Thanks to the nice people from Lamborghini, Manchester for a pleasant change from eating: driving three latest models from the Italian supercar manufacturer owned by Audi to the Millbrook Proving Ground in the Midlands.
There were a couple of surprises: the first chance to meet an old friend, Valentino Balboni, the legendary test driver Lambo and the man who developed the racing Diablo SVR that I used to race. This boy is so famous that when “retired” Lamborghini developed a special edition of Guillardo’s “Valentino Balboni” – but later.
The occasion was really meant for potential customers, not for activists like me. So the deal is that a professional driver joins the nervous buyer who samples 500 brake horses around the sinuous curves and fierce slopes of the alpine driving route. Which is fine, except that I’m not nervous and I’m going much faster than the now nervous professional driver thinks appropriate.
All right after some explanations of my CV.
So let’s go back to the machines. The basic Galliardo – if that’s not a contradiction – is a revelation for someone who last sat in a Lambo before the Germans took over. The Diablo was an incredible kit – but things like interior, electronics, fit and finish were a bit hit and miss. The central point of the thing was to really look and sound fantastic and go faster than anything else on the road. All this went very well. As a car to use every day it was, frankly, hopeless.
The Guillardo, quite completely updated for 2010, changes everything. To begin with, it is tiny and beautifully, exquisitely manufactured. To say that it is better than anything Audi builds by itself is a very high praise. Secondly there is a driving position where normal-sized people can get comfortable – another Lamborghini first. There is also a reminder of how the latest paddle-controlled changes in supercars have improved over the past five years. The other two that I drove, Aston Martin and Ferrari, were a little slow and unnatural and too fierce for comfortable driving respectively.
The gearbox in the Guillardo is so precise, so fast and so intuitive that, for the first time, I’m sure I wouldn’t take this manual. Increase your acceleration in downhill changes to give that authentic racing driver the feeling of heel and toe.
What else? Well, this has been a day for customers, not a track, so management has not been tested properly, but I can’t imagine that no customer has ever complained. If you would trade a Porsche 911 Turbo by adding around £ 50,000 to the account it is a difficult question. The fact is that Lambo is SPECIAL and it costs.
The next one was the Superlegerra – or superlight. This has a little more or less of everything compared to the ordinary model. Lots of beautiful carbon fiber on the inside with lighter and more adjustable seats, a little more power (562 hp), a little more more rigidity on suspension settings.
It is more expensive but well worth it. Attacking the track is an immediate advantage with a more sharp and sparkling turn in the corners. My perception – I didn’t ask – is that the change of gear is also faster. A fantastic drive ended with a 185 mph glance at the end of a straight test terrain – about 15 mph more than a standard car.
So a complete change. To be honest with the idea of a convertible, Lamborghini never appealed. These cars are for fast driving, not for laying, but they are for me anyway. And to drive fast you need a roof over your head.
But with these limitations taken into consideration Lamborghini has done an excellent job with the Guillardo Spyder. The bottom roof looks even more dramatic than its twin models. The shaking of scuttle is totally absent and 100 plus mph comfortable without too many interruptions for the hair. The big surprise is how open-top drives are. The suspensions are much softer, perhaps even a little too soft for me in the rear and the gear changes with full-pass acceleration have brought a little back-end glistening when you entered the next report. The result is a surprisingly beautiful cruiser.
Finally the opportunity to drive with Valentino is his Balboni edition car. This is one for the purest. Unlike all the other Guillardos, this is a rear-wheel drive, not a four-wheel drive. It is also a lighter and has greater power than the basic models but not as much as the Superleggera models which is interesting as a lighter even with an all-wheel drive that shows how seriously they have taken the path of “lightness”.
I had never driven with Valentino before, although the tales of his reduction of strong men to tears are legendary. As are the tales of the insiders in the wake of the devastation that sometimes is left behind. In case everything was as I expected. This guy has driven every Lamborghini perhaps for the past thirty years. So obviously it’s fast, but not too scary. The revelation for me was the brakes. He braked much later than I did, absolutely confident in the power of the ceramic brakes. I asked him how many kids on the circuit it would take before they faded. He thought for a minute, “never, I don’t think so.”
The racing Diablo used to have its brakes lunched in about two children in Monza, so there is real progress when a road car – although an extreme model like this – has better brakes than a race car of 10 years ago.
All in all an opportunity to reevaluate these machines. There is a depth of engineering excellence, a drama, a visual excitement that, for me, however, brings these latter Lamborghini well beyond the “too flash for their good” image that the manufacturer has obtained in the past. I am a former Super Trophy champion, I am a little biased and a little a family friend – but wow, they are amazing Automobiles.