A sublime encounter with the bull
Steering by the Horns: Giro Lamborghini
In the world of exotic Italian automakers, the Lamborghini name needs no introduction — especially with the legacy of V12 superbeasts like the Miura and the Countach. Such icons adorned the walls of many a high school boy’s room just a few decades ago, and still ring true in our memories as a couple of the greatest: if not for performance reasons, then easily by design. So, just what does Lamborghini embody today? Winged beasts for the rich and tacky? Eye candy for rap videos? Unintentionally, both have been the case, but those unfortunate generalizations have not been the brand’s intent — and the German-owned and Italian-run company is striving to control the perception and the destiny of their brand, which in today’s unpredictable automotive scene is no small feat.
As part of this effort, Lamborghini puts on an annual event called simply “Giro Lamborgini”, the Sant’Agata Bolognese company’s way of showing client and dealer appreciation, as well as clearly spreading the driving passion, technological leadership and exclusive lifestyle gospel that is Automobili Lamborghini. Gear Patrol attended as Lamborghini’s guests, connected with the minds behind the brand and got a real taste of what Lamborghinis can do on some of of New England’s finest roads.
Details and photographs after the jump.
If Ferrari is the bastion of exotic car marketing, then the small operation at Lamborghini constitutes the dark
horse bull. There’s no brandishing of colossal amounts of colorful Lamborghini apparel, no preponderance of furniture or branded laptop computers and certainly no Lamborghini-themed Middle Eastern amusement park. First of all, a wellspring of funds just doesn’t exist like it does for Fiat-owned Ferrari. More importantly, Lambo simply doesn’t roll that way. For what might be conventionally perceived as the favorite car brand of boisterous rappers and hairy-chested, over-jeweled middle-aged men, Lamborghini LLC is a surprisingly low-key and tastefully subtle organization full of passionate people.
The invitation list for the first East Coast Giro Lamborghini event was short, very short, with the primary objective of Lamborghini relationship building through the shared experience of driving and social activities; that goal was emphasized time and again throughout the four-day event.
Starting in scenic Lake George, New York, the Giro group’s first activity was to navigate the mass of public gawking at the fifteen cars in the parking lot. From a ruby red Murcielago and a screaming yellow Gallardo Performante Spyder to the all-hail-the-chief crisp white Aventador flagship, the small side lot at the Sagamore Hotel & Resort looked like an outdoor auto show extraordinaire. Smartphone cameras of passersby as well as event guests popped out of pockets like mints after a Tex-Mex buffet.
No time was wasted in getting to the drive, which is what the Giro is really all about. Very specific routes in the beautiful autumn of New England were carefully selected to enhance the driving experience. (No small amount of credit can be given here, as all too often, the roadways chosen by many manufacturers can be less than thrilling and fail to exploit the car’s true abilities — in civilian hands, anyway.) The driver briefing in the morning informed us that the caravan would be set up with faster drivers in the front, paced by Lamborghini’s appointed lead driver to run interference, with more casual drivers toward the middle and rear. Not that we had any plans to, uh, break land speed records on public roads.
smartphone cameras popped out of pockets like mints after a Tex-Mex buffet.
The car selected for the first half of the day’s drive was the Gallardo Supertrofeo Stradale: the track day, bonkers-to-the-hilt version of Lamborghini’s bread-and-butter auto. In fire engine red with black wheels and a spoiler big enough to hold a set of encyclopedias, the Supertrofeo communicates its purpose clearly. It looks like a red land rocket and even evokes a bit of Countach in its visual loudness.
The Alcantara-suede-slathered interior means that virtually every surface, including the racing seats, dash and steering wheel, feel wonderful to the touch, albeit unnecessary everywhere (especially on the dash). Headroom is a rare commodity in the car. If you’re over 6’2″, you might also plan on losing any form of big hair. The body-hugging race seats aren’t especially comfy, either, but neither of these issues remains in the forefront of the mind once you push the start button. The angry V10 surges to life and whets your appetite for driving immediately.
The Lamborghini That Never Was
Aventadors. Reventons. Gallardos. All super cars. It’s what Lamborghini has become, both in the reality of its production cars, but also popular culture — we’ll spare you lyrics and quotes.
But otherworldly design (and prices) weren’t always the case for the road-going definition of brash luxury. At Lamborghini’s inception, its founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini, aimed to create grand tourers — fast, comfortable and a viable alternative to the Ferrari.
That would all change with the Lamborghini Marzal. A collision of glass, Bertone design and half a Miura engine (resulting in an inline-6), the Marzal was a car from the future with its gull-wing doors, low-slung stance and a greenhouse large enough to make draper weep. In the end, only one Marzal was made; last year it sold at auction for a staggering $2.1 million dollars — the price of a fleet of today’s Lambos.
Between the semi-comfortable Strada (street) mode, Sport mode and nuttified Corsa (track) mode, we opt for the third, since we have a dental appointment scheduled in a couple of weeks. The payment for this choice is dear. The magnetorheological suspension tightens, throttle response is quicker and gearshifts hit us in the back so fiercely that we think something is broken both in the car and possibly in our own bodies. The only things missing are a nomex racing suit, a tire wall and a checkered flag. In our 150-mile first leg, squirrels and other wildlife are sent deeper into the woods, frightened out of their furry wits by the cacophony of horsepower.
After a thrilling day’s drive, we gathered to replenish the calories burned during intense driving concentration. The stay at the Sagamore Hotel proved to be both satisfying for the appetite as well as for the body, and prepared us for more driving the next morning. This is what’s known as an automotive smorgasbord of delights.
Next, it was the V12 Aventador, an uppermost echelon car that few get to experience. The stealth fighter design is muted a bit by the glossy white paint job, but the car still looks menacing, especially from behind, where the large vents and the center exhaust dominate. The interior is roomy and very comfortable, making it far easier to concentrate on spirited driving. The jet-plane start button emerges after a flick of the thumb on its cover. The 12-cylinder engine erupts mellifluously, the crisp electronic gauges illuminate and the stage is set for a singular driving experience in one of the most advanced supercars in existence. Getting out of the small town into the arena of open roads is a bit of a challenge, as the Aventador struggles for smoothness at lower speeds with its seven speed gearbox. Imagining tooling around in it through narrow cobblestoned Italian streets is about as appealing as cold water shaving a full beard with bar soap and a single bladed disposable razor.
But when the smooth and scenic roads of upstate New York present themselves with open arms, the experience is something completely desirable. The V12 breathes in anticipation of your heavy foot and speeds climb without effort from the 700 horsepower at your disposal. The large but surprisingly light (3,470 pounds) Aventador bites into the pavement with its all-wheel-drive system, and the car seems unshakeable. The lead Gallardo Performante Spyder spools up to 100, 110, and then 140 and paves the way to blissful speed. But unlike the Supertrofeo Stradale, which is a ferociously quick track machine, the Aventador instills a different, nearly presidential-like confidence the faster you go; 150 mph seems nearly effortless. At no time is control an issue, and the V12 begs you to go even faster, but is overshadowed by both your burning driver’s license and a thin wallet. Nearly as astounding as the speed is the sheer power of the brakes — carbon ceramic ones the size of manhole covers that stop with the kind of authority that throw all your organs forward and comfort you at the same time. The only minuscule wrench in the cogs is a noticeable right rear wheel vibration between speeds of 100-120 mph that could’ve been the result of a missing wheel weight, no doubt jettisoned into the upper reaches of space or embedded deeply into the rock of the surrounding landscape.
What has just occurred in the thrilling autumn drive is a tribute to the dreams of car-crazy little boys and remains as the kind of automotive experience that drowns out life’s worries, annoying politics and about everything else. This is exactly what the Lamborghini brand is about, according to Michael Lock, COO at Automobili Lamborghini America LLC. First and foremost, it’s the performance prowess of the cars and the heritage of Lamborghini; but it’s also about the people who infuse each Lamborghini with a strong sense of brand community. The fact that the non-driving segments of the Giro were littered with unique experiences, such as falconry and archery at Red Apple Farms in Phillipston, MA, made it all the more special. It was, however, alarming that most in the party presented more skill behind the wheel than behind a bow (luckily, everyone departed with eyes and torsos in tact). But the activities, the food, the conversation — all were planned as part of the lifestyle of the Lamborghini brand, making the experience inviting both in and out of the cars.
Over the course of the next three days, along curvy and undulating New England roads, we carved our way from New York to Vermont and on to Boston, MA, via the Aventador flagship, as well as numerous iterations of the capable Gallardo — from all-wheel-drive Spyders to potent two-wheel-drive versions that add a different driving characteristic. Regardless of the setup of each of the cars, every one presented itself as an opportunity to expose the Lamborghini brand in the most direct manner possible — tearing up the road. Other than the morning pep talk to be safe, there were no limits placed on drivers, no cautionary tales told and certainly no stink eye for letting the cars do what they do best. Frankly, we’ve received significantly bolder warnings from lesser brands while taking family sedans out on local roads.
What has just occurred in the thrilling autumn drive is a tribute to the dreams of car-crazy little boys and remains as the kind of automotive experience that drowns out life’s worries, annoying politics and about everything else.
One incident did occur, albeit safely and humorously. On day two, no fewer than twelve cars at a time whizzed past the gorgeous landscape while local law enforcement apparently received numerous phone calls from some minivan drivers who were, uh, passed quickly on our journey. We made it through relatively unscathed, with the exception of our fearless Lambo lead driver, Mr. Kelly Snyder, who suffered a small slap on the wrist and later shared with us what the fuzz had laughingly communicated to him. If you’re able to take a dozen supercars out for rapid passage on public roads without any involvement from the police, you can not only drive well, you’re also a bit of a miracle worker. We certainly marveled at our luck after nearly a thousand miles of driving pleasure.
What emerged on the other side of the trip was an experience of truly remarkable driver’s cars, not just supercars. Lamborghini has gone from historied, classic design to vented and festooned 80s icon to refined machines worthy of the automotive upper limits they so easily attain. Plus, it’s not just the cars. It’s the culture of a small, longstanding and proud company, one that treats its customers like the kings they feel like every time they step into a Lamborghini.
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