Lamborghini Gallardo Off-Roading (With Video!)

David Semple

I have a fairly well-developed sense of shame, and at most driving events it's my M.O. not to become That Guy. Better to go a little slower than to acquire notoriety as the guy who crashes into things. But sometimes you've got to put your ego on the shelf and slide a Lamborghini into a field. Sure, you could take it a little easier and not slide into a field, but then you'd have the exact same story as the writer from OK! Magazine.

Let me explain how I stepped over the line into That Guy-dom. A while back, the folks from Lamborghini decided to hold a winter driving school in New Hampshire. So they shod six Gallardos with Pirelli snow tires and shipped them to the Mount Washington Valley. They flew in hotshot test drivers from Italy, guys named Mario and Giorgio who could outdrive you while sipping a cappuccino, smoking a cigarette, and making love to your wife. Then they enlisted the Team O'Neil Rally School, with its six miles of private forest roads and brace of rally instructors, to demonstrate pendulum turns on snow in these 520-hp supercars. There you have it: winter rallying in Lamborghinis. It's an idea so awesome that it was bound not to work.

The culprit was the weather. Normally, the area around Mount Washington is frigid and miserable and disgusting by the middle of December. But, since Lamborghini actually wanted it to be frigid and miserable and disgusting, it was instead quite pleasant. Temperatures topping 50 degrees. Sunshine. Not a trace of snow. I've never been so disappointed to put the top down on a Gallardo Spyder. This is at least partly due to the fact that I've never driven a Gallardo Spyder. Or any Lamborghini, for that matter.

Which brings us to the airfield. In lieu of rally driving, Lamborghini booked the runway at a small airport and set up emergency-braking and slalom exercises. You can't get into too much trouble while slowing down to a stop, but the slalom quickly degenerates into a rudimentary drifting school. Mario and Giorgio put the Gallardos so sideways through each gate that the cars are literally perpendicular to the cones. Then they step out of the driver's seat and say, "Your turn."

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I've done this sort of thing before-at the O'Neil Rally School, actually-and I was pretty decent at it. But that was in a beater Audi 4000 with a locked rear differential. On dirt. In a Gallardo, on pavement, you've got to carry more speed, use more throttle, and countersteer much more quickly to execute the controlled tail-wag. I'm not good at it. I keep expecting the Gallardo to behave like an all-wheel-drive car (where you combat oversteer with throttle as the system sends power to the front wheels to straighten you out), but it has a very rear-wheel-drive personality. This is because when you quickly stab the throttle, as you must in order to break traction at the tail, the AWD system sends 80 percent of the torque to the rear wheels. So the front tires are about as busy as Paris Hilton's cerebrum. If you're slower with the throttle, more power goes to the front, but if you do that, you won't hang out the tail. Touch!

After a couple of nice slides, I decide I am master of the Gallardo, so I go faster. Anyone who's taken a slalom test on Gran Turismo 4 knows that you can carry more speed near the end of the course, because you can get pretty out of shape and still hit the last few gates. Well, what happens in real life is that you find yourself in a full-throttle, full-opposite-lock slide out of the last gate, at which point the game isn't finished. What's finished is the pavement. This all unfolds in a split second, but as the field looms through the passenger-side window, I'm already feeling the icy swell of embarrassment in my chest. At least this boo-boo isn't witnessed by a videographer, two photographers, Lamborghini's PR staff, a group of driving instructors, five fellow journalists, and a small crowd of locals. Oh, wait-yes, it is.

Tell you what, though, that Lambo AWD system is tops when it comes to driving right out of a field and back onto a rural runway. In fact, the Gallardo is hands-down the best supercar I've ever driven through a field. Did you know that Lamborghini started out making tractors?

I pull up beside Lamborghini PR woman Soon Nguyen to proffer apologies. "I was screaming as you did that," she says.

"Really?" I reply, "I heard the sound of a woman screaming, but I thought it was coming from me."

But the Gallardo is unscathed, so a few seconds later, I'm headed back down the slalom. You've got to get back on that bull.

The rest of the day is filled less with driving instruction than what might be broadly labeled, "Being Silly with Gallardos." Giorgio and Mario rip so many donuts that the owner of the airport reprimands them for obscuring runway markings with incinerated Pirellis. I take a stab at a few top-speed runs down the strip, and this important research reveals that snow tires get a little squirmy on dry pavement at 140 mph. People continue flattening cones in the slalom in an attempt to replicate their favorite scenes from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

On the whole, the lack of snow didn't thwart the main objective, which was to have fun with Lamborghinis. And Lamborghinis, after all, are supposed to be about unabashed hedonism. With their crazy colors and extraterrestrial styling, Lambos exude a sense of playfulness that their main rival does not. Somehow, I have a hard time imagining Ferrari handing people the keys to a bunch of F430s and saying, "Go rip some donuts with these bad boys, and don't stop until you've burned the tires off."And yes, Ferrari, that is a challenge.

This past winter, contributor Ezra Dyer went to a Lamborghini winter driving school.
The problem? There was no snow--wait, no, it turns out that wasn't a problem at all. See why here.
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