The Great Lamborghini Thrash of 2008

As a lowly creator of letters and words that appear on a printed page, I have been greatly blessed with the absence of my bewildered face in any sort of the gossip media which is currently molesting the world. In other words, I am not a celebrity, and thank the good Lord.

Many naive bumpkins come to Southern California seeking the Hollywood dream: the dream of being on the cover of Esquire and Rolling Stone, acting glamorous on the small and silver screen, living beside swimming pools and movie stars, and coming in contact with millions of square feet of red carpet on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the cold reality is that life in Hollywood is all about constantly controlling what others think of you while being chased by parasitic life-forms toting cameras with big flash bulbs. Being a celebrity is down-and-dirty, uncomfortable, filthy, rotten, stinking, unpleasant, hideous work.

I know this because ever since I've had the only Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 in all of North America (at least I think so), the picture of me driving it is on every cameraphone's SIM card from San Diego to Santa Barbara. To someone who enjoys anonymity, this is a terrifying prospect. The only consolation is that the people who took the pictures are hopefully all card nerds who could care less about the person driving it. They wouldn't possibly be interest in me. *Sigh of Relief*

I still had to get out of town. I needed to escape in spectacular fashion. So I made an appointment at a top-secret undisclosed location in order to discover the new Gallardo's darkest secrets under the safeguard of anonymity. Willow Springs International Raceway, a 2.5 mile circuit in the God-forsaken desert, is just a stone's throw away from Edwards Air Force Base, where the Space Shuttle lands if it doesn't fancy the humidity at Cape Canaveral. It's the self-proclaimed "fastest road in the west," and features a couple different road courses for variety, and also a large skid pad for heavy right feet. So it sounded like the prime location for some automotive violence, particularly a petrol-drenched version of the Running of the Bulls.

Enroute, I forced myself to think technical, and remembered some facts explained to me by Franz. One of the LP560-4's many technical baubles the good German monologued about was the new fuel injection system, the Italian name of which I will not try to pronounce for my readers' sakes. All I know is that it stands for an FSI direct injection system, and that meant more power. The new engine is also more powerful. There is more torque, which means more power. It has 32 more bhp, which means it has more power. Shall I go on?

As you can probably see, the LP560-4 is more powerful than previous Gallardos, and rightly so. This update should be more than just a facelift of a previous car; it should be a fresh, contemporary reflection of Lamborghini's current nuclear shockwave of an expansion. To put it bluntly, it bloody well needs a few extra muskles.

It also needs to be better on the handling front. Sure, the old Gallardo did have four-wheel drive, but it still was monumentally distant from the revolutionary brilliance of the Ferrari F430. The Fezza had that unmistakably light, poised, ballet-slipper feel, which made it a joyous romp in the park to turn corners with. The Gallardo, by comparison, had chunky, less elegant manoeuvres, and was less fun to slide around corners. I liked the Gallardo a lot better because it was less serious than the Ferrari, and so I desperately wanted the new one to (1) still be a laugh, and (2) really give the serious Ferrari a run for its money. I was a man on a mission: to shatter Ferrari's renown as the great drivers' car of the world. I also wanted to have a das frikken' blast.

I arrived at Willow Springs shocked at how rural the place was: some jet-black strips of asphalt winding around the desert. Absolute motoring nirvana. I started out on the main road course to gauge the power: the first thing I cared about. With launch control set, I compressed the right pedal with determination, and out came a symphonic roar that made Pavarotti suddenly sound like a sneezing rodent. Yes, it is essentially audiological sex. Ferraris may emit a melodious acoustical riff, but the Gallardo pounds out a heavy-metal thrash suitable for scoring Iron Man's suit-up scene.

Its acceleration was also obscene: a convincing catapult that got me to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. And then it kept on going and going, with seemingly no resistance from air, friction, or the laws of physics, thanks to the 31% more-efficient aerodynamics. This thing is a fish. A torpedo. An F22 Raptor. It is the undisputed king of the wind tunnel.

Sooner than expected, I encountered the first corner, and attempted to make power slide fun. But I suddenly realized this bloody thing had loads of grip. Midway through turning around the corner, I still had yet to hear tyres squealing. No tyre squeal in a Lamborghini? Bizarre. Must be that four wheel drive. Right after the apex, I was able to kick the tail out a bit with buttery ease. The car arrived safely on the other side of the corner with little to no drama at all. It was spectacularly tractable.

Accelerating out of the corner was wonderfully mellifluous, thanks to Lambo's worthwhile tinkering with the previously-problematic E-Gear system. Now there's not an excuse to settle for the manual. You would only get one if you were a stuck-up, snobbish "purist" who demanded a stick.

Perhaps the car as a whole still lacks the perfection of the F430, but it is noticeably better than the last Gallardo. Not that you're going to be thoughtfully cogitating about such mind-fat while behind the wheel, because you will more likely have dinner-plate eyes, a mortally wounded self-confidence, and a mahogany-colored streak on the underside of your trousers. The LP560-4 is bone-crushingly fast, and nothing is better than discovering this on a super-long stretch of barren Death Valley tarmac. The Lambo was born for such thrashes. It was a very pleasant moment.



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