First drive: Lambo Gallardo LP560-4

* We drive Lamborghini's best car yet * Yours for £147,330 * 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds...

16 May 2008

First drive: Lambo Gallardo LP560-4

Although Lamborghini sells less than 2500 cars a year, it has come a long way in the last decade.

Before Audi took charge at the turn of the century, the company was selling less than 250 cars each year; since the Gallardo - the first all-new car to have been created under Audi ownership - the numbers have just got better and better, and the quality of the cars themselves have followed suit.

Take the new LP560-4 (560 horsepower, four-wheel-drive), for example.

Ignoring the eye-watering price of £147,330 for one moment, the LP560 not only represents how far Lamborghini has come in recent years, but also where it's going in years to come.

How so? Well, not only is it faster and more powerful than any other Gallardo (by far the companys most successful car commercially) but it's also less polluting and a chunk more frugal than any previous Lamborghini by an impressive 18 per cent, to be exact.

Thats a real first for a car with a raging bull on its nose.

Under the bonnet

The big news about the LP560 is its engine, which is new from the crank up and bears almost no relation to the old 5.0-litre V10.

It's 5.2 litres, and although its still a V10, it has a completely different firing order from before and, therefore, sounds even better than ever.

It also produces a fair bit more power and torque (552bhp and 398lb ft) and, according to Lamborghini, is a lot more driveable into the bargain.

The 4WD system has been completely revised and features new, lighter driveshafts, and theres a brand-new version of the optional paddle-shift e-gearbox, in which shifts occur 40% faster than before.

The suspension and brakes have also been rethought, not only to make the Gallardo sharper on the road, but also lighter and stiffer at each corner.

On the surface

As you'll see from the photos, it's also had a minor cosmetic rethink inside and out.

The nose has been given the Reventon treatment and now features more open, aggressive-looking nostrils, while the rear lights have been 'rationalised' in an attempt to make the car look lower and wider (and rather more like a big Audi from behind, in our humble opinion).

On the road, the LP560-4 is one of those cars in which you need to employ a reasonable amount of self-restraint in order not to do something silly.

The ride may have matured and the car's refinement has most definitely taken a step forwards, but the bottom line is that this is still an absolute thug of a car if you want it to be.

The performance is outrageous even if you only use half the available revs; go all the way and stretch the V10 to its demonic 8500rpm red line and its hard to work out whether it's the raw performance (0-62mph in 3.7sec, 202mph flat out) or the ear-shredding noise that's most wonderful.

Either way, the LP560-4 has become one of the very fastest, most responsive cars money can buy, in light of which the £147,330 asking price doesnt seem quite so ridiculous.

Still a Lamborghini

Despite the obvious improvements to the car's refinement, the 560 still feels every inch like a Lamborghini, with beefy, super-precise steering, very little roll during hard cornering and a soundtrack that pretty much negates the point of the uprated stereo.

Pity the brakes are steel as standard, which means you still have to fork out an extra £10,000 if you want the carbon ceramic discs fitted to the test car we tried.

All in all, though, the LP560 is one of those cars which, despite its flaws (slightly snatchy brakes at low speed, huge price and a teeny bit of unwanted understeer at high speed) leaves you gasping for breath and grasping the find the right superlatives to describe it.

By a long chalk, it is Lamborghini's most complete car so far, and the fact that it's so much less polluting than before means Lamborghini will be with us for many years to come.

Thats the very best news of all.