How often does a 41-year-old guy get the chance to wear leather pants and no one notice? Drive up in a Lamborghini and it almost looks natural.
During four days of test driving the all-new 2009 Gallardo LP560-- 4, I could have been in a man-kini and no one would have cared. Everyone would still want to be my friend as long as I held the keys to this supercar. Some might have wanted to drive it, but most just wanted to sit in the other seat of this 560-horsepower machine and feel its high revving V-10 ignite.
Now I know that these are tough times and reviewing a supercar may not make a lot of sense. But then I drove it. And I shared the experience with more than two dozen people, trying to figure out different routes in downtown Detroit just in case the police were receiving calls that a rocket ship was flying down the Lodge. Even in tough times, this car makes sense.
A sleek machine and newest member to the Gallardo (pronounced guy-ar-doe) family, it does something to you. Maybe it's an escape, a fantasy, or just the only opportunity to drive an Italian work of art.
Its abilities are mind boggling: It can transfer power from any wheel to the another in milliseconds; launch from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds; keep the gas mashed and in 11.8 seconds you will hit 124 mph. Physics kick in and limit its top speed to 202 mph.
I'll take the company's word on the top speed; the other times sound about right. Every straight away becomes the Bonneville Salt Flats in a Lamborghini.
All of my passengers can attest, the LP560-4 is speedtacular. Everyone hopped out of the Lamborghini with a huge smile, their hands shaking just a little from the adrenaline pumping through their bodies. You feel acceleration in your belly and your teeth as the car's power presses you into your soft leather seat.
Sculpted supercar slices the air
Just walking up to this car causes your stomach to whirl with delight.
It's beautiful, sculpted in aluminum and thermoplastics, the materials of choice for a modern day Motorhead Michelangelo.
When this supercar was created, Lamborghini built a machine that was more aerodynamic than any Gallardo ever before. It's nearly 50 pounds lighter than any predecessor.
Low to the ground (its max height is 45.7 inches), it almost looks out of proportions with its short front end and the cabin pushed slightly forward to accommodate the massive engine in the back. A straight, steep line is drawn from its front end to the top of the its roof and then tapers gently toward the rear. The windshield looks oversized but the side windows are little slits and the back window is just a small rectangle for a rear view mirror.
Every detail is cut with a sharp edge, as if designers only had scalpels to cut the clay.
The rear is just as distinctive as the front, with the big red taillights and the cursive "Lamborghini" scrawled across the back.
There's nothing subtle about this car. It draws constant stares. Pedestrians gawk. Traffic stops. This car is an obscenity in all of the right ways.
Showing off to the extreme
Inside, the LP560-4 is much bigger than it first looks. There's a strong influence by Audi, the parent company of Lamborghini. The black leather covered dash and roof liner add to the car's elegance. The seats, which are difficult to get out of, hold you firmly in place.
Everyone who rode in the LP560-4, ranging in height from under 5 feet to 6-foot-4, was comfortable.
A six-speed manual is available, but my test vehicle used the six-speed e-gear automatic matched to paddle shifters. On the center console there are three buttons, designed to let the driver select three different transmission modes: Automatic, Sport and Corsa, though there are technically five different settings. The transmission is blazing fast, as it rev matches on downshifts and clicks through the gears with Formula 1 quality.
Lamborghini has created some amazing technology with this vehicle. In Corsa mode, the transmission is 40 percent faster, pushing the revs to redline before shifting.
The all-wheel drive system sends 70 percent of the power to the rear axle and that keeps the car performing like an extreme sports car. On one wet day of test driving, the traction was superb. The LP560-4 is always evaluating the conditions and how much torque is needed in each wheel through its viscous traction system.
While every passenger may have enjoyed riding the LP560-4, I have to admit, driving it was more fun. Blasting off from a stop never lost its thrill. Taking corners at 40 mph and never feeling the body sway or roll was just as thrilling the first time as it was the last.
The steering is exact. The power extreme. The braking world class. The gas mileage abysmal if you drive it the way you should drive it -- but I don't see anyone purchasing this car because they want to pinch pennies at the pump. (However, Lamborghini will point out that changes to the engine have increased power and reduced CO2 emissions by 18 percent.)
No, buying this car is all about the driver. It's showing off to the extreme. If you've got it, flaunt it.
And if you're in Lamborghini, you will rarely ride alone, even if you're wearing leather pants.
Scott Burgess is the auto critic for The Detroit News. He can be reached at (313) 223-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overall : ****
Exterior : Awesome. First you hear it, then you see it.
Interior : Excellent. Refined and luxurious. Leather everywhere.
Performance : Extreme. It's out of this world.
Safety : Excellent. Front and side airbags, stability control and designed safety features.
Pros : It's a Lamborghini.
Cons: If you can afford it, buy it. Of course, few can afford it -- which makes it all the more desirable.
Excellent: **** Good: *** Fair: ** Poor: *
Type : All-wheel drive supercar
Price*: $202,000 Engine: 5.2-liter V-10
Transmission: Six-speed manual or automatic
EPA gas mileage: 14 mpg city / 20 mpg highway.
* Includes $3,000 gas guzzler tax
By the numbers
0-60: less than 3.7 seconds
0-124 mpg: 11.8 seconds
Top speed : 202 mph