DRIVE TIME


Real-Life Experiences in a Fantasy Car

Mark Solheim

Driving a Lamborghini that costs more than the median-priced U.S. home isn't all fun and games.



Considering Kiplinger's mission to sniff out value, I don't spend much time evaluating the Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris and other rarefied luxury vehicles reserved for the super rich. But when Lamborghini offered the Gallardo Spyder (price tag: $210,000) for the weekend, I jumped at the chance.

This is a limited production car -- as in fewer than 2,000 Gallardos a year worldwide -- that you almost never see outside of Beverly Hills or Palm Beach.

I discovered something: Along with privilege comes responsibility. When you’re living a fantasy, the whole world wants to be your friend -- and to share your dream. Plus, it takes a lot of money to be rich and famous.

The Pickup

To get the Lambo, I had to take a subway and $50 cab ride to get to the Ferrari/Lamborghini/Maserati dealership in the exurbs of Washington, D.C. It was a hot, sunny and very quiet Wednesday -- the lone salesman on the showroom floor was napping in a Ferrari F430. After a walk-around of the Gallardo Spyder and quick test drive, I hit the road back to D.C.

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When you’re behind the wheel of a low, aero- dynamically perfect, mid-engine, four-wheel drive (orange!) supercar with the top down, any trace of Jeckyll quickly disappears and Hyde takes over. The rumble of the ten-cylinder, 520 horsepower engine is intoxicating, the quickness of the acceleration is thrilling, the sticky cornering empowering. After all, this is the car featured in "The Dark Knight," although that model is a hardtop and it gets pummeled after about two minutes.

With a very high profile, feeling the scrutiny of every driver I pass, I try to keep my speed down. I park it in front of my house (and, okay, drive to the store like three times that night), then put up the top and call it a day.

The Dynamic Duo

Next day, I have promised to take my colleague (and Drive Time contributor) Fane Wolfer on a spin at lunch. Think of us as the Dynamic Duo. I am Batman, Fane is Robin. We head out to the highway, accelerating from stoplight to stoplight and smiling like idiots, when I notice that the low-fuel light is on.

Did I mention that this car gets 10 miles per gallon in the city (and a whopping 15 on the highway)? I head back toward downtown DC and pull into a filling station. While I’m fueling the beast with $4.59 a gallon premium gas, the mechanics drift out to take a look.

The owner’s son, about 15, goes ga-ga. He knows the model, he knows the price. I let him sit behind the wheel while his dad takes his picture with a cell phone camera. We try to look at the engine, but not even four mechanics can figure out how to gain access. Evidently only dealers get to behold the belly of the beast, which is fine, because Lamborghini owners are probably not interested in changing the oil themselves.

On my way home, someone is blaring his horn at me. It’s Dave, a friend from the neighborhood. He pulls up beside me and says his ten-year-old would be thrilled to see the car. I invite him to stop by the next morning and give his son a ride around the block.

Bottom Line

As I idle at intersections I am peppered with questions from pickup- and van-driving guys. How fast does that go? (Top speed is 191 mpg, and it goes zero to 60 in 4.1 seconds.) How much does it cost? (if you have to ask...)

Women seem to be able to curb their enthusiasm, which makes me wonder just how much of a chick magnet a supercar is. (And do they think I'm compensating for a lack of, er, stature by driving it?)

On my final few hours in the Lambo, I am on the expressway in rush hour traffic when the clouds darken and the skies open up. With no place to safely pull off, I drive through the downpour. I am half blinded by raindrops pelting me at 60 miles per hour, and the interior of the Lambo gets a soaking, the seats puddled with water.

The rain has shorted out in the backup camera. I see nothing but snow on the screen and I wonder how much it will cost to repair.

My time in the car is almost up, and I’m not all that heartbroken. I figure you'd have to spend at least $10,000 or $15,000 a year for maintenance. And the attention it garners is exhausting. I think of Britney or Paris or Bradgelina trying to keep a low profile and feel almost sorry for them.

I decide I'm content having a prosaic Honda for a daily driver. On the other hand, if Ferrari calls...



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