Lamborghini Gallardo 2007

Although it's probably difficult for most people to think of a nearly $200,000 automobile as "affordable," that's the position the Lamborghini Gallardo coupe and spyder convertible find themselves in within the Lambo product lineup. But no matter -- sports cars with exotic looks and the performance to match have a built-in ownership audience.

                                   2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Coupe Shown

Since its introduction, the mission for this "baby Lamborghini" has been to maintain the style and attitude of Lamborghini's 12-cylinder cars but be more livable in everyday use. It's been a successful strategy, as there's been no shortage of takers who rightly lust after such a usable and alluring sports car. In fact, the Gallardo has become this Italian automaker's best-selling model ever.

In terms of layout and design, the Lamborghini Gallardo is a true exotic. There's a mid-mounted V10 engine, all-wheel drive and the availability of an F1-style transmission. To keep weight down, the chassis is a composite blend of alloy stampings, extrusions and castings. And except for the traditionally opening steel doors (no scissors), the exterior is constructed of thermoplastic-formed panels.

Inside, the Gallardo's handsome furnishings sublimely marry form with function and offer a surprising level of comfort for a vehicle of this type. Credit is certainly due to the influence of parent company Audi, whose expertise with interior design has been of no small benefit since the Volkswagen Group purchased Lamborghini in the late 1990s.

Without too much difficultly, one can claim that the Gallardo is Lamborghini's best sports car ever. If there's anything lacking, it's the outrageous spirit and flair so often associated with the company's more expensive or legendary offerings. But the trade-off of a little spirit for a lot of functionality has been a good one, and there's no doubt that the Gallardo is a true, world-class exotic.

Current Lamborghini Gallardo

The exotic Lamborghini Gallardo is currently available as a coupe or spyder convertible, with the coupe available in two trim levels: base and SE. Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, fully powered accessories and a CD audio system. A winter package adds heated mirrors and seats along with winter tires and specific wheels. A sport suspension, navigation system, carbon-ceramic brakes and rear back-up camera are also available. In keeping with its pedigree, the Gallardo's trim and paint can be further customized, too. The limited-production SE is similar to the base coupe mechanically, but has a specific two-tone color treatment and includes as standard equipment some of the base car's optional features.

A new addition for 2007 is the Gallardo Superleggera. This coupe-only model has been modified for even better performance. It features 10 additional horsepower, slightly different suspension settings and an approximate 150-pound-lighter curb weight thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber and reduced feature content.

For optimum dynamic balance, the 5.0-liter V10 engine is positioned just aft of the driver. It develops 512 horsepower (522 for the Superleggera) and 376 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. An automated, sequential-shifting manual "e-gear" transmission is also available, which can be placed in an automatic mode or shifted via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Antilock brakes, traction control and stability control are standard safety fare, as are head-protecting side curtain airbags.

Audi's influence is obvious inside the Lamborghini Gallardo, with plenty of precisely fitting leather and soft-touch materials. Despite the fact that this is an exotic sports car, seating is comfortable enough to accommodate the occasional road trip. Though not as flamboyant as its extroverted exterior, the interior styling still befits a vehicle in this price range. Storage space is tight, though, with a minimal amount of room available behind the seats and in the nose-mounted trunk.

But once behind the wheel, you'll gladly leave everything behind in exchange for the sweet, sonorous symphony of its V10 at full throttle. With more than 500 horses at your command, the Gallardo is capable of spine-compressing speed in any gear. The big V10 and all-wheel-drive system do add quite a bit of mass, so it doesn't deliver the razor's-edge responsiveness of some of its rivals. And the powerful brakes can feel a bit inconsistent at the limit. But there's still plenty to like about the Gallardo. Its gearing practically begs you to rev the V10 for all it's worth, and its AWD system certainly gives it a clear advantage for safely wringing out maximum performance when the road ahead is slick and unfamiliar.

Past Lamborghini Gallardo Models

The Gallardo coupe debuted in 2004. An expanded lineup arrived in 2006 featuring the addition of the spyder convertible with an automatic folding soft top and the SE model featuring two-tone color treatments and a host of mechanical updates that ultimately extended to the regular Gallardo as well.

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