Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni

Here's a supercar that seems to break the Lamborghin mold: the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni has rear-wheel drive only, instead of the four-wheel drive on all the other models.

The reason is simple: the car is named after Valentino Balboni, who has been testing Lamborghinis since 1967, and who has been closely involved in the development of all Lamborghini cars for many years. It was Balboni who took me out in the Gallardo Superleggera prior to my road test in Italy, and who drove using every ounce of energy that every aspect of the car had, and with great spirit at all times.

Valentino Balboni, the great test driver, has just retired

Balboni officially retired recently, and what better tribute to a kind and quiet man who is still a formidably fast driver? Balboni's favorite car was the Miura, which of course was rear-drive, and so he developed a style of driving suitable for very fast rear-drive supercars, and no doubt felt a little cramped in the four-wheel drive models.

Even so, he was a very professional engineer, and took great care to set the cars up to give safety with enjoyment, with a bias toward understeer on low-speed corners, tending to neutral at higher speeds.

But what of the Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni? It is powered by the latest 5.2 liter V-10, which develops 550 bhp at 8,000 rpm and 398 lb ft (540N m) torque at 6,500 rpm. Drive is taken rearward to the transaxle only of course, and in most respects the car is similar to the standard Gallardo, but differs in that the stability control is set up to give more over steer than normal, allowing drivers to hang the tail, and get more excitement from their driving.

Rear-view camera in this Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 special edition

There is the usual option of either the six-speed manual or the e-gear sequential gear sets in the transaxle, and there is also the usual option of steel or carbon ceramic discs, six-pot calipers sufficing with the carbon ceramic discs, but eight-pot calipers being specified for the steel discs.

One interesting and useful feature is a rear view camera, rear vision being pretty poor in all Gallardos.

Just a shade lighter than 4WD

This special version of the Gallardo only 250 are being built - has stripes over the top of the body and the seats to celebrate the style of the 70s, and despite a little less weight, is actually not quite as fast as the LP560-4 according to official figures, with a top speed of 199 mph, and a 0-60 mph time of about 3.8 seconds. It would be expected to be faster owing to the reduced losses in a two-wheel drive system rather than four-wheel drive.

Here is an interesting fact: the weight is quoted at 3,042 lb (1,380 kg) which is just 63 lb (30 kg) lighter than the four-wheel drive versions - a smaller difference that expected. It shows just how light the normal transmission components are. Lamborghini also states that the weight distribution is identical, at 47% front:53% rear. AN exciting car, but if you want one you will need to be quick.

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