Presented to the public at the 2008 Geneva auto show for the very first time is the new Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. Somewhere in the gray area between a "face-lift" and an "all-new car," the LP560-4 replaces the current Gallardo when it goes on sale this spring. (At that time, the Gallardo Superleggera will be discontinued, although the Gallardo Spyder will continue in its current form.)
The new car's name follows Lamborghini tradition and is in a similar format to that of its big brother, the Murcielago LP640. LP stands for Longitudinale Posteriore, the position of the engine - longitudinally mid-mounted. 560 is its metric horsepower count, and Lamborghini chose to insert the "-4" as a reminder that the Gallardo is a full-time four-wheel-drive machine.
Our reaction, of course, is to assume that there will be a "LP560-2" rear-wheel-drive model in the future. No matter how hard we tried, however, we couldn't get anyone from Lamborghini (not even engineers) to admit to that plan. Next time we'll try tickle torture.
Meanwhile, the LP560-4's layout is no different from the previous Gallardo's, although the differentials and the axles are revised for weight savings. As before, transmission choices are a six-speed manual or a six-speed E-gear automated manual. The 2009 E-gear is new, and it changes gears by way of a rotational selector instead of a fore/aft movement. This, according to Lamborghini, promises smoother gearchanges that take place 40% more quickly.
The 2009 edition of E-gear also has a new, more aggressive "Corsa" program and a "Thrust Mode" - otherwise known as Launch Control. In Thrust Mode, the computer takes over , optimizing the launch and shifting so that even your grandmother could achieve a 3.7-second run to 62 mph. (This is 0.3 second quicker than last year's car.) The LP560-4 goes on to beat the 2008 Gallardo by a half second to 200 km/h (124 mph), hitting that mark in only 11.8 seconds. And flat out, the LP560-4 will reach 202 mph (up from a measly195 mph).
The oomph responsible for making the Gallardo a true 200-mph supercar comes from a completely new engine - it's a 90-degree, aluminum V-10, just like the old unit, but with bigger bore spacing. It displaces 5.2 liters and, with the help of FSI direct injection, produces 560 metric hp at 8000 rpm - up from 520 in the 2008 model. Torque is also up, from 376 lb-ft at 4250 rpm to 398 lb-ft at 6500 rpm, but don't let the elevated peak rpm fool you - the new engine has more low-end torque than the old one. FSI allows a much higher compression ratio, at 12.5:1 instead of 11.0:1, and the new engine makes more grunt everywhere in the engine's operating range.
Lamborghini is also proud of the LP560-4's improved environmental friendliness. It's not only faster than last year's car, it emits about 18% less carbon dioxide (327 g/km compared with 400). With that improvement comes a similar reduction in fuel consumption: on the European combined cycle, the LP560-4 achieves just over 17 mpg - last year's car guzzled fuel at a rate of 14 mpg.
At 3300 pounds, the LP560-4 weighs 20 kilograms (about 45 pounds) less than the 2008 Gallardo's, despite the new car's larger engine. The difference is mostly due to weight-reduction strategies in the driveline, as the LP560's body is similar to the 2008 Gallardo. The wheelbase is unchanged, as are width and height, but thanks to new front and rear fascias, the length has been increased by almost two inches.
The new front bumper now comes to a point in the center of the car, resembling the front-end treatment of the Gallardo's big brothers, the Murcielago and the Reventon. Larger air intakes improve engine-cooling efficiency, and a new hood helps the LP560-4 meet pedestrian-crash-test standards. New headlight units are much shorter front-to-rear and incorporate Y-shaped daytime running lights into their housings.
The 2009 Gallardo LP560-4 also has a new rear end. Its new taillights (each with triple Y-shaped flux-capacitor-looking elements) no longer wrap up and onto the horizontal plane in the rear. A single strip of black aluminum mesh under the taillights serves as an air outlet, and four absolutely gorgeous chrome exhaust tips are incorporated in the rear diffuser.
Although the rear looks a little plain in photographs, it - and in fact, the whole new car - is stunning in person. From the rear, the LP560-4 looks wider and lower. When viewed side-by-side with the old car, the outgoing Gallardo starts to show its first wrinkles. After six years of production, it's still a modern design - but the LP560-4 is even more so.
The LP560's suspension is completely revised. Similar to the 2008 model in design, the multilink front suspension features new mounts that allow easier adjustments. The rear suspension features an additional toe link as well as all-new mounts. Engineers told us that the suspension changes result in a drastic reduction in NVH, along with markedly improved ride quality and better handling.
Wheels are 8.5x19 front and 11x19 rear - and all three available wheel choices are new: The Apollo wheel is a silver, double-five-spoke design; Cordelia is a polished, forged aluminum with a basket-weave pattern; Callisto is a new glossy black with five split spokes. The black Callisto wheels look particularly stunning when mounted on a car with Lamborghini's new, optional matte-black paint.
Inside, the 2009 Gallardo features new gauges with a font similar to that used in the Murcielago. The seven switches on the center console have been redesigned for better usability, and they're now textured to appear like knurled aluminum.
Lamborghini has not yet released official pricing for the new Gallardo. However, we were lucky enough to be in the factory to help build the very first production 2009 Gallardo LP560-4. Be sure to check out the May 2008 issue of Automobile to read the feature story!
Click the links below for a look at the LP560-4 build process.