The Gallardo's 5.2-litre V10 engine produces a whopping 552bhp, which propels it from rest to 60mph in just 3.7sec. Acceleration in any gear is astonishing, and the sound is something to savour, too. Still, if that's not enough, the lightweight Superleggera version is even quicker. The standard six-speed manual gearbox is a better choice than the clunky clutchless manual gearbox that is operated using paddle shifts on the steering wheel.
The Gallardo handles brilliantly at speed. It needs encouragement to get into corners but there's immense traction from the four-wheel-drive system, superb grip and virtually no body lean when cornering hard. The Superleggera is even sharper still. Overall the stiff suspension soaks up lumps and bumps pretty well but things can become unsettled over mid-corner ruts, and at low speeds the ride is pretty unforgiving.
With a big V10 sat behind your ear it's hardly surprising that the Gallardo makes plenty of racket - and even more so in the Superleggera. Those fat tyres pick up plenty of road noise, and a fair bit of wind noise is generated, too. The brakes are switch-like when trundling along in traffic, while the optional paddleshift gearchange fitted to our car is so jerky you can hear and feel the gears every time you swap cogs.
Despite its high cost, there are people queuing up to buy a Gallardo, which will keep used values very strong. Running costs will not be cheap, because as it manages just 19.2mpg on the combined cycle – and even less if you make use of the car's full performance.
That firm low-speed ride creates plenty of squeaks and rattles from the leather-bound cabin, but otherwise Audi's influence is clear in the quality of the Gallardo's components. We expect this to carry through to the mechanicals, although the car will need regular and expensive servicing.
The Gallardo comes with twin front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control. This last safety feature can be altered to allow more driver involvement and control. Remote central locking is standard, but buyers must pay extra for anti-theft and satellite tracking systems.
If you're an F1 ace and used to braking with your left foot then you’ll be okay, but most mortals will struggle because the pedals are so far offset to the left. At least there’s decent headroom, plenty of movement for the driver's seat and a steering wheel that adjusts for height and reach. The downside is that rear visibility is limited and it's hard to judge where the car's nose ends.
If you want practicality, a supercar is not the best choice. However, the Gallardo provides decent cabin space for its two occupants and is also easier to thread through traffic than a Ferrari 430. As for the boot, learn to travel light.
As you would expect for this type of money, the Gallardo is well equipped. It comes with climate control, leather seats, heated door mirrors, a USB connection and a CD player. After that, buyers can spend many thousands by ticking an options list that includes such luxuries as fitted luggage, satellite-navigation and even a transparent engine cover.
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There's no real choice with a Gallardo - you either want it or you don't. And, if you want a 'proper' supercar, they don’t come much better.