I truly love the BestBrightest of TTAC. So much so that one of the common attack vectors used by my involuntarily-celibate, low-T, sub-neurotypical detractors is to parody that affection in a manner that reveals more about their fumbling attempts to interact with their “MLP:FiM” Meetups than it does about my admittedly wide range of personal flaws. Nevertheless, I do occasionally find myself frustrated by the BB’s relentless desire to nitpick the articles that we put up.
As an example: Due to the distressingly low number of contributors close-knit team at TTAC, it’s often necessary for one of us to pitch in during the off-hours to get a story up. And sometimes that call comes during what I think of as “The Ketel One Hour”, leading me to make inebriated mistakes like referring to deposed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as “Roy Batty” or “Scott LaRock”. The typical response of the readers is to completely pounce on me (or, more often, Derek) for making these mistakes, forgetting that if we had a so-called “editor” to “edit” what we write, we wouldn’t have any money to rent Camrys for track tests.
So, with that in mind, we’re on our third Supercars To Go test, and not a single member of the BB has been sufficiently incensed to hit the “Reply” button and e-scream:
“NONE OF THESE ARE SUPERCARS!!”
It’s true. While the use of the word “supercar” is almost as old as Shaw’s use of the word “superman”, it didn’t really stick until, by the agency of one LJK Setright, the Lamborghini Miura was yclept thus. Therefore, a supercar is a mid-engined twelve-cylinder automobile with outrageous styling. It is permissible to exceed the requirements of this formula — hello, Cizeta Moroder V16T! — but not to provide less. I ask you, dear reader, is the Fiero 2M4 a supercar? No? Then how is the Audi R8, with barely twice the cylinder count and no more adventurous an interior design, a supercar?
Nor is the Ferrari 458 a supercar, being the direct descendant of the very non-supercar-ish Dino 246. The Gallardo is not a supercar, being the descendant of the (ugh) Jalpa. The McLaren MP4-12C is not a supercar because the “12” in the number has nothing to do with the number of cylinders. The GT-R is not a supercar in the same way that a fish is not a bicycle.
So why call this a “supercar” test? Well, the company that rents these cars, Xtreme Xperience, calls them supercars. Given that they are basically in the rental business, and the rental business is the one place in the world where a Chevrolet Malibu is a “full-sized” car and a Corolla is a “mid-size” car, it makes sense. Hertz calls the 911 C4S a “dream car”, and who’s dreaming of driving some wack-ass waterboxer with a droptop and a PRNDL shifter?
We also live in an era where people actually refer to a Mustang as a “sports car”. The distributed illiterate intelligence of the Web has bleached the meaning out of words like a decade’s worth of Texas sun at high noon, which is why young women describe “pad thai” food as “amazing!” and Chinese-sewn Lululemon pants that inadvertently display one’s pudenda (Latin: “the shameful thing”) every time you bend over as “awesome!”
When I was about nine years old, Lee Iacocca appeared on the television to show America the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon “Miser” models beneath a sign that said “52 MPG”.
“That’s incredible, if it’s true,” I said to my mother, who snapped back,
“Your use of the word ‘incredible’ means that you do not ‘credit’ it, which means you don’t believe it. Therefore, you’ve managed to contradict yourself quite nicely in a short but indifferently constructed sentence.” Did I mention that my mother spoke seven languages and delighted in exposing my logical fallacies in the harshest manner possible, starting around my third birthday? Not to worry, I’ll tell my analyst, as soon as I can find one who looks like the sexy blonde analysts in the Ratt videos.
Where we we? Oh, yes, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. It’s no supercar, but never was there a Miura that could have seen a distant glimpse of this thing’s origami-folded ass around a racetrack. It runs the quarter in 11.2 seconds. This particular Gallardo being one of the very last built, it has a thoroughly-revised e-gear transmission that works quickly and smoothly around a racetrack. The “paddle” shifters are really long metal handles that will be intimately familiar to anyone who has ever driven a Bentley Continental GT or, ahem, installed and VAG-COM-coded those same paddles to work on their Phaetons. It can be a little difficult to find them when the blood is hot and the pace is hard. Only after this test did I meet a Lamborghini factory driver who showed me the best way to do corner-exit upshifts on cars with steering-column-mounted paddles, like this and the Huracan: you use the left hand to steer the car and the right hand to shift. It’s very suave, when you do it correctly.
The Gallardo four-wheel-driver suffers from the same basic issues as the Audi R8 in terms of front axle activity and tire stagger, but having that 552-horse V10 behind you allows you to adjust these issues on the fly with copious amounts of torque and 8000-rpm power. It’s also possessed of a more responsive and informative steering system, which is odd because I’m pretty sure that the spec sheet has the same parts listed for both cars. I drove two different 560-4s that weekend and they were identical and both very good, so like Timothy B. Schmit I can’t tell you why that’s so.
The Gallardo’s low roof makes it a tight fit for me (six foot two, 32″ inseam) when wearing a helmet. The 560-4 is much more comfortable than the 550-2, however, for reasons I’ll discuss in the article on that car. The interior is a sort of Audi’s Greatest Hits with the addition of some chromed bespoke switches. If you own an old A4, you’ll recognize the temperature controls straightaway. Still, with the addition of some leather and chrome here and there, it actually works as an exotic-car interior. The old Italian cars from the Seventies were black plastic and chrome, and so is this. The difference is that none of the buttons are inoperative. You can track this car all day with the A/C on if you like. It doesn’t get hot, it doesn’t misbehave, it doesn’t flash warning lights at you. Compared to the Ferrari 430, it’s flashier on the outside and more subtle on the inside. If that’s your sort of thing, you’re in luck.
While there’s a “Corsa” mode for the stability control, this LP560-4 is perfectly safe and easy to drive with the ESC completely disengaged. You can feed it full power at any remotely sane point in the corner and though it won’t play differential games like a GT-R to tighten your line, neither will it loop the bitch around on you. The brakes are a bit wooden but they work very well even over the course of a full day’s lapping session. I had several female students who chose this car, none of whom had any track experience, and they were all able to enjoy themselves immediately.
The sense of worrisome size that accompanies the big Lambos like the Murcielago doesn’t exist here. The Gallardo feels smaller than a Corvette when you’re driving it, largely because you’re near the front axle plus it’s both narrow and slab-sided. I’d always thought of the Gallardo as a jerk-off car for jerk-off drivers but as the days went on and I saw just how well it worked for my students I came to really respect it. During my own drives of the car I found it to be superbly stable and adequately thrilling.
In dry conditions, with decent tires, you should be able to show heels to a stock C6 Z06 in this car. Add a bit of rain or poor track surface to the mix and the Lambo will leap away. This is particularly true for drivers without a lot of experience.
So what’s wrong with the car? Well, the styling was never as dramatic as it should have been, even if this final-facelift version looks suitably aggressive. The interior is a little too executive-sedan for my taste. It needs more tire to exploit the power. I’d rather have it with a six-speed manual. Most of all, however, that driven front axle just soaks all the potential drama out of the car. The LP560-4 is just too bolted-down, too safe, too sane, to be maximally thrilling. What it needs is the weight and dynamic gains that would come from ditching the front half of the drivetrain. Luckily, that’s an option, as we’ll see.