What is a manual Gallardo like to drive?

The boyhood dream

It’s 2003 and Jeremy Clarkson is sliding a bright yellow Gallardo around the test track, I’m 8 years old and the proud owner of a remote control version in the same colour. He talks about the lack of madness that usually defines a Lamborghini, the smart decisions influenced by Audi and the “sensible” V10 engine. But take the magazine articles and TV road tests away, what’s it actually like to meet your heroes and buy one 19 years later?

Style over substance

There may be a lack of madness from the big V12 bulls that we came to expect from Lamborghini but there’s so much Italian idiocy compared to the early R8 models that followed. For example the handbrake is perfectly placed for an E-Gear car, but for a manual it’s just in the bloody way, hill starts and stop-start traffic mean you’re forever reaching around the handbrake to engage first gear. The headlights that would be on a stalk behind the steering wheel in literally any other car on the planet are actually controlled by a switch on the dashboard, with only high beam adjustable on a stalk, pull for on, hold for 2 seconds to turn them back off, madness. In Italy it’s apparently customary to stop your journey for any source of refreshment, or at least that’s what is suggested by the lack of storage space for literally anything. No cup-holder not even one, tiny door cubbies are all that’s available apart from a microscopic little hatch on the centre console by the rear bulkhead that can’t even fit my wallet or phone in it. The rake of the front windscreen means on a sunny day all you can see is the reflection of your own dashboard and vents, not that it’s ever sunny in Italy right?

The drive

The Gallardo is such a modern classic it’s difficult to drive yet it’s a car that you learn over time, it’s not as pigheaded as a Countach or a Diablo but it’s not easy like an R8 either. It rewards you for doing well with the click-clack of that beautiful gated shifter and V10 symphony behind you. But the pedals are tiny and way off to the left, the gated gear-lever requires precision and a deliberate action across the gates. The gear change is weighty and the steering heavy and deliberate, couple this to practically lying down and it’s quite a challenging environment in the most enjoyable sense. The big 5.0 V10 wails behind your ear at any opportunity past 3000rpm and it feels massive from the cockpit, those wide hips and massive arse mean you’re often checking those sculpted side mirrors to check it fits through a gap. This is a small supercar in reality but one you really must man-handle. I’ve covered around 300 miles so far across many different types of road and a manual Gallardo with 550bhp is definitely a handful! It’s on its way back to London as I write this as it’s been all Italian and leaked some oil because I’ve dared to actually drive it somewhere.

Published by Sam Busby

a big nosed bearded idiot who likes to write about cars. Lucky enough to have owned a few quick ones too.

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