Because the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 isn’t quite enough for everyone, there’s now a less-is-more version. With no front driveshaft and all the power from the 5.2-litre V10 going to the rear wheels, this is the limited edition LP550-2 Valentino Balboni, and a chance to help shift a few more cars, deflect attention from the new Ferrari 458 Italia, and finally silence those whingers who claim that Lambos aren’t real drivers cars. Wonder how many have actually driven one?
So what’s the Balboni bit about in the Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni name?
Valentino Balboni is Lamborghini’s recently retired test driver, a man who worked under Ferrucio Lamborghini himself when the company was still knocking out Miuras. Just 250 units of this special Gallardo will be made to honour Balboni’s 41 year association with the firm. And since much of his time was spent wrestling with lairy rear-drive supercars, Balboni the car fittingly does without the standard Gallardo’s front differential and driveshafts.
That’s not all it does without, judging by the name. Where did the 10bhp go?
Ditching the front shaft and diff has cut the weight 30kg to 1380kg, although that’s without fluids – say 1480kg measured the conventional way. That means that the rear-driver still delivers a better power to weight ratio even with 543bhp (550ps) instead of 552bhp. But why reduce it at all? Because Lamborghini doesn’t want the rear driver overshadowing the four-wheel drive car.
And does it?
On paper, no. Zero to 62mph takes 3.9sec, two tenths longer because of the inferior traction and it suffers the ignominy of failing to crack 200mph thanks to the power reduction. Oh, the shame!
Forget all that and remember the power-to-weight ratio. Where it counts, on the road, the Balboni is every bit as rapid as the 560, whatever the performance figures and oddly muted exhaust note suggests. Compared with the Murcielago’s V12, the direct-injection V10 is buttery smooth and was perfectly matched in our test car to an old fashioned six-speed manual gearbox. Don’t be intimidated by the open metal gate – the change is slick and the clutch no heavier than a family car’s. You can still pay extra for the e-gear semi-auto if you wish.
>> Click ‘Next’ below to read more of our Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni first drive
Bet it’s a real handful.
Far from it. You’d struggle to get yourself in trouble on the road, at least in the dry. The traction available from the new compound Pirelli P Zeros is astonishing and you’ll rarely even trouble the traction control. In fact, on the road there just isn’t the room to get past the initial understeer and set the tail free. On the circuit, it’s a different story and you can slide the Balboni around easily. Sounds scary but isn’t; this is a very sweetly balanced car.
And back on the road, the fact that you can’t drift it like an M3 on every single roundabout doesn’t matter at all. You’ll be too taken by the more feelsome, fluid-feeling steering and much more aggressive turn-in to care. There’s no doubt that the Balboni is a far more involving drive than the regular Gallardo. You have to put more in, but the rewards are ample.
So it’s got less power and less hardware? Presumably it costs less.
Stop being so logical – the Balboni costs £163,245, nearly £20k more than LP560-4. You do get the clear engine lid as standard as well as the wooden-feeling carbon ceramic brakes (both optional on the normal Gallardo), Superleggera wheels and striping for the upholstery and exterior paintwork. But tick the e-gear box and you’re up to Ferrari Scuderia money, and that’s a bit of a worry, as is the arrival of the Ferrari 458 Italia later this year.
The Balboni is a brilliant supercar, the best Gallardo yet and it would be a terrible shame if Lamborghini restricted it to a 250 car run.
But it’s expensive in its current guise, the brake feel still isn’t right and there’s a brand spanking new Ferrari just around the corner. Ditch the ceramics, pitch it at £5k less than the standard Gallardo though, and we could have a deal.
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