Belgian automotive designer Luc Donckerwolke is the key architect of the Gallardo’s wedge shaped design, with original inspiration drawn from the 1995 Lamborghini Calà Concept designed by Italdesign Giugiaro. The resulting product has decidedly Lamborghini-esque design cues, but was also modernized with the latest technologies and refreshed with luxurious standard-setting appointments.
The Lamborghini Gallardo was designed and produced during the period when the automaker had just come under Audi ownership. The most notable byproduct of this relationship would be the Audi R8, with early versions of the model being closely based on the Gallardo. Over the years, the two cars would share certain components.
First Generation (2003-2008)
The very first Gallardo variant was the Coupé. It featured a 5.0L naturally-aspirated V10 engine which produced 493 hp @ 7,500 rpm and 376 ft-lbs of torque at 4,500 rpm. The Gallardo came standard with a 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 6-speed automatic transmission dubbed “E-gear”, which could be operated manually using steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
As the sole offering, the original Coupé would remain unchanged until 2005 when the car would get its first major update, along with the new Spyder (convertible) and SE variants being released. At this juncture, all models would share an improved infrastructure based on the original car.
Focused primarily on improving the car’s performance characteristics, the Gallardo was given a power bump (to 513 hp), lower gear ratios, a retuned suspension and a new steering rack, helping to enhance driving feel and acceleration. Examples with E-gear also came with a “Thrust Mode”, which functions similarly to the launch technologies seen in many of today’s supercars. Due to popular demand, a brand new valved exhaust system was also fashioned to accentuate a more exotic persona, while having the option of being kept more quiet during city driving.
The 2007 model year would see two more variants added to the roster, with the Superleggera and limited edition Nera being introduced. The former model is focused on weight reduction, as its name - which means super lightweight - would suggest, shedding over 100 kg of mass with the extensive use of carbon fiber body parts. It also features a slightly more powerful 523 hp engine and comes standard with E-gear.
To promote Lamborghini’s “Ad Personam” program - which is the automaker’s department in charge of bespoke customer projects - the Gallardo Nera was introduced. The Nera was limited to just 185 units and was available exclusively in one of two matte black finishes. Aside from being able to personalize the car to one’s exact liking, it also featured unique interior colors and finishes not available on any other model.
Second Generation (2008-2013)
The second generation of the Lamborghini Gallardo was kicked-off by the arrival of the LP 560-4 Coupé, which was first unveiled at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. This Gallardo was a thoroughly refreshed version of its predecessor, featuring a myriad of improvements from the ground up. At the center of this would be a new 5.2L engine with direct fuel injection and a revamped E-gear transmission with Corsa (Race) mode.
This made for a drivetrain which was simply better all-around; it now produced 552 hp @ 8,000 rpm and 398 ft-lbs of torque at 6,500 rpm, while fuel consumption and emissions were simultaneously reduced by 18%. It shifted a lot quicker too - up to 40% faster in Corsa mode - while traction control systems were rejigged to become less intrusive without being stripped of their effectiveness in keeping things safe when needed. The end product resulted in the LP 560-4 being able to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds, and hit a top speed of 325 km/h.
Featuring a newly constructed aluminum spaceframe, the car is also lighter and more rigid than ever before, while achieving an ideal 43%/57% weight distribution. Augmented by a redesigned suspension and braking system, the car’s handling and stability has been significantly improved upon and is also notably comfortable to drive in any circumstance.
On the outside the Gallardo had also taken on a new persona, with many of the new design cues being inspired by the Murciélago and Reventón. New headlights and taillights showcased enhanced and modern features, while a pointier and more streamlined silhouette gave the car an even more aggressive and exotic vibe. Thanks to the improvements in its design, the Gallardo was ultimately more effective at cooling, had a better aerodynamic shape and was a tad lighter (20 kg) than the first generation car.
To accommodate the increasingly higher industry standards for comfort and luxury, the second-gen car also came standard with high-tech amenities and features such as dual-zone climate control, bi-xenon headlights and electronically adjustable seats. Optional features such as navigation, a rearview camera and a front-axle lift system were also made available. The car could be further customized through the “Ad Personam” program.
Following the first generation blueprint, Spyder and Superleggera versions of the LP 560-4 were introduced shortly after, appearing in 2009 and 2010 respectively. The Superleggera weighed just 1,340 kg and also benefited from a 10 hp bump over the other models. In combination, this improved performance figures significantly, allowing the Superleggera to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in just 3.2 seconds, on its way to its top speed of 329 km/h.
Other standard models to be released during the second generation lifecycle included the LP 570-4 Spyder Performante and the LP 550-2 Coupé and Spyder. The former variant is essentially a convertible version of the Superleggera. The latter variant is a rear-wheel drive version of the Gallardo, which would also become the lowest-priced model in the range when it was introduced in 2010.