Any new Lamborghini is an event, mainly because the lull between model releases is so painfully long. There were sixteen years between the Countach and the Diablo, a whopping twenty-eight between the Silhouette/Jalpa and the newest small Lamborghini, the Gallardo. But too often, the cars made news not with refinement and poise but with flashy bodywork, ludicrous top speeds, and handling so diabolical Lamborghini even named a car after it. Rudeness is at the core of the Lamborghini allure, but come on. Would you really want to ride a mechanical bull like the Diablo all the way up to 204 mph? The Diablo should have been equipped with dual-stage, front and side airsick bags.
Things are different at the little company from Sant'Agata Bolognese today, chiefly because the Italians have some very serious bosses from Audi peering over their shoulders. Proof of this is in the slightly less glacial pace at which Lamborghinis are arriving. The new Gallardo, due here in October, comes right after 2001's Murcilago, offering its own kind of proof that Lamborghini is serious about building world-class sports cars. The Gallardo is a comfortable, stylish, and thoroughly viable competitor to Porsche's 911 GT2 and Ferrari's 360 Modena-a daily driver of the type Ferruccio Lamborghini had in mind when he founded the company in 1963.
The legendary Ferrari-directed ire that prompted Lamborghini to make sports cars burns as fiercely as it ever did in Sant'Agata. The Gallardo's mission is to be the highest-performance car in its segment, and thus it uses some conventions of that segment as its starting point. Like the Modena, it has an aluminum spaceframe, optional automated-manual gearbox, mid-mounted engine, and twin front-mounted radiators that give the car its generous interior package. The Gallardo one-ups the Modena, though, in a few important areas. Instead of the 394-horsepower V-8 in the Ferrari, it has a 492-horsepower V-10. Instead of rear-wheel drive, it has a performance-oriented yet bacon-saving four-wheel-drive system. It is a bit heavier than the Modena, but its extra power puts it right in the low-four-second ballpark, acceleration-wise.
The V-10 that overcomes the Gallardo's 3153-pound curb weight is literally the centerpiece of the car. In contrast to Lamborghini's recent twelve-cylinder cars, power flows rearward from the engine to a tail-mounted six-speed transaxle. (In the Countach, the Diablo, and the Murcilago, the transmission is located forward of the engine.) A 90-degree V angle was selected to reduce the overall height of the undersquare (the stroke is longer than the bore) engine-a move that necessitated split crank pins to achieve even firing intervals. Other features include a dry-sump lubrication system that further lowers engine height and center of gravity, variable timing on intake and exhaust tracts, a two-stage intake manifold with long runners to optimize midrange output and short runners for peak power at high rpm, and dual electronically actuated throttles.