Lamborghini LP 550-2 is all about driving pleasure. It feels compact, very potent and is much more than a supercar
The last two-wheel-drive Lamborghini was the Diablo in 1990, which is a pretty long way back. Back then, it was just Lamborghini, not Lamborghini Von Audi, without the calming influence of four-wheel drive. Those were the days when the bull was really let loose.
Lamborghini is going back to rear-wheel drive because rumour has it that test driver Valentino Balboni had a EUREKA moment after a quick spin in a mid-engined rear-wheel-drive car from a competitor. It was just so much fun!
Anything fun is game with me so I strapped up for my initialisation lap with this car, Lambo's first regular two-wheel-drive model for years. Now strapping into a Murciélago , this car's scary big V12-powered sister, can be compared to strapping yourself tight to a ballistic missile and hanging on for dear life. But things aren't nearly as dramatic here. Still, where power is divided by four on the Gallardo LP-560-4, here it's 275bhp per rear wheel. So it's only logical to expect the driver to do more of the work.
But that's no bad thing, far from it. The V10 motor barks into life over my left shoulder and the semi-automatic gearbox engages with a refined clunk. China's entire Grand Prix circuit in Shanghai is open to us, except for the back straight. Since I've driven here before, I am aware of the surprises the track can pull on you through the slow and technical sections and the really fast ones. So I thread the throttle finely and stick to the perfect line to avoid a slip up.
Initially things are a bit disappointing. The steering is slightly slow-witted around the straight-ahead, probably to prevent you from unsettling the rear of the car, the motor does not really have the punch you expect in the bottom end and the cast iron discs have a sort of a dead zone when you initially tap the brakes. The systems, however, seem to tighten up as I make the motor scream a little bit more and the car wakes up as pace builds.
The Gallardo hasn't even worked up a sweat yet and I can already feel the forces at work that are very different to a four-wheel-drive car. The steering has so much more feel and weight, the tendency of the car to understeer is drastically reduced and when I begin to accelerate harder, the rear of the car shuffles its weight from one hip to the other as I get on or off the throttle. It feels alive, with twitchy hips and you can actually use your right foot to help you steer the car. And just as in many low-slung mid-engined cars, you can now feel the effect the g forces have on the big V10 motor behind your back, its weight and the car's balance flung around from side to side. The car feels more like a dance partner reacting to your movements.
The calibration of the motor is quite impressive. The two-wheel-drive version is down on power, sacrificed to make the throttle more linear and progressive. And Lamborghini has succeeded in making it very precise; it allows you to drip-feed power to the overloaded rear wheels in exactly the right dose.
Once you begin to use it to its full potential, the steering feels faster and more alive, you learn where and how to attack the throttle and where not to, and Lamborghini's ESP has been tuned to allow a bit more slip from the rear. It's easy to get carried away and even though this car is one sweet handler, you often need to check yourself.
This Sant' Agata beauty is all about driving pleasure. It feels compact, very potent, and re-calibrated for rear-wheel drive only. It's a lot of fun you can have and much more from a supercar. And the best part, it comes with a practical lift feature for poor roads and costs the same as a regular Gallardo. At Rs 2.35 crore (ex-showroom Delhi) is a pricey car, but then you get a lot of car too.