We’re surprised anyone who flogged Lamborghinis for a living would want to retire, but in celebration of Valentino Balboni’s fortieth and final year as Lamborghini’s official test driver, the supercar manufacturer produced his ideal ride: the new Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni.
Ironically, what makes this special edtion special isn’t what Lamborghini adds, but what it removes. As the name suggests, the Balboni model eschews the company’s all-wheel-drive system in favor of rear-wheel-drive. Although that may delight those who yearn to hang a Gallardo in a corner, they’ll have to make do with 550 hp--10 hp less than a standard LP 560-4.
Switching the Gallardo to rear-wheel-drive wasn’t as easy as removing a driveshaft and axle from the parts bin. The LP 550-2’s transmission has been relocated to the rear axle, and the entire suspension setup has been revised to account for the change in weight distribution. Engineers also revised the optional e-Gear transmission, beefed up the limited-slip rear differential, and reprogrammed the stability controller to allow, in Lamborghini’s words, “greater drift angles.”
Scrapping the all-wheel-drive system shaves 240 lbs, helping the Balboni LP 550-2 achieve substantial performance figures, even in light of the slight drop in power. Lamborghini claims the model will run from 0-62 mph in 3.9 seconds, and ultimately reach a top speed of 199 mph.
Lamborghini hasn’t neglected the visual portion of the LP 550-2 package. The Balboni model is available in eight color schemes, each with a single racing stripe running down the center of the car. The stripe theme continues inside, where the black leather cockpit is interrupted by a white center stack and console.
If Valentino’s ride sounds like a great present to yourself, retirement or otherwise, you’d better act fast. Only 250 examples will be produced, and even with a starting price of $219,800 ($22,000 over an LP 560-4), they’re bound move quickly.