It’s like every petrol head’s dream come true. The call came through and all I heard were the words “Lamborghini ” and “drive.” My mouth gushed forward a "yes" before my brain could even process what was happening. I was going to be handed the keys to a Lamborghini Gallardo , the best-selling and most popular car in the brands 50+ year history. The exact model in question was an LP560-4 Spyder. With a 5.2-liter V-10 engine making more than 550 horsepower, and a curb weight almost 500 pounds less than a Nissan GT-R , it should be exciting.
Of course, there is always a pang of fear when it comes to situations like this. Lots of cars have massive followings and are supposed to be exquisite to drive, but I have found on more than one occasion that sometimes it is best to never meet your heroes.
As the entry for AnastasiaDate into the 2014 Gumball 3000 Rally, I wasn’t promised a lot of time with the car, but it was enough for me to make a decision about the car.
Was this a mistake, or did this tiny supercar drive its way into my heart?
Read on to find out what I think of the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder
The Gallardo Spyder has always been a stunning thing to look at, even if it does have a much more subdued shape than Lambos of the past. The sharp angles and steep wedge shape convey speed and purpose. The car is also deceptively low and even wider than you would expect. The nose looks ready to dismember and swallow small animals with its massive intake vents a jagged front splitter.
With the strange tent-looking top pitched across the top, the car looks odd and even cheap in a way, but once the cloth and metal do their automated dance to tuck under the rear deck, the shape is downright seductive. The car you see here is actually black, but thanks to the Gumball has been wrapped in a vinyl that is “lavender fading to silver.” I think it is more of a pink to white, but hey, the thing was supposed to be chromed too, so that company messed up a lot of things.
If looking at the Gallardo is exciting, sitting inside of it is electrifying. The seats are leather and stitched in a beautiful quilted pattern. The thrones are power adjusted in about 400 directions, and they are very supportive. The padding is just right, the bolstering is near perfect, and even after several miles of swallowing interstate at high speeds I was perfectly comfortable.
The same leather and stitching extends to the door panels as well. The steering wheel is small in diameter for quick driving, but is thick in covered in nice leather as well. The shift paddles for the transmission are small, but nicely spaced and are made of solid aluminum, making them feel extremely sturdy.
Not all is well in the cabin of the Gallardo though. What isn’t covered in metal or leather tends to be made of rather cheap-feeling plastic, and while I was prepared for a lack of storage, this thing is utterly laughable. The glove box is only about 3 inches tall, and maybe 9 inches deep. The only other real storage in the car is a small cubby under the armrest. It looks as though it might hold about two tins of Altoids and not much else.
The car doesn’t appear to be very well built either. While the seats and things have held up very well, this car is actually a rental and certain parts of the trim have worn very poorly. The biggest sign is the transmission selection buttons. The car has buttons for Sport, Auto and Corsa. As you can see in the photo, the button for Auto is trashed and the Sport button is showing signs of wear.
I was not intelligent enough to look at the odometer, but this car is not old enough for this to be an issue.
But enough complaining about the space and interior quality, this is an Italian supercar and only one thing matters here, performance. With 10 cylinders and 5.2 liters of displacement, the Gallardo Spyder is ready to get up and run. At full chat, you are looking at 552 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of glorious torque.
Those numbers aren’t the whole story though. While this car may be lighter and more powerful than Nissan’s mighty GT-R, this car wont outrun Godzilla in a stop light drag. Even in Corsa, the tranny on the Gallardo bogs down under hard launches and a nearly 70 pound-feet torque deficit means the GT-R will leave you in the dust. Naught to 60 for this Lambo is only a shade under four seconds. That said, once you hit about 55 or so, the Gallardo comes alive and feels every bit as quick as Nissan’s best. The Gallardo also boasts a higher top speed of 201 mph. After playing around with the car for a while, I whole heartedly believe it to be a 200-mph car.
I enjoy power, but very rarely do I find power to be overly intoxicating. Maybe it was the rush of the wind, or the wail of the V-10 mounted directly behind my spine, but every chance I could I buried my foot into the floor. When you consider that this car is several years old, and a rental, it becomes more impressive. My thoughts are this; either this engine is one of the best in the world to be this beat to hell and still feel GT-R fast, or a new unmolested Gallardo is unfathomably quick. Whatever the answer, I need more of this in my life.
Handling and Brakes
Storage woes aside, having a Spyder in your life isn’t an overly complicated or difficult prospect either. The steering wheel is weighted well but is not too heavy to use in traffic or parking lots, visibility is excellent with the top down and at cruising speeds in auto-mode it is quite calm and subdued. The only thing that makes driving it even slightly difficult is getting used to the pedal setup.
Like other high-end cars – the old Viper immediately comes to mind – the pedals are not where you expect them. Rather they have all been shifted about six inches inboard. Basically, the brake is where my body expects to find a clutch pedal, and the gas is where I expect to find the brake. When you first get in and look for the throttle you just kick at air like an imbecile.
The brakes themselves, once you find the right pedal, are proper supercar equipment. Even from slightly ludicrous speeds the car will come to a stop extremely quickly. Quickly enough, in fact, that it scared my in-car handler from the PR team. As we approached a slow car in the left lane at speed he immediately began a line of expletives before he was caught off guard by the force of the seatbelt against his chest as the car shed lots of velocity in mere moments.
I might like the way this Gallardo dispatches speed as much as I enjoy gaining it.
Price is an odd thing to talk about with a car like this. As a rental, you can take one home from between $1,000 to $2,000 per day depending on where you find it. If you wanted to buy one, you are looking at closer to $200k for a new one, with a used model coming in at closer to $165k. If you want one in the Gumball 3000? Well this year the entry fee was a bit over $70,000, so make sure to add that into your purchase budget.
Talking about competitors in this space is a pretty silly idea. For most people buying a car in the upper echelon they just want a badge or a style. If you really are chasing performance though, the next best thing you can park in the garage would be the Ferrari 458 Spider.
Ferrari has always been the main competition for Lamborghini, and this is no different. They are both mid-engined supercars with folding tops, but where the Lambo charges in with force using its V-10 and AWD system, the Ferrari chooses finesse with a high-revving V-8 and drive going to the rear wheels only.
I have yet to drive the 458, but by most accounts it is also better built and even more exciting to drive. I do prefer the balance and feel of a RWD car, so it would be an interesting comparison. All said, I did enjoy the angry bellow of the Gallardo over the operatic wail I heard from the many 458s at Gumball.
Gallery Ferrari 458 Italia Spider
If you are less interested in performance and more interested in style and panache, there are fewer cars that trump the Aston Martin DB9 Volante. With a coupe for 2014, the drop-top DB9 should be getting the same treatment next year. It is down on power, but features more cylinders, more luxury and far more pedigree and curb appeal. Lamborghinis are brash and exciting, but Aston has the market cornered on cool and suave.
When you consider the large rear trunk and small rear seats, you could even make a practicality argument for the Volante. It is slightly more expensive, and likely just as poorly built, but it is far more beautiful to look at. If you are looking for something to drive around Monaco, the Aston is probably the better choice.
Gallery Aston Martin DB9
I was worried that the Gallardo Spyder would be a disappointment after cars like the GT-R, CTS-V and more. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It may not best those machines in outright power or performance, but when it comes to theatre and excitement it provided in spades. With infinite headroom, aggressive styling and that thunderous exhaust note, every trip was an occasion. Even when I found myself in the passenger seat, and not behind the wheel, I was enjoying myself.
It is less practical than a motorcycle, and more expensive than many people’s houses, but all I wanted to do was spend more time inside of it going faster and faster. The feeling of a supercar is alive and well. Everything you have heard and more is true. Many heroes are disappointments, but this was beyond satisfying.
- Monstrous V10 bellow
- Incredibly fast
- Stunning looks
- Very expensive
- Poorly built
- No storage