Full Throttle in a couple of Lamborghini Gallado LP560-4's from Sant’Agata Bolognese to the Italian Alps, and back.
Words by Anthony Crawford Photography by Jan Glovac
It’s by no means the most expensive or fastest Uberschall supercar we drove during our most recent Full Throttle supercar tour in Europe, but the instant you start carving up the switchbacks in Italy’s Val D’Aosta, Lamborghini’s Gallardo LP560-4 becomes your favourite.
The fact that we were the first media in the world (yes we beat Clarkson) to track test Spain’s new GTA Spano supercar at Valencia’s MotoGP circuit, before a mad dash to Lake Garda in Italy to rendezvous with the insane Veritas RS 111 supercar, didn’t seem to matter one little bit, we had finally arrived at Lamborghini headquarters in the small rural town of Sant’Agata, and the feeling was once again surreal.
This is the second time in two years we have landed here at Lamborghini’s front door, and regardless of the lack of sleep since stepping off the plane in Frankfurt two weeks ago, the anticipation as you’re about to strap yourself into one of the world’s best driver’s cars for a 700km low level flight across the Italian Alps, is just as thrilling.
Parked in the VIP car park, I can see two spanking new Lamborghini Gallado LP560-4s, and all we have to do to get the keys for a couple of days, is sign a few insurance papers and we are on our way up to the majestic Italian Alps.
And while these two Lamborghinis look almost identical, I’ve spotted the dark coloured carbon ceramic brake rotors on only one of the Gallardos, so that’s the must have car.
Composite brakes tend to be a little grabby until they heat up, but that won’t be a problem as we’ll be moving at over 300km/h on several sections of the Autostrada, as well as some exceptionally demanding brake work over multiple switchbacks.
While the crew are busy trying on their commemorative ‘63’ shirts (that’s the year Ferruccio Lamborghini started his company) with the public relations boss, I’ve taken possession of the keys to this extra special Gallardo.
With the fade proof carbon ceramics, my colleague and 2nd test driver Alborz, won’t be able to stay with me at the pace we’ll be moving at through the 20 kilometres of spectacular bends just above the village of Aosta.
Not much seems to have changed here at Lamborghini HQ over the last twelve months; still the same Italian supermodels behind the front desk, only this time they know our names, well mine at least.
And if you ever do make the pilgrimage here to the Modena region, and the home of the raging bull, then you’re in for a treat if you’re an admirer of such classics as the Miura, Countach and of course, the Diablo.
There’s also a prized Reventon on display, every bit ‘uncompromising and extreme’ and looking more like an alien space ship than any supercar built on this planet.
Every single one of these Lamborghini classics is in mint condition and housed in a glass showroom just metres from reception.
But it’s the Gallardos we’ve come half way around the world to drive, but we’ve already been advised of a slight change in plans.
We were supposed to collect one Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder and one Gallardo LP560-4 Coupe. Instead, we have been handed the keys to two Coupes with the same Bianco Canopus (white matt) paint job and no one’s complaining.
These are truly brilliant looking sports cars although; it’s difficult to describe the real essence of this revered Italian brand without sounding like an over-the-top sales guy.
Lamborghini build more than just supercars, and while I can’t really put my finger on it, I can tell you that they’re so much more than the total sum of their parts.
I could get poetic and say that every car that leaves the Sant’Agata factory has a piece of Ferruccio Lamborghini’s soul built into it, and I wouldn’t be far wrong.
Whatever it is, there is something spiritual going on whenever you are behind the wheel of a new Lamborghini, especially the highly nimble Gallardo model, it’s as if they’ve custom built this car just for you.
Is the LP560-4 a better car than the LP540, which it replaces? No question about that, as soon as you fire up the 5.2-litre V10 with 412kW and tap the throttle, you already believe the words of Lamborghini boss Stephan Winklemann, when he said, “It will outclass its predecessor in every aspect…”
And Herr Winklemann should know. He’s a German-born businessman, raised in Rome, who has essentially brought Lamborghini back from the brink of closure and turned the company around in record time to being a profitable part of the Volkswagen Group.
But enough historical chit chatter, its 10.30am and we are seriously behind schedule. We still need to complete a bunch of set up shots inside the Lamborghini compound prior to our 400-kilometre express shuttle to the alpine village of Aosta.
Two hours later and we were done, but not before we ordered some proper Italian pizzas from the Arab chef at Pizza da asporto, on Sant’Agata’s main square.
These are actually the world’s second best pizzas, and at just six euro each, they slotted into our depressingly small budget perfectly.
Thankfully we ordered the large size, as little did we know, it would be after 1.30am the next morning before we would be eating dinner, but that’s another adventure.
You’ll find the world’s number one pizza restaurant (since 1956) at Maggi, around the corner from Lamborghini and please trust me when I tell you they are without peer. Eating at this esteemed establishment has become a ritual whenever we are here testing the latest from Sant A’gata Bolognese.
By the time we hit the road it was 2.00 pm and although we had the pace to make up some serious ground, there was a bigger problem looming.
George (2nd camera, graphics and general electronic whiz) was driving our Ford Focus wagon chase car, which was screaming its head off at a thoroughly commendable 190km/h, and going through fuel at an alarmingly euro draining rate.
That’s quite a problem, when you’re behind the wheel of two Lamborghini supercars, given these two V10 powered missiles don’t mind sitting on 300km/h whenever the left lane is clear for a stretch.
That meant we lost George on more than several occasions and at one point, figured he was at least 120 kilometres behind us!
Thankfully though, the Focus was equipped with Navman’s latest GPS unit, and with European maps loaded, this thing was faultless across six countries, including Denmark and Sweden.
This meant that we could always pull into a service station and wait impatiently for the Ford to catch up.
To make matters worse, our director of photography was not his usual patient self. Apparently, he was frustrated over our inability to travel in convoy.
Ever tried sitting behind a fully laden Ford Focus wagon for 400 kilometres in two freshly armed Lamborghini Gallardos, I can tell you it's not humanly possible.
After several prolonged 300km/h bursts, Alborz and I didn’t mind a little traffic, as only then do you get to play with one of the world’s best paddle shifting transmissions, while enjoying the 8000 rpm Lamborghini Concerto.
The more traffic the better I say, as you never, ever, get tired of tapping the paddles in V10 powered Gallardo under full tilt.
I suppose our normally easy going DOP had good cause to loose his cool on this occasion, as he was going to be critically short on time to shoot enough footage of the cars in Italy, should we have any further delays.
Unlike Germany, Italy fully supports toll roads, which is more a nuisance than it is expensive, and absolutely not supercar friendly.
The problem is, the Gallardo like most supercars, are usually designed with an ultra low profile to assist with aerodynamic stability at high speed, so more often than not, we had to completely alight from the car to pay each toll, not so easy with a queue of cars and trucks behind you.
And even with two satellite navigation systems on the go, you can still mess up if there are several routes to the same place. That’s especially so if you happen to take a wrong exit on Italy’s Autostrada network, which can be thoroughly confusing.
The scenery up around the Gran San Bernado Pass is beyond spectacular, particularly when a bumper ski season dumps five-metres of fresh powder on the Alps in May of all months.
The beauty of shooting anywhere in Europe this time of year, is that you can work until 9pm, and that includes still photography. So when we finally arrived in the ski villages of La Thuile/Aosta at 5pm, there was still plenty of time remaining to get more extreme driving footage in the can.
We’re trying to get to the same stretch of road in the Val d’Aosta where the opening scene of the original 1960’s movie “The Italian Job” was shot. You know, the scene when that orange Lamborghini Miura is winding its way through the Alps, to the tune of Matt Monroe singing “On Days Like This”.
Bummer, the famous alpine resort of Zermatt is just 12 kilometres away, but the only road up there is closed due to too much snow on the road. Next time, or perhaps even the Stelvio Pass.
The consolation prize is just ahead though. An endless stretch of snake-like bends climbing up to the heavens and not a car or truck in sight.
Almost instantaneously, the throttle drops to the floor and the two V10’s are flat stick, as we scream up the mountain like two low level Euro fighters before the G-forces take hold, as we brake impossibly late for each hairpin.
It’s a steep climb too, but acceleration out of the corners is explosive, as all of 412 kilowatts and 540 Newton-metres are applied to all four wheels. It also helps that the Gallardo weighs in at a light 1410 kilograms.
I’m not sure motoring journalism gets any better than this, piloting two of the world’s best driver’s cars on Italy’s best driving roads, at speeds more suited to Monza. Add to that, the music of a couple of Lamborghini V10’s playing a composition that would shame anything by Guiseppi Verdi.
Anyone who still thinks an old school six-speed floor shifter is the proper way to go these days, needs to have a brain scan or just five minutes behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 will permanently cure their condition.
The automated e-gear transmission in “CORSA” mode is a quick shifting masterpiece of engineering. Each tap on the paddle shifters means a gear change in milliseconds with little or no time lost between cogs.
And switchbacks like those above Aosta, demand lightning fast changes from 2nd to 4th every five seconds or so, but even then the Gallardo is always in its comfort zone and never feels ruffled.
I doubt if Alborz is having any issues with late braking despite the steel discs on board his car, it certainly doesn’t look that way. And why would he, with standard eight-pot Brembo calipers up front and four down the back, the Gallardo’s stopping power is well and truly sorted.
That said I’m nonetheless pleased to have the optional Carbon Ceramic braking system on this drive route, as I am punishing the brakes remorselessly, trying hard to induce even a hint of brake fade, and surprise, surprise, there is none, zilch.
These may well be the world’s best brakes too; as the heat generated with this level of braking is red hot extreme and they are as effective now, as they were several hours ago.
It’s the same story when it comes to the steering set-up on this latest Gallardo, but then what’s new, every Lamborghini we’ve ever driven has had been blessed with perfectly weighted steering from dead centre to full lock. The secret seems to be perfectly engineered suspension geometry and camber angles, together with the least amount of power assistance for a totally natural feel on turn in.
The steering is also incredibly precise and quick to respond, with great diver feedback through the steering wheel, an absolute requirement when you’re carving up the tarmac at these ungodly speeds.
We were hitting close to 140km/h approaching tight bends and without brilliant brakes and extraordinary levels of grip, disaster would surely have prevailed. The Gallardo possesses both these talents in spades.
That’s a combination of massive 295/30 Pirelli P-Zero rear tyres and the four-wheel drive Viscous Traction (VT), which gets the power down without any fuss.
You can feel the enormous grip as you power out of corners at race car speeds, and the car isn't leaning a millimetre.
Even better, the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) allows you to hang the rear end out through the hairpins with a 30:70 front to rear split in the driving torque, and 45 percent limited slip on the rear differential.
And don’t think for one minute that this 3.7-second car (0-100km/h) offers anything but a complaint ride over the harshest of road conditions. And that’s despite the ultra stiff spaceframe chassis and spring rates.
With the day’s shooting completed by 9pm, we were headed for the northern Italian town of Biella for some well desrved rest as we had done so the year before, when we had the Superleggera and Gallardo LP540 Spyder on test.
Biella is famous as the home of Ermenegildo Zegna, Cerruti, Fila and a host of other premium Italian fashion brands.
Problem was, we had an issue with the headlights on one of the cars - low beam had packed it in, so we had no option but to sit on a safe 70 km/h in close convoy.
Worse still, we had chosen to follow the wrong route on the Sat Nav, which meant we had committed to another 200 kilometres to our destination and at 70km/h, dinner was looking more like a 2.00am event, rather than our scheduled 9.00pm rendezvous at the hotel Astoria.
The issue was not so much a deal on the hotel rates (always a concern though), but the secure parking of close to one million dollars worth of Lamborghini’s finest.
So there we were, two Gallardo LP560-4s quietly coasting into town at 1.00am in the morning and all five of us, dead tired and starving.
It would be an early start the next day too, as we had some high speed work to complete, as well as a 400 kilometre drive back to Sant’Agata for a photo session before the cars needed to be returned to the factory.
If you ever need to find a secluded road suitable for high speed driving in the Italian countryside, just go to the nearest café in two Lamborghini’s and you’ll have ten volunteer guides fighting for the job.
Our video boss wanted to capture some high speed passes on a three-kilometre stretch of quality tarmac, which we were more than happy to provide.
What stands out more than any other feature of the Gallardo is how utterly stable the car is at 250km/h speed, and that’s during a sweeping bend.
And it’s absolutely no different at 300km/h; the car still feels as if it’s a slot car. We’ve driven the super quick Novitec 430 Scuderia 16M Ferrari and the lethal TechArt GTstreetRS, and they don’t feel like this at 300km/h.
Photographer Jan Glovac, was riding shotgun with me and spotted a fast moving Audi R8 up ahead, so in a split second, we decided to pursue the car and test the in-gear acceleration from sixth.
No need to engage “CORSA” or even the Sport mode, the automatic light is lit, but I’ve hammered the throttle in top gear and the V10 is by now spinning at 7500 rpm and loving every millisecond of it.
It’s such a no-contest as we pass what is simply a blur at 305km/h, but with plenty more on tap, if required. Both of us are stunned at how effortless the passing manoeuvre was.
While the Gallardo stands just a mere 1.16 metres high, cockpit ingress and egress is deceptively easy. There’s also plenty of width between driver and passenger for those extended trips to your Cortina d’Ampezzo chalet.
As hard-core as the Gallardo is, luxury and fine quality materials are synonymous with Lamborghini’s heritage.
The lightweight leather seats with a quilted insert, are as comfortable as they are supportive, and that's at ten-tenths across the alpine switchbacks.
We struck peak hour on our way back to Sant’Agata, which just proved how adept this supercar is in congestion, with its ability to duck and weave in and out of traffic or coast at 10km/h in automatic mode.
Ferociously fast and impeccable road manners, Lamborghini’s Gallardo LP560-4, may well rate as the world’s best driver’s car.
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