Through a past job, I was very fortunate to have some amazing automotive experiences, some of which I will eventually write about here. However, today’s post is not about those days. You see, that job allowed me to experience some of the best cars in the world, but I never had the chance to drive an orange Lamborghini, my ultimate dream car. That chance came recently, and the following tale is what it’s like to come face-to-face with a $250,000 automotive legend, the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder.
Let’s get the worst out of the way first, shall we? This Lamborghini was awesome, but the perfect car has yet to be built, unfortunately. Interior space when you’re a taller person (the author stands about 6’1”) is important. No one this side of six feet tall would describe the Gallardo Spyder as “roomy.” On the outside, it’s a beautiful shape and the proportions are spot-on, but that’s at the expense of interior volume. It was a beautiful day so putting the top up was unecessary, but I’m sure that only exacerbates the problem.
Next we move on to the problem of shift paddle location. Some manufacturers, such as Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Aston Martin, like to put the shift paddles at a fixed position on the steering column. This means no matter where the wheel is turned, the paddles stay at the same position (universally, manufacturers with this two paddle setup maintain that the right paddle is for upshifting and the left paddle is for downshifting). Other manufacturers, such as BMW, Porsche, and McLaren, place their paddles on the actual steering wheel. This means that when utilizing the proper “10 and 2” grip on the wheel, you never have to think about where the paddles are.
This is a long explanation of what some may not consider a big deal, but let me explain why I prefer steering-wheel-mounted paddles over their column-mounted adversaries. You see, driving a Gallardo is mentally tougher than piloting a BMW M6 around a track (I’ll detail my time with the BMW M Driving School in a later post), especially when you consider a couple important factors about the driving surface. For example, the autocross track that I used had a straight that wasn’t completely straight. To make matters worse, right in the middle of the slight right you had to make on the straight, the pavement undulated quickly. To complicate matters EVEN FURTHER, the car required a shift from second to third right around the time of the steering correction/undulating portion of the straight. Talk about white knuckle! Every time I got to this portion of the track, I tensed up and gripped the wheel tightly, only to have to move my right hand off the steering wheel to summon a gear change!
Some people like to argue that it shouldn’t matter where the paddles are because you shouldn’t be changing gear mid-corner for weight balance reasons, which is correct. However, some tracks require a mid-corner gear change for optimum lap times. For these kinds of tracks, I would greatly prefer to be driving a car with steering wheel-mounted paddles.
So I’m not very comfortable in it and the paddle shifter location makes driving this car quickly a headache on certain tracks. What did I actually like about the Gallardo Spyder? Everything else. The 520 horsepower V10 is an absolute dream. Combined with the standard all-wheel-drive system, the Gallardo claws at the pavement with terrifying ease. Only fighter pilots can brag more about the G-forces they experience from their rides. Seriously, this car is like a horizontal roller-coaster for the street.
That all-wheel-drive system may add some weight, but the trade off is the Gallardo has a planted feel that is unrivaled in the supercar kingdom. The steering is heavy, like most other supercars I’ve driven. It’s very easy to point corner-to-corner on a quickly changing track, I’m sure a credit to its AWD system. It’s a rear-biased system but you have to drive it pretty ham-fisted to find that out. In other words, understeer is achieved much easier and more often than oversteer on a tight track.
The best feature of the Gallardo Spyder is by far the noise. In my opinion, it’s probably the best sounding car currently in production. I even prefer the sound of the Gallardo over its $400,000 stable mate, the Aventador. The violent bark of its crisp downshifts sent shivers down my spine every single time. The sound alone would make me write the neccessary $250,000 check, regardless of the paddle shifter location!
It’s been said that you should never meet your idols, for fear that they might be somehow mean or rude to you. In the automotive realm, this can certainly be true of some cars. For example, if you gave me the keys to a first-generation Maserati Quattroporte, I’d throw them into the nearest body of water that I could find (for those that haven’t experienced one, the Quattroporte is beautiful to look at, and absolutely terrible to drive due to a transmission that shifts so slow, you can time them with the minute hand on your watch. They’ve corrected the problem in newer versions, thankfully.) However, this cannot be said about my time with the Gallardo Spyder. Yes, it has its weaknesses, but the positives are so overwhelming that on your first downshift, you’ll be thinking, “Was I just criticizing something about this car? I just want to hear that noise again!”
So go ahead, meet your idols, automotive or otherwise. And give them a second chance if your first impression doesn’t match what you previously dreamed about or expected. They, or it, just might surprise you…
There are a lot of “cool” things in this world. Restaurants that are not part of a chain are cool because they are an experience; for a couple of hours you are immersed in someone else’s idea of what the perfect meal looks like. iPhones and Droids are cool because they simplify our lives, and it’s always fun to share apps with your friends. Movies are cool because they allow us to check out of reality for a while, letting someone else take the wheel and create the drama for once. You know what the coolest thing of all is, though? Cars!
Cars are so cool, Pixar has made not one, but two movies based entirely around their stereotypes and idiosyncrasies (a Porsche loves to tear up the back roads, a tow truck embodies blue collar culture, etc.) Not to mention The Fast and the Furious franchise, which shows little momentum lost despite the fact that it’s launched FIVE successful installments.
What makes cars inherently cool is that they are one of the few things that reflect who you are to everyone, everyday, everywhere. You change your clothes (hopefully) on a daily basis, your phone cover every once in a while, and maybe your purse/laptop case every once in a blue moon. But your car often stays with you for long periods of time, on average about 10 years!
Some people like to argue that America’s love for the automobile is waning. People say pollution is rampant and texting is killing teens at an alarming rate, and it’s all the car’s fault! But if you look at the numbers, Americans are holding on to their cars for a record amount of time. According to USA Today, the average vehicle on American roads is 10.8 years old, the highest number they’ve ever seen. I think this may be because we are forming more emotional bonds with our cars. We can order them however we want now; we can customize them to reflect everything about us. You like music? There’s a sound system for that. You like Twilight? There’s a bumper sticker for that. You like your Honda? A quick Google search for ”Honda Club” returned over 20,000,000 hits. That’s a lot of people talking about their Honda’s!
I say all that to say this: you may only own 6-10 cars in this lifetime if you’re lucky. Why not make them count? The average American drives 12,300 miles a year. If you drive for 60 years (age 16-76), that’s 738,000 miles. Why would you want to spend all that time with something meaningless? Great cars exist in all price ranges and with the advent of the Internet, they’re easy to track down. So when you’re contemplating your next car purchase, remember this: will this car bring a smile to my face 10 years and 123,000 miles from now? If the answer is no, WALK AWAY!