field of cows – so useable but still bullishly brazen.
But Murciélago doesn’t do it for me like Gallardo. Those who say it’s sanitised can go back to their ancient supercars with awkward driving positions, no air-con, no vision or practicality and some mystical, intangible aura.
Gallardo has everything: looks, power, handling, brakes, and space for one blonde and one bag. So I’ll happily have this Gallardo, in this colour, this interior trim and definitely this e-gear. I’ll relish and smile while scraping the spoiler on my driveway every single day.
And I’m sure people will gather to watch.
Big Daddy - Lamborghini Murciélago
Forget the day Kennedy was shot or the day man stepped on the moon, I can tell you exactly where I was the day I saw my first Lamborghini. It was a dark blue Countach at a service station near my mum’s house. I instantly knew what it was, thanks to obsessive watching of Cannonball Run.
If I had to pin-point a reason for my love of cars, it’s this moment. Twenty years later, the entire current Lamborghini range shows up in my street on a Friday night.
This was always meant to be an encore performance for the Gallardo, our newly-crowned PCOTY champion. But when Lamborghini Australia said it also had a matching yellow Murciélago available, who were we to say no?
In between bouts of uncontrollable smugness, my brief was to discover if the arrival of the Gallardo had rendered the Murciélago redundant.
So what does another two hundred grand get you over the $400k Gallardo? A 6.2-litre V12 is first on the list. With 426kW at 7500rpm the Murciélago is the most powerful car on sale in Australia. And it’s only out-gunned by a handful of cars around the world, namely the limited production Ferrari Enzo and Porsche Carrera GT. As far as off-the-peg production cars go, this thing’s The Daddy.
Power’s not its only party trick. Try 650Nm at 5400rpm. It’s bloody good for any naturally aspirated engine to belt out more than 100Nm per litre, but for a high-stepping V12 to do it is truly amazing. And the 6.2-litre Murciélago comfortably gets over the line with 105Nm per carton of milk.
But for all the numbers, it’s the noise and addictive speed that’ll get you. You’ll never get used to the combination of sounds coming from behind your left shoulder blade. Ever tried to take a bone off of a hungry dog? That’s a Lambo V12 at idle. From about 4000rpm until the tacho needle plunges into the red at 7600rpm, the engine goes even more feral and the pure thrust is even more corrupting. As the engine bellows, whoops, rumbles and tingles behind you, the pace continues to pile on, pausing only to slot home another of the six ratios via the sensual, open-gated shifter.
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Numbers and words do nothing to describe the searing speed that is generated by this car, but try 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds, 0-400m in 11.7 and a genuine top whack of 330km/h. It’s faster than any cliché you care to throw at it but very effing fast is about as close as you’ll get to an adroit description.
Dry-sumping of the V12 gets it 50mm lower in the chassis, but with this much weight behind the centre-line you’re constantly aware that lift-off oversteer is an ugly possibility.
But given the Murciélago’s all-wheel-drive system and huge Pirelli rubber, big time power oversteer is surprisingly easy to come by.
Powering out of a tightish second gear right-hander the Murciélago’s rear stepped early and very wide. An instinctive roll of the wrists caught the first half of the slide, but then the bad boy demands to be driven on the throttle to keep it off the Armco. Snapping the throttle shut will just spit you the other way, so a bit more right foot here and a bit less there saw me through. The cold sweat pooling in the small of my back says some luck was involved, but the Murciélago slides and recovers better than most other mid-engined weapons.
Probably the easiest way to sum up the insane appeal of Murciélago is to quick scroll through the car’s trip computer. Aside from the features you’d expect to find, Lamborghini’s thoughtfully included an overall peak speed function, top speed on current journey and peak g-forces recorded. Modesty denies posting of my personal bests, but this is better than PlayStation.
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For sheer pose value, the Murciélago’s ace up the sleeve is the scissor doors. Flip one up and everyone forgets the Gallardo, and their girlfriend, husband, child. Simply nothing beats the drama of a yellow, V12 Lambo with the doors erect.
But Dean’s right, the Gallardo is clearly the better car and one of the best cars I’ve ever driven. Still it’s impossible not to fall for the brutal charms of the big fella – the Lambo, not Dean. Just one blip of the throttle sets every fibre of your being on fire.
At the Gallardo’s launch, Lambo and Audi brass stressed that the baby supercar wouldn’t step on the toes of the big daddy. The Murciélago will remain the flagship of the company with its V12 powerplant and those doors. It’d be a shame if they were the only reasons you bought one, because it’s still a sensational form of transport.
More than that, the Lamborghini Murciélago is the greatest show on earth. - Jesse Taylor
LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO e-gear
ENGINE & DRIVE: mid-mounted 5.0-litre DOHC 40-valve V10; all-wheel drive
POWER & TORQUE: 367kW @ 7800rpm; 510Nm @ 4500rpm
TRANSMISSION: six-speed e-gear automated sequential manual
WHEELS & TYRES: 19x8.5 (f), 19x11 (r) alloy; Pirelli P Zero Rosso, 235/35 ZR19 (f), 295/30 ZR19 (r)
BRAKES: 365mm vented/cross-drilled discs, 8-piston calipers (f); 335mm vented/cross-drilled discs, 4-piston calipers (r); ABS
ENGINE & DRIVE: mid-mounted 6.2-litre DOHC 48-valve V12; all-wheel drive
POWER & TORQUE: 426kW @ 7500rpm; 650Nm @ 5400rpm
TRANSMISSION: six-speed manual
WHEELS & TYRES: 18x8.5 (f), 18x13 (r) alloy; Pirelli P Zero Rosso, 245/30 ZR18 (f), 335/30 ZR18 (r)
BRAKES: 355mm vented/cross-drilled discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 335mm vented/cross-drilled discs, 4-piston calipers (r)