First Drive
The road up the side of Tenerife's Pico de Teide is about as diabolical as any I've driven. Countless blind corners, switchbacks, a marked absence of guardrails, and a fairly rapid elevation ascent all require focused attention. Teide happens to be the highest mountain in Spain, and is also an active volcano that seems to harbor its own weather system. Ensconced within our Lambo Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder, we cut back and forth with alacrity, in and out of drifting banks of cloud, first brilliant sunshine, then gloom, streaming pennants of mist, rain, and without warning back into blinding sunshine. Add in the unholy wail a couple of feet behind your head, growing ever more vehement with every centimeter of throttle travel, and you've got a formula for utter sensory overload.

Last year Lamborghini unveiled the new Gallardo Coupe, designated LP 560-4 because of its longitudinale posteriore (longways rear-mount) V10, which with technical innovations like direct fuel injection pushed power to 560 cavallo vapore--more or less 560 metric horsepower, or 552 hp according to SAE. It also carried revised aerodynamics like a more aggressive set of air scoops in the lower front bumper, new LED arrays in the head and taillights, as well as improved fuel economy and reduced carbon emissions, even with the bump in power.

The LP 560-4 Spyder takes all of that and adds a power folding soft top. Available in four colors--black, blue, gray, and beige--that top incorporates one hydraulic pump, six hydraulic cylinders, one electric motor and two electric actuators to fold up or down automatically in about 20 seconds.

Because of the extra equipment and chassis reinforcement, the Spyder weighs more than the coupe. This increases the zero to 100 kph run by about four-tenths of a second compared to the hardtop, total elapsed time being pinned at more or less four seconds flat.

Still, at the original LP 560-4 Coupe launch last spring, there were some who felt the estimate was somewhat conservative. Whatever number you're inclined to use, this latest Lambo drop-top will make the American-standard zero-to-60 in under four seconds. That's still pretty dang fast.

A deployable rear windscreen behind the seats functions as a wind deflector and makes a good bit of difference in reducing turbulence inside the cockpit at higher speeds. And whether the top's up or down, the Gallardo Spyder is designed for unrestricted high speeds, all the way up to a claimed top speed of 201 mph. So in case you accidentally find yourself having too much fun, spring-loaded roll bars behind the seats can actuate in 250 milliseconds if a potential rollover situation becomes imminent.

What could be most incredible is its prodigious grip. Any sort of body flex is undetectable; the Gallardo Spyder may as well be carved from a solid piece of billet. The absence of roll or flex, the all-wheel drive system's incredible road-holding ability whether you're accelerating sideways or braking hard enough to fling tooth fillings at the windscreen--and let's not mention the slingshot nature of 550-odd Italian stallions stampeding behind your head--make for a fairly singular experience. At no point did I ever feel as though I even brushed up against the car's limits. But you'd expect that for 200 grand.

I've never been a huge fan of the convertible mystique, but on certain days, on certain roads and with certain cars, it all seems to click. And a big selling point for a car like the Gallardo Spyder is that you're that much closer to the demonic symphony swelling behind your shoulders. To be honest, the Gallardo's exhaust note really is, come on, just the slightest bit ridiculous. It sounds like something halfway between a free-revving race engine and the fanfare from a hell-spawned brass section. There's little doubt it screams "Look at me, little people! Look at me!"

They look. We come tearing around one hairpin corner and see a pair of hikers laboring up the hill. My co-driver stomps on the gas, the V10 screams. One of the hikers whirls... and looks up, as though we're descending on him from the sky.

That reaction alone could be worth the heavy price of admission.

2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder
* Layout
Longitudinal mid-engine, all-wheel drive

* Engine
5.2-liter V10, dohc, 40-valve

* Transmission
Six-speed E Gear semi-automatic; optional six-speed manual

* Suspension
F/R: Double wishbones, anti-roll bars, anti-dive and anti-squat

* Brakes
Eight-piston aluminum calipers, 365mm ventilated rotors (f)Four-piston aluminum calipers, 356mm ventilated rotors (r);Optional CCB carbon ceramic rotors

* Wheels and Tires
Forged aluminum alloy, 8.5x19 (f), 11x19 (r)
Pirelli P Zero, 235/35 (f), 295/30 (r)

* Dimensions
Length/Width/Height (in.): 171.0/74.8/46.6
Wheelbase: 100.7 in.
Dry Weight: 3,417 lb

* Performance*
Peak Power**: 552 hp @ 8000 rpm
Peak Torque: 398 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.0 sec.
Top Speed: 201 mph*Mfr data**SAE hp; 560 hp DIN

Price Tag
$220,000 (est.)

Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo
"The world's fastest one-make series"
Part of Lamborghini's strategy in the far-reaching economic downturn is enhancing its brand awareness by branching into other avenues besides strict OEM auto manufacture. One example is the expansion of its Collezione Lamborghini line of designer clothing and boutique products. Another is a factory-sanctioned race participation. For 2009, Automobili Lamborghini SpA has introduced the Blancpain Super Trofeo race series. By the time you read this it will have already run its first race at the UK's Silverstone circuit. By the end of October, the series will have completed six races on some of Europe's most famous race circuits, including Spa-Francorchamps and Paul Ricard, supporting well-established series like DTM and FIA GT. It will be the only one-make series in motorsport to feature cars with all-wheel drive--and it is the company's clear objective to prove its all-wheel-drive system's technical superiority in a racing venue.

A limited run of Super Trofeo racecars will be made available to individual privateers as well as Lamborghini dealer teams. The Sant'Agata factory will enter one car for itself and plans to commission well-known guest drivers to drive that car in the events. The other teams may register either one or two drivers; whether professional or "gentleman" racers, each driver must have acquired an International Competition License (A, B, or C). Friday practice and qualifying sessions will give way to three 40-minute individual races during the weekend, the results of which will be added together to calculate final standings. Each team will also have access to full factory technical support. The car is a dedicated racer, with a 419 kW version of the 5.2-liter V10, robotized E Gear gearbox, and a minimalist cockpit furnished with a single ultra-light race seat and specialized instrumentation. Lightweight components like a redesigned exhaust system shed 110 kg (242 pounds) from a production-version Gallardo Coupe. Dry weight is 1,300 kg or 2,866 pounds, including the 35 additional kilos imparted by the internal roll cage.

Competition is open to any who can afford it, but all takers should carry a hefty wallet. All logistics and associated costs must be maintained by each individual competitor or team. And that's on top of the 200,000 (excluding tax) cost of the car. -KF

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