Going For Supper In a Supercar

By James Wong

08.30.2009

2009-lamborghini-lp560-4

Not more than a month ago, my friend took delivery of his spanking new Lamborghini LP560-4.

Shod with 20” wheels and a ground-hugging body, and blessed with a glistening Giallo Midas (a fancy name for yellow) paintwork, the car is any car lover’s wet dream, or anybody’s dream car for that matter. But having had some time with the car, doing the practical things that we usually use a car for, I am not so sure now whether supercars are a good idea for a long term proposition. Let me explain.

The first thing that concerned me was the low slung nature of the car. My friend picked me up so that we could go for supper, and when I opened the door I was afraid it would hit the kerb. In fact, if I had opened it unaware, it would most certainly have struck the kerb. Next thing was the difficulty in getting into the car. Not that I am bragging, but I am 20 years old and I should be fit enough to get myself into a car. But the Lamborghini? I had to use quite some imagination to sling my way inside the car (granted, owing to the small opening due to the nearby kerb), and I can forsee how other people many years my senior would be having a problem. Settled inside however, the seats were comfortable (for the first few minutes at least) and it was rather spacious. A gold star for the LP560-4.

I have had some experience with gearboxes like the E-Gear in the LP560-4, but nothing quite prepared me for the smoothness I encountered with it while it was driven on Auto mode. The transmission has improved throughout the years, and in its latest configuration it is almost as smooth as a torque converter automatic when made to shift by itself. That impressed me greatly; a supercar isn’t supposed to feel so easy to drive. But, shifting itself means the computer does all the work for you, and sometimes it can go wrong. One time, after turning into a slip road, the gearbox jerked violently (and I must say, the most violent jerks I have ever felt in any car) in first before it changed up to second. I had no idea why it happened, but it had shaken my confidence in the daily usability of the car somewhat. Despite that, the gearbox overall made me feel like someone could drive this to work and back everyday and not feel like he is about to break something in the car. Impressive stuff.

The suspension when set to the normal setting was also rather compliant. It actually felt much more comfortable than I would ever imagine. Modern suspension systems are now adjustable on the fly, so that means you can have the best of both worlds; namely, comfort and sportiness. You can make it stiffen up when you want to have some fun, or you can make it soft, for the ride back home after a long day. Again, in this aspect the car shone well in the daily driver stakes. The car is also surprisingly quiet; it is loud only when you really open the taps. On the freeway, it felt composed, the distant drone of the V10 a distant rumble at the back of the cabin.

We reached a deserted road which still had a lot of ongoing construction. As a result, a lot of residual gravel was left on the road, which dropped off from the construction vehicles. Immediately, one can hear  the rock particles on the road hitting against the wheel arch. For some reason, sound insulation for Italian cars in wheel arches are always very poor, and usually you will get to hear everything. From water splashing to rocks scratching, you won’t miss it. Furthermore, since the car was sitting so low, the gravel probably hit the front lip and rear diffuser as well. It was so painful to drive the car to the end of the road, but turning back was a bad option as well, as that meant U-turning. And the car, with its huge turning radius, will need way more than a three point turn to complete a U-turn. In a normal car, the gravel nor the U-turn would be much of an issue.

After the harrowing experience, we found a place to park. We had to avoid multi-storey carparks because of the turning radius and also because of the ride height (it probably won’t clear the ramps). We also couldn’t do parallel parking, because it would be too difficult and too risky (my friend is actually a relatively new driver). So in the end, we had to park quite some distance from the supper place, and even the rear-view camera couldn’t prevent my friend from scrapping the rear diffuser on the kerb.

audirs405_11So that’s the drive for supper. And we haven’t even gone to more challenging scenarios – doing a take-away from McDonald’s, crawling in city traffic, clearing the toll booths, paying for the toll, clearing humps, and many more. I do feel sincerely that supercars of the modern age are definitely more user-friendly, more easy to drive daily, but they are still as impractical as cars can get. That’s why some people might still go for a normal car, but with supercar internals. I never understood cars like these and the people who buy them, until now. Cars like the Audi RS4, the Mercedes E63 AMG, the BMW M5, the Jaguar XFR. They are all normal saloon cars, but drive like anything but.

They are the real supercars for the times.

So the next time you dream of owning a Lamborghini, a Ferrari or even a Pagani, you can take some comfort in the fact that it’s not only ridiculously expensive, it’s also a car that you can’t drive all of the time, unless you purposely go where it can go. Before anyone says their part though, let me reiterate that I really do understand why people buy supercars. It’s not about how you can use it as a daily driver or how much fuel it consumes. In short, practicality is a moot point when you buy a car like that. You buy it for the emotion it makes you feel, for the passion it emanates. You are, in essence, not buying a car anymore… You are making an emotional purchase. And for all the brief moments where the car shines just when the road is perfect, and there are no scary kerbs, and there is no traffic, it is all worth it.

That’s what a true supercar is all about.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: James Wong

The only writer to be based in Asia, James provides a refreshingly different perspective to the automotive industry with his unique experience of living in the Far East. He is a prolific journalist who has written for several leading automotive publications in Singapore, including Torque Singapore and REV Magazine Singapore. He believes in the thrill of driving and champions for an appreciation of driving pleasure above the horsepower race. In September 2010, James relocated to the United Kingdom, London, bringing him to a whole new environment from which to start a new chapter in automotive journalism.

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8 Comments

  1. Of course.

    You want the very best performance, you sacrifice everyday driving quality. But you can easily get 90% of the complete performance envelope and still get a car that drives like a normal car when you want it to.

    You couldn’t get that 20 years ago, but you can easily get it today.

  2. If your friend is also in his twenties and has a new Lamborghini, I’d say he’s doing pretty well for himself.

  3. Quite an experience – the Gallardo Superleggera is probably one car I would almost kill for to be able to take onto a track. Surprised to hear it was so hard to get into, but I assume that the slinging was pure hyperbole! Also I didn’t realise that objects could begrudge people – it’s usually the other way around. I certainly don’t begrudge someone owning or riding in a Gallardo, if they have the opportunity. In parking, you are lucky, if all you had to worry about was scraping the the diffuser. Although a Superleggera diffuser is made from carbon fibre and it might be cheaper to scratch elsewhere. When I owned a Lotus, there were some who begrudged it and left scratches as a token of their feelings. It would have been interesting to hear how it performed. Did you try the launch control and how were the brakes?

  4. I hope your friend has another car to use as a daily driver.

    I had a car (former rally car) that was road legal and fun to drive on the road as long as you didn’t get caught in traffic. In those conditions, it was the worst, most uncomfortable car in the world.

  5. Yes, he has an A8, which is plenty adequate as a second car!

  6. I start grinding my teeth when I hear gravel hitting my car and it’s four years old and worth around £23000. Can’t imagine the feeling when gravel is hitting my new Lamborghini.

  7. Story for you:

    Wanted an Aston Martin my whole life and finally was able to buy a new one in 2004.

    Parked it way out in the corner of a parking lot with no other cars around when my wife and I went out to dinner, came out and there was a dent in my Aston Martin that I had owned for 72 hours. I died a little that day.

  8. The A8 is a damn fine grocery-getter.

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