Lamborghini Gallardo Performante review, test drive
14th Jun 2012 5:25 pm
We drive the 570bhp drop-top Gallardo Performante in sunny Italy.
Our convoy of a burnt-orange Aventador sandwiched by a bright-green Gallardo Superleggera and a steel-grey Performante slices through the Italian countryside on the outskirts of Sant’Agata Bolognese. It’s an eye-popping sight which, along with the sound of 22 cylinders dishing out a collective 1814bhp, has the potential to create anarchy in the streets. I’m expecting to be chased by camera-phone toting bambini in Pandas and Puntos. But we get, at best, the odd glance or an approving nod from fellow enthusiasts whenever we stop to switch cars.
Lamborghinis are made in Sant’Agata Bolognese so they are probably as common a sight around here as a Nano is in Sanand. In fact, we are at the epicentre of the supercar world and it’s in this innocuous part of Italy that Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati all live within fighting distance of each other. For these brands it’s all about heritage, so even though Audi bought Lamborghini in 1998, this marque is just as Italian as it was in the days of its founder, Feruccio. And the cars we are driving, the latest in the Lamborghini range, couldn’t be truer to the brand – each one of them extrovert, in-your-face and very loud.
We set off from the factory and head north to Lake Como some 250km away. I’m behind the wheel of the Aventador and, at the risk of sounding like a show-off, will say that it’s a car I’m very familiar with. The first time I drove Lamborghini’s new flagship was on the Mumbai-Nashik highway and that very same car was subjected to its only ever proper road test on Indian soil. So what does it feel like at home in Italy?
Not much different, actually. It pulls in the horizon at the same brutal rate, sounds apocalyptic at max revs and leaves you in the same state of shock and awe. If anything, the Aventador requires more concentration on the fast-paced Italian autoroutes where there’s a rather casual view of speed limits and lane discipline. But despite heavy Friday evening traffic, cars ahead quickly peel off into the slower lane as this bright-orange projectile with its distinctive LED lights menacingly fills their mirrors. The Aventador is not just intimidating to drive, it intimidates others too, and few cars create the same visual impact. When traffic slows down, cars pull up alongside to give us waves, a thumbs-up and lots of clicks. A 100km away from Sant’Agata, this car is already a rarity.
The one thing the drive to Como teaches me is about the everyday practicality of the Aventador which, to be honest, is almost non-existent. It’s simply not designed to trundle along in traffic and the wide girth, poor all-round visibility and jerky 7-speed single-clutch gearbox make it hard work. This is a car that feels best on the other side of 200kph or when it’s simply standing still so you can gape at what is one of the most stunning-looking road cars of all time.
The Gallardo Performante is no less and has all the visual drama you can expect from a Lamborghini convertible. Given that it’s derived from the Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, it’s swathed in carbon-fibre and has the same finely honed sense of purpose, which is to simply blow you away. And it does. An early morning drive the next day with the top down around hills near Lake Como highlight the epic V10 engine and its eardrum-busting sound. Performance, though clearly not in the Aventador’s league, is still shattering enough. But it’s the fact that you can see so much better out of a convertible that makes the Performante a lot easier to hurtle down a twisty road.
Through the numerous tunnels in this region, the howl of the engine is amplified as it bounces off the rock face to create the most incredible aural experience. The e-gear transmission in Corsa has brutal shifts which only add to the Performante’s violent character and also its appeal. This would have been a pain the evening before in rush-hour traffic, but early on a Saturday morning you can play with the paddles a lot more. But again, driving this car is hard work. The ride is granite hard and the non-recline carbon fibre seats grip you well, but they hammer your spine with every bump. However, all this only intensifies the thrill to a point that I don’t want to let go of the Performante. And that means a late departure from Lake Como to Bologna airport for my flight back home. An hour extra with the Performante at Como means I really push it to catch my flight. Not that I’m complaining. My drive to the airport is in the green Superleggera coupe and, thankfully, traffic is sparse. I’d been warned about radar control on the autoroute, so I control myself with just short bursts to redline in the lower gears. The raw sound of the 5.2-litre V10 is my entertainment for the 270km trip back but the drive switches from entertaining to agonising when I miss an exit near the airport. I have left no margin for delay but thankfully I screech into Bologna airport with moments to spare. The drive ends just the way it should in any Lamborghini. On the edge.