Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

The Italian supercar maker’s most successful car ever

By Shahzad Sheikh

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

The Lamborghini Gallardo is 10 years old believe it or not. But its extreme, wedge-shaped, sharped-edged styling, dramatic lines, low stance and menacing disposition ensure that it’s as striking to behold today as it was early last decade, when it first broke cover.

And it’s no less of a sensation to drive either. Launched with a screaming 5.0-litre 500bhp V10 based on an Audi V8 engine developed by MAHLE Powertrain (formerly Cosworth Technology) performance was a given. But it also came with permanent all-wheel drive, sending 70 per cent of the available maximum torque to the rear wheels. The viscous-coupling limited slip centre differential can automatically alter that, should there be wheelspin at the back.

Grip and handling is astounding. Drive this car on the road and you rarely if ever exceed its phenomenal limits. Yet drive it on a track – and if you do buy one, you must at least once take it on a circuit – and you’ll find that it is remarkably intuitive to drive hard and amazingly forgiving. So much for the nasty, mean persona of the so-called raging bull emblem on the nose. Just don’t tell anyone it’s a softie underneath those hard-as-nails looks!

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

It is also, by far, the most successful Lambo ever, with over 14,000 sold. The fact that it’s a car from the legendary Italian marque, that you could conceivably actually live with and drive every day, helps. As does its compact dimensions and reasonable creature comforts – for a Lamborghini, that is.

However the main reason the Gallardo became a mass-market edition from the exclusive stables of the Raging Bull, is because of reliability and durability. Now that statement comes with a proviso – it’s purely relatively speaking: reliability in the world of Lamborghini is a considerably different concept to reliability in the world of Toyota.

Going on previous history, a blind body guard with a dodgy ticker and a wooden leg, would have been more dependable than any Lamborghini. However, things changed when a new owner took over in 1998 – Audi. Vorsprung durch technik, meet Sexy! Here’s our used buying guide Lamborghini Gallardo.

Our review

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

Why buy it?

Looking for a mid-engine exotic with supercar credentials? Well it’s either this or a Ferrari 458 Italia and the McLaren MP4-12C, or perhaps the Gallardo’s distant cousin, the Audi R8. The Fezza and Macca are both newer cars, so you’d have to go for the Ferrari F430 or the, oh wait, there isn’t a previous McLaren. The Audi R8 is technically brilliant, and it’s cheaper and has been around since 2006.

But arriving in a Lambo will trump arriving in an Audi any day, and you can have a used Gallardo for the price of a new R8. Measured on the coolemeter, there is no contest. And with very subtle changes throughout the Gallardo’s decade-long run, who’s to know how new or old your Lamborghini is? Just make sure you get it in a bright, flashy colour – no point trying to be subtle in one of these!

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

Why not buy it?

Well, see the last point above. If your temperament ranges from mild-mannered to shrinking violet, then you’d better look elsewhere for your performance kicks, perhaps the Audi R8. The Gallardo is for bold, confident, extroverted people who like to make a statement and arrive with a flourish – you don’t just sneak in with a Gallardo.

Plus, despite the suggestion above that it’s surprisingly easy to drive on the limit, don’t mistake that for meekness, this is a brutal and dynamite road-rocket which, in some guises, like the Superleggera or Performante, will take no prisoners and leave its occupants elated, exhilarated, but in need of physiotherapy after a fast run.

For softer, more comfortable and easier cars to drive hard, you’d better look elsewhere, such as that aforementioned R8 again.

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

Also shed the Gallardo from your list if you’re a no-compromise sort of person. Despite Audi patronage, there is a lot about this Gallardo that is old-skool Lamborghini and will require you to work with it and, not quite lower, but perhaps alter your expectations.

And that includes any naivety when it comes to running costs. This beauty is high-maintenance and any attempt to cut-corners and skimp out on servicing or repairs is likely to leave you with an even bigger bill awaiting in the not too far future.

Be in no doubt you’re going to have to put a lot into Lamborghini ownership, even for a modern version like this, but then if you like your cars raw, spectacular and thrilling, you’ll get a lot out of it too.

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

Model details

  • Introduced in 2004 with a 5.0-litre V10 producing 493bhp (500PS) at 7800rpm and 376lb ft of torque at 4500rpm, with 0-100kph acceleration 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 311kph.
  • Gallardo comes with six-speed manual transmission and six-speed electro-hydraulically controlled semi-automatic robotized manual – dubbed ‘E-gear’by Lamborghini – operated via paddleshifts. Nearly all of the Gallardos in the Middle East are ordered with E-gear.
  • Active aero, such as pop-up rear spoiler, front and side airbags, 19-inch alloy wheels and Brembo brakes are standard.
  • The convertible Spyder arrived in 2006 with a fully retractable soft-top.
  • Changes introduced for 2006 Model Year Gallardos, and introduced on the new Spyder, included an uprated engine, now producing an extra 20bhp and rated at 513bhp (520PS) at 8000rpm and 376lb ft of torque at 4250rpm; 0-100kph dropped to 3.9 seconds and top speed rose to 313kph.
  • Revisions to the gearing, steering and suspension improved the overall driving experience for 2006.
  • In 2008 there were even more extensive revisions for model year 2009 and the Gallardo was given an LP codename. LP560-4 (LP stands for Longitudinal Posteriori meaning the mid-engine is mounted longitudinally in the front of the rear axle, 560 denotes the power output and 4 indicates four-wheel drive).
  • A new 5.2-litre V10 produced 552bhp (560PS) at 8000rpm and 398lb ft at 6500rpm, 0-100kph dropped to 3.7 and top speed rose to 325kph thanks also to a 20kg reduction in weight.
  • ‘Thrust Mode’ launch control and a Corsa mode for the E-gear with 40 per cent quicker shifts help improve the performance.
  • The Spyder version was also similarly uprated although performance figures were fractionally slower due to the extra weight.
  • LP550-2 Coupe and Spyder models in 2010 saw detuned engines but with the first introduction of rear-wheel drive models only. These were originally available as the Valentino Balboni Edition (named after Lamborghini’s legendary test driver) and then Bicolore.
  • The LP550-2 also came with a manual transmission as standard. Power was down to 542bhp with 0-100 was still 3.9seconds and top speed was 320kph. Only 250 of the Balboni editions were built, although the same spec was offered on the Bicolore edition (also offered as AWD), Super Trofeo for the Hong Kong market, and a Tricolore edition to mark the 150th anniversary of the Italian unification.
  • From 2012 The LP550-2 became available as part of the regular model range in coupe and Spider guise. About AED100,000 cheaper than the LP560-4 they quickly became the best selling versions, particularly popular with exotic rent-a-car companies.
  • 2013 Model Year LP560-4 received extensive styling revisions to mark its final iteration as it’s expected to be replaced in 2015. It gets new front and rear styling, arguably not as handsome as earlier cars, and new 19-inch Apollo polished alloy wheels.
  • Superleggera editions – debuted at 2007 Geneva Auto Show, these are hard-core performance orientated editions, emphasize light weight saving 100kg on the regular car through extensive use of expensive carbon fibre. Power is upped by 10bhp for 523bhp (530PS). Acceleration was 0-100kph in 3.7 with a top speed of 314kph. Only 172 of the first edition Superleggeras were produced for just one year.
  • Superleggera returned for 2011-2013 model years this time with the newer 5.2-litre engine and dubbed LP570-4 with 562bhp (570PS) at 8000rpm for 0-100kph in 3.4seconds and a top speed of 325kph, thanks to a weight reduction that saw it tip the scales at just 1340kg.
  • In line with the Superleggera, the Spyder version got the same treatment and the car was badged Performante LP570-4.
  • The LP570-4 Super Trofeo Stradale for 2012 was limited to just 150 units and was an even more hard core version weighing just 1340kg and based on the Super Trofeo race car used in the one-make race series.
  • Final edition cars from 2012 included a heavily revised front design. These were actually the least popular.

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

Which one to buy?

Aside from suggesting that you should go for a 2009-on Gallardo if you can, as the 2008 modifications really improved the breed, frankly speaking any Gallardo will be a simply sensational sports car to own and drive.

Rather than worrying about which specific year or edition to get, concentrate on finding the best cared-for and well-maintained car for the money, because it will save you heaps of hassle in the long run.

However unless you’re a professional racing driver, we’d suggest you avoid the rear-wheel drive editions, as they can be quite a handful on the limit, and the result could be messy and costly!

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

What to look out for?

  • This is a highly strung, temperamental and very demanding piece of exotica, that absolutely must be maintained to the highest standards. Any compromise and at best it will give you reliability issues in the long-run, at worst it could be dangerous to drive.
  • Make sure the Gallardo has been meticulously serviced and maintained at an official dealer or reputed specialist.
  • If the mileage is high, it might have been an ex-rental Gallardo. Walk away as they will have been abused. The mileage can be altered, so look for telltale signs of excessive use such as worn mats and driver’s seat, smoothed steering wheel trim, and rattly doors.
  • Always get a Gallardo professionally inspected before purchasing.
  • Big issues with clutches and transmissions on Gallardos, particularly E-gear automatics and earlier cars (pre-2008) – some reports suggest that as many as 15 per cent of Gallardos have had their clutches replaced.
  • The clutches were designated A, B, C and E. A were the earliest clutches and prone to failure, B were slightly improved, but C were the most durable. However the latest version, E, is said to be toughest and is usually fitted as a replacement for the others.
  • Abuse, frequent brutal acceleration and gear changes, as well as repeated use of launch control, can see you needing a new clutch very quickly indeed.
  • Fortunately clutches can be replaced without removing the engine, but they’re not exactly cheap, you may need to set aside as much as AED20,000.
  • E-gear transmissions can be checked by Lamborghini specialists by hooking up to diagnostic software, this will reveal how hard the car has been driven too – definitely worth doing before buying.
  • The engines are remarkably robust but over-revving has been known to cause damage and fires, and they’re also very sensitive to the type of engine oil used – make sure it’s only filled with the correct specification, or this could lead to long-term issues. A new engine might set you back well over AED250,000!

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

  • Beware as fires have been caused by weak power steering hoses leaking fluid into hot exhausts. Stronger hoses are available and these are well worth fitting if they haven’t already been changed.
  • Sticky throttle bodies could result in engine hunting, often occurring in cars that have spent a lot of time in slow traffic.
  • Electronics such as lights, window controls, radio controls can fail. Check that everything works properly. See if the stereo or navigation has been changed or swapped, incorrect installation could lead to major electrical problems.
  • The taillights can suffer from heat and vibration – trouble is you have to dismantle half the rear wheel arch to get at them.
  • Gallardos are fitted with Pirelli P Zero Rosso tyres as standard. Check these for wear carefully. The rear tyres will probably only last around 10,000km and they’ll be at least AED3000 each to replace. Some owners might have replaced them with harder wearing, but less grippy Michelin Pilot Sports.
  • Wheels are prone to kerbing and therefore expensive damage, inspect them carefully. Good repairers are hard to find here, and replacements will be costly.
  • Listen carefully for creaking and cracking noises from the suspension, this could mean issues with the ball joints which will need replacing.
  • The all-aluminium body can be damaged easily and door dings are very unsightly, even people leaning on the car or posing against it for pictures could leave an indent.
  • Check carefully to ensure panel gaps are consistent and that everything lines up correctly. Any inconsistency could be a sign of repair. Look for overspray on the rear grill and make sure the doors, bonnet and engine cover open and close easily without rubbing against surrounding panels – and that includes the movement of the door handle.
  • Walk away from a Gallardo if there is any indication it’s been in a serious accident, and/or poorly repaired.

Used Buying Guide Lamborghini Gallardo 2003-2013

What to pay?

Pay the most that you can afford – don’t set out to try and buy a cheap Lamborghini Gallardo. There is no such thing. And if it seems too good to be true, it definitely is. Always walk away if there is the slightest doubt.

Once you’ve established the upper ceiling of your buying budget, set aside at least 20 per cent of that again for maintenance, parts, repairs, servicing, upgrades and insurance. This will not be an economical car to own and run.

Even early pre-06 cars don’t go for much below AED300k – that seems to be the plateau. But newer cars have dropped dramatically, obviously pushed down by the arrival of the Gallardo’s replacement, the Huracan, and you’re looking at around half million for a decent two-year old car with a bit of warranty still left on it.

You should cap your budget at AED600,000 to buy what is quite simply one of the coolest rides on the planet, which is not bad considering that’s what a new Audi R8 V10 Plus costs – and around AED400k cheaper than the new Huracan!

Prices correct at the time of posting.

Let us know your experiences of owning/buying a Lamborghini Gallardo in the comments below.

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