Slide Show >>
It's the last thing you'd expect from a Lamborghini: a false start. I was all set to drive away in a creamy white Gallardo Spyder parked outside of the Beverly Hills showroom when the dealer mentioned that the speedometer wasn't working. That's a cop magnet if I've ever heard of one, especially for a car that can reach 195 miles per hour. After a brief negotiation, he outfitted me with a mint-green loaner instead. Verde Picus it's called, a pastel color that's new for 2007 and supposed to make this macho machine more appealing to women.
At that point, it was smooth sailing. Well, almost. I'd intended to pilot this $225,000 beast up the California coast for a weekend getaway. A quick inventory scotched that notion: The firm seats, while plenty supportive, discourage long road trips. The thrilling growl of the 520-hp V-10 engine, coupled with wind and tire and road noise that's downright oppressive, inhibits casual conversation, even with the ragtop up. As for space, you can take a passenger or you can take luggage, but not both. And, oh yes, the seat heaters, a $3,340 option, were permanently stuck in the "on" position.
Enough with the nits. I love this car for what it is. The Gallardo is the most drivable car Lamborghini has ever made. You don't need to be a gymnast to ease yourself into the cabin. The footwell, squeezed between the front wheels, feels roomy. The navigation, audio, and climate controls are visible and sensible -- and match those of an Audi A8 (Volkswagen's luxury car division has owned Lamborghini since 1998). If you don't want to accede to the constant demands of a conventional shifter, there's a tamer $10,000, six-speed automatic with paddles behind the steering wheel for manual shifts when you want them.
I took the Gallardo into the hills around Los Angeles just to see how it handles on twisty roads (it loves corners). I was sorry that I didn't get to let it loose on a track. But mostly, in California at least, this car serves as a boulevard beauty, meant to impress and to intimidate. Something about the intensely angular styling shouts "don't even try" to drivers of souped-up Mustangs and pathetic little Porsches who pull up next to you at stop lights. They try, of course. These challengers want to provoke the primitive animal growl that happens when the exhaust blows open. I was only too happy to comply. By Larry Armstrong