Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni (2009)

Published: 01 July 2009

Lamborghini has unveiled the limited edition Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni, a new entry-level model, and its first rear-wheel drive supercar since the Diablo. The Italian supercar company has long promised that all its cars will resolutely remain four-wheel drive, but it’s building the two-wheel drive LP550-2 (hence the name) to celebrate its legendary test driver Valentino Balboni. Just 250 will be built.

A rear-wheel drive Lamborghini Gallardo? What happened to four-wheel drive usability?

It’s been left at the Sant’Agata factory door. But this rear-drive Gallardo isn’t a hardcore range-topping Superleggera – it’s actually Lambo’s entry-level model. That means the LP550-2 will cost £137,500 (down from the LP560-4’s £147,330) when it goes on sale towards the end of 2009 – it’ll make its motor show debut at Frankfurt in September.

And the lower price tag means you’ll also get less – the new 5.2-litre direct-injection V10 has been detuned from the LP560-4’s 552bhp to 542bhp in the LP550-2. The torque figure is unchanged at 398lb ft, but the kerbweight has been cut too, as the lack of a front driveshaft means the new car weighs 30kg less than its four-wheel drive sibling.

Any other changes?

Yes. Mechanically there’s new springs, dampers and tyres, tweaked aerodynamics to take account of the rear-wheel drive layout, and a redeveloped rear axle with a limited slip diff. There’s also a revised ESP system that, according to Lamborghini ‘permits greater drift angles, thus enabling drivers to enjoy the dynamics of the LP550-2 to their full extent’.

There’s also a white and gold stripe that run the length of the car, dark grey wheels, black, orange or yellow brake callipers, while inside there’s black leather with a contrasting white stripe, a plaque featuring Balboni’s signature, and a white centre console.

What about this Balboni stuff?

Lambo is using the rear-wheel drive car to celebrate the career of its legendary test driver, Valentino Balboni. Company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini himself hired Balboni in 1967, and since then he’s sat at the wheel of every prototype built by the factory. Balboni is now officially retired.

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By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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