Lamborghini, the raging bull… Fire, passion and rage distilled into one fully formed performance vessel. The Gallardo is the brands best seller in its history and though it might be the baby of the range do not think for one second that it doesn’t have the capability to dropkick your spleen into next week. Enter into the equation a Mr Valentino Balboni, none other than Lamborghini’s legendary test driver responsible for the handling of everything from the Countach to the Murcielago. This extraordinary man is set to retire after 42 years with the company and so naturally the Italians wanted to give him a good sendoff.
From most places of work at retirement you receive gifts of champaign or a set of expensive pens but from a company such as Lamborghini and a man as respected as Balboni this simply wasn’t enough. Oh no, the combination of the occasion, and the fact that they are Italian, has led to quite possibly the greatest parting gift the world has ever seen. This is the Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Balboni. At first glance this may appear to be a standard Gallardo with some impressivestripes; still a thoughtful gesture to add the mans name to the car. But what the bull has given Balboni and in tern the world is the first rear-wheel-drive Lamborghini in over a decade.
Limited to just 250 examples and costing nearly £163,000 the Balboni is old school raging bull yet educated in the 21st century. The interior barring the striped seats is largely the same, outside the architecture hasn’t changed but what has changed is that this cars 550BHP is channeled directly to the rear wheels. Though its mid-mounted V10 produces 10 horses less than the standard car, much like fewer wheels powering it less is more in the case of Balboni. Thinking back to the last RWD Lambo it did offer occupants the opportunity of death almost every time it was used, so going by past performance this car should offer the ultimate adrenalin rush followed by fiery death.
As soon as the car is awakened you notice the change in temperament instantly, the engine hum sounding like a continuously growling dog warning of what it will do next. With the revs cautiously building you start to notice subtle differences in the way the car responds to inputs. The throttle feeling a little more aggressive and gear changes a tad more ferocious than the perfectly impressive car it is based on. The previously mentioned air of caution soon dissipates as the Balboni communicates directly with the little child inside us all, “go on, go on…” Letting the beast off its chain provokes an earth-shattering howl from all 10 cylinders likely causing a tsunami large enough to devastate South America. Various internal organs now become a meaningless mess as 0-62MPH passes in 3.9 seconds.
The effects of not having all four wheels powering the car make this the Mr Hyde to the standard cars Dr Jekyll. The steering is much lighter, the entire car becomes as nimble as a housefly changing direction with laser precision. The sensation of this car is near indescribable; it just encourages you to keep going, keep pushing, just a little bit more and of course the smile will never once leave your face. This Gallardo Balboni is right up there with some of the ultimate drivers cars and surpasses many of them. However it does have its limit, be it very high, and as soon as you take that for granted it will bite. Though 99% of these cars will never be pushed hard enough for the LP550-2 punish them there is still always that underlying ability, it keeps you on edge mush like being married to a rehabilitated axe murderer. You love them and they are much better now but you know that that potential is still there.
The Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Balboni is an astonishing supercar and one that really gives the drive the want, no, need to use every ounce of its potential. That is the key reason for me favoring this car so much, the fact that it wants to be driven. Is it worth the extra cost? Well as far as I’m concerned it is a fitting tribute to the man who made Lamborghini what it is today.