The replacement for the Lamborghini Gallardo could be revealed at a European motor show next year and will likely follow the jagged, raw lines of the Aventador. Courtesy of Lamborghini
The replacement for the Lamborghini Gallardo could be revealed at a European motor show next year and will likely follow the jagged, raw lines of the Aventador. Courtesy of Lamborghini

Nine years since its debut, Lamborghini's Gallardo is still a contender

Getting older is the bane of us all; sure, you're all wiser and more experienced and whatever, but it also means you need to pay a bit more attention to yourself if you want to keep that youthful glow. Hitting the gym a little more often, watching what you eat, even staying out of the sun - it's all necessary to ward off that expanding spare tyre around the waist and stop the inevitable sagging as the years progress. A little depressing, if you ask me.

I'm thinking of that as I stand in the pit lane of Yas Marina Circuit, sucking my gut in. There's a line of Lamborghini Gallardos waiting in front of me, engines running, beckoning me to flog them around the north circuit of the track. And looking at these sharp, ultra-sleek, low machines, I wonder: can you be envious of something mechanical?

After all, while the Gallardo is a stunning car, it is already nine years old, and, in car terms - much like dog years - that's a long time considering the changes in taste, technology and style in that time. Think of it: in 2003, when the car first debuted, there was no iPhone or Facebook, a band called White Stripes was burning up the airwaves with Seven Nation Army and Viggo Mortensen was swinging swords in the second part to Lord of the Rings.

And yet, Lamborghini could have unveiled the Gallardo as its latest model this year and it would have caused the same sensation now as it did almost a decade ago, so radical and cutting edge is its design. Even the engine power is still up there among the highest output of any sports cars on the road, and that's saying something. The company says more than 8,700 Gallardos, in various guises and special editions, have been sold, making it Lamborghini's most successful car.

But time marches on, as they say, and with the Gallardo approaching 10 years on the market, it's time for a replacement. Last year, the Italians brought out the mad Aventador, its replacement for the Murcielago, and next week it will unveil an SUV at the Beijing Motor Show. We'll probably see the next step of the Gallardo sometime next year at a major European auto show, but don't expect to put money down on anything until 2014.

And don't expect it to be a carbon fibre showcase like the Aventador is, either. Lamborghini is renowned for its expertise with the lightweight material and the Aventador sports a full carbon fibre tub and bodywork. But this is for the super wealthy, whereas the Gallardo and its replacement are "merely" for the rich (they start at "just" Dh720,000); carbon fibre is just too expensive for this segment. So, the next Gallardo will - like it does now - share a chassis with its sports car stablemates in the Volkswagen family - the next Audi R8 and quite possibly - gasp! - future Porsche 911s. The chassis is called the Modular Sports Car architecture (internally designated MSS) and it will be aluminium, high-strength steel or a combination of the two. In fact, the next Lambo and R8 are expected to share up to 20 per cent more parts than they do now.

Of course, the Gallardo replacement will keep the V10, but expect power to creep nearer to 600hp in the next version. And, sadly for purists, no manual gearbox will be offered, just a dual-clutch manual automatic. As for the overall look of the next baby Lamborghini, there won't be nods to the current Gallardo - it will be a clean-sheet design. Flamboyant CEO Stephan Winkelmann has been quoted in Car and Driver magazine as saying: "We always say that design is not an evolution but a revolution, and this will be the philosophy of the follow-up to the Gallardo." You can presume, though, that the next Gallardo will be a shocker, and possibly mimic the sharp, stealth-fighter lines of the Aventador.

But in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the Gallardo as much as I can, in the setting it deserves - a race track. There are three versions that are available to the assembled journalists here: the LP 560-4 coupé (with 560hp), the LP 570-4 Spyder Performante (570hp), and the LP 570-4 Superleggera (again, top-of-the-range 570hp, but this one is lighter than the rest). During the day, we simply hop in the driver's seat of available cars and, following a lead car with a professional and much better driver than we are, are given the opportunity to flog these Gallardos on the north circuit of Yas. And while the Gallardo is surprisingly good at being an everyday car for a commute to the office, it's here that all that Italian engineering and high horsepower really shines.

The power is what you notice first, obviously. Their 5.2L V10s sound glorious when opened up and revved to the limit, and it pushes you back in the seat with a simple prod of the throttle. But it's the corners that are really fun - with a 47/53 front-to-rear weight bias, a mid-mounted engine and all-wheel drive, the Gallardo - no matter the model - flings into the corners with an uncanny knack for staying where you point it. Understeer comes only for those who are oblivious to the laws of physics, and the added 10hp of the higher variants is only slightly noticeable when you hit the straight.

The soft-top Spyder turns out to be my favourite; not simply because I get a more visceral feeling and hear more of the glorious exhaust note, but because, with the top down, I'm much more comfortable - with a helmet on, my head is rammed up into the roof of the hardtops.

On this day, I even get a few laps in the mighty Aventador - there's just one here, and everyone wants a go in it. It's a monster; the 700hp makes it feel mad even compared with the Gallardos. You instantly feel its larger girth, as braking points come much earlier, both because of the extra speed and its added weight (the Aventador weighs 1,575kg, the Superleggera just 1,340kg), and it just doesn't have that zip around a corner like its smaller brother does. Don't get me wrong: the Aventador is a beast of a car, but the Gallardo might be more fun to toss into a curve.

Judging by the current Gallardo's popularity, performance and striking good looks, Lamborghini is going to have a big job on its hands to top it. I can't wait until they do.


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