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FrontRunners: Sant’Agata Charger

Patrick C. Paternie

I consider it miraculous that while driving the new Lamborghini Gallardo near Rome, I survived the suicidal lunges of oncoming Fiats as they peeled around blind curves. However, Lamborghini’s accomplishment is even more amazing: The folks at Sant’Agata have created an exotic sports car that can be driven daily.

To this end, Lamborghini (www.lamborghini.com) installed traditional doors in the $165,900 Gallardo instead of its signature scissor doors. They open wide for easy access to an interior that features plenty of head and shoulder room. All-wheel drive and optimum weight distribution (42/58 front/rear) for the mid-engine sports car make the 192-mph Gallardo far less jittery when driven near the limit than Ferrari’s self-described “user-friendly” 360 Modena. Several laps around the sinuous Vallelunga racetrack demonstrated more understeer than is desirable, but a sport suspension option for track use is in the works.
 
It may be the baby Lamborghini, but the brashly styled Gallardo’s 500-hp, 5.0-liter V-10 bellows like a full-grown bull under acceleration. An even sweeter sound is the gruff, high-rpm snort the engine emits when flicking off a downshift with the optional E-shift system, Lamborghini’s paddle-driven electronic gearbox. No clunks, no thunks—it is by far the surest, easiest-to-use paddle-shifter on the market. “This is the chance we have always wanted,” says Giuseppe Greco, Lamborghini vice-chairman and managing director, “to show the world the best that we can do.” Their best is good enough.

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