Lamborghini Gallardo SE

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Lamborghini Gallardo SE

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Lamborghini Gallardo SE

Lamborghini

Gallardo SE

Thankfully, this Lamborghini Gallardo SE has taken a style bludgeon to my preconceptions. It makes use of the most basic of colour schemes to highlight its differences by

Badgers, zebras, collie dogs and the occasional magpie. Fine. I could even deal with a ringtailed lemur, or the more subtle colourations of the coal-highlights-on-ivory polar bear.

But if you were to ask me whether I wanted a black-and-white Lamborghini yesterday, I'd have spat some unnecessarily vitriolic rejoinder about not being a monochromatophiliac retard. Sorry.

Thankfully, this Lamborghini Gallardo SE has taken a style bludgeon to my preconceptions. It makes use of the most basic of colour schemes to highlight its differences by delineating the new blacked-out roof, window line and jewellery - like the dark wheels and wing mirrors.

A bellowing advert for racial harmony; never have black and white got on so well in so confined an aesthetic space, or done more to make a car look like a Stormtrooper's helmet.

The use of the black, the pause in the Lambo's visual tempo, is also one of the ways that you can tell that this isn't just any old Gallardo, but the new and supremely boxfresh SE.

Just 250 of these 120,000 specials will be produced, all with the liberal use of super-cool black bits.

It's not just some exclusivity tinsel; the SE gets new charcoal 'Callisto' wheels shod with more committed tyres, tauter sports suspension (indicated by the giveaway suede steering wheel on the inside), shorter-stacked gear ratios on the robotic e-gear, F1-style paddle shift (but only on the first five cogs) and an extra 20bhp.

Which is nice, but less than earth-shattering, even if a couple of those changes will be standard on the regular car next year.

Fortunately, the driving shows just how far Lamborghini has come from even the relatively recent days of ego-scything, penis-measuring behemoths like the Diablo.

You can see out of it, the seating position is comfortable for a six-footer - albeit with slightly offset pedals - and the relevant controls are where you reasonably expect them to be.

OK, so the e-gear paddles (the same teeny metal buggers as on the VW Touareg) are too small, but there's not much to distract you from the simple act of going very fast indeed.

Fast, we can do. Fast we can do to the point of making hands go grey as blood fails to pump the required distance to the steering wheel during full-bore acceleration.

The SE cracks through the first four gears with more verve, prompting in turn a more serious expression from the driver as the smoother engine mapping and slightly freer-flowing exhaust give the impression that this car is much more of a missile than the stock motor.

It's definitely fast, but the bare figures don't tell the whole story, eliminating just 0.2 of a second to 62mph versus the regular car and a paltry few more mph top end - so you have to play around in-gear to really get a feel for why this car seems so involving.

It certainly cranks more quickly past the benchmarks, but there's an urgent delivery from the V10 that's more impactful than simply a relatively insignificant 20 brake on a car that's nearly 500 ponies up in the first place.

The downside is that e-gear isn't anywhere near as lovely as the Ferrari F430's F1, thumping unceremoniously from one gear to the next and never quite hitting the sweet spot in the rev-range that means a slight lift is unnecessary.

You still have to learn to drive the Gallardo quickly, if only to mitigate some of the worst excesses of the gearbox. When you do, it's a bloody brilliant thing.

Damp conditions on the test route meant allowing a little more time for the tyres and brakes to get some therms embedded, but pitching in hard with standing water on the floor and still exiting the corner with the car pointing the right way is a joy.

Especially in a Lamborghini with a five-litre V10 blaring out back, and especially when you remember to hold onto a gear for the full 8,000rpm screamer. The balance is just superb - lift off hard, and the precise steering communicates, but not quite transparently enough when you can carry so much speed.

Similarly, the brakes are powerful, but get very, very hot. It feels, as I've said before, like a Porsche 911 Turbo with a mid-engined layout.

Tractable, helpful and ultimately easy to drive incredibly quickly, but less simple to extract the last percentile from. It requires muscle and hustle, and more than a little concentration, but the rewards are worth snuffing out.

It's also pretty damn practical for something that looks so exotic. The SE gets leather and aircon, along with a colour reversing camera (not that it needs it really) and satnav.

Comparisons to the Ferrari are impossible to avoid, so I won't try. Both are brilliant at being genuine 95-per-cent chunks of supercar pie.

But the way they do it will appeal to different drivers and different attitudes. The Ferrari, ultimately, is the sweeter and better-sorted car - rear-wheel drive and E-diff working in almost ethereal harmony.

The F1 gearbox the nearest thing they've yet got to a reason not to have a clutch since 7G-Tronic in modern Mercs. And it's the one to have if you're going to be a purist about it. But the Gallardo is scrumpy to the F430's Chablis.

It's that little bit rawer and more brutal, but just as effective in real terms. The recent advances with Ferrari's differential in the F430 have neutralized rather than negated the Gallardo's fourwheel drive stompability, but it just goes to show that there are more ways than one to skin a dynamic cat.

With the SE, the Gallardo is even more appealing, but doesn't quite match the Ferrari for feel. Saying that, and confoundingly - I prefer the way this one looks. Especially in white. Bugger.



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