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Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder
8/10

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Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder

Driven April 2009

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Lamborghini says that the Spyder version of its Gallardo outsells the Coupe variant almost two to one. Which underlines a fact that we all probably suspected: Lamborghini owners really like to show off. Subtlety not required, ability to attract Russian prostitutes with nothing more than a lazy drive-by, an absolute selling point.

The colours it looks best in ram the point home: Kermit green, blazing orange, even a set of optional matte colours: black (Nero Nemesis), white (Bianco Canopus) and yellow (Marrone Apus) that cost £14,250 on top of the £130k purchase price - they all go to show that the buyer of the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder is neither lacking in money nor self-confidence. But that would be to make light of the LP560-4 Spyder's ability to be brilliant at what it does. For what reason would you buy a convertible supercar anyway? If you want to hide or blend seamlessly into the beigeness of the background, buy a Kia Magentis.

Neatly then, to the styling. The LP560-4 Spyder is simply the LP560-4 Coupe with the previous-generation's convertible roof mechanism welded in place. So the improvements wrought on the old Gallardo to make the LP560-4 appear on the new Spyder. There are huge, lozenge-shaped radiator openings on a low, wide, crisply geometric nose, strong, deep-shouldered sides and a chopped-off rump. It looks spectacular, confident and defiantly wide even though at just under 75 inches (narrower than a Range Rover Sport at 78) it's pretty reasonable to thread through traffic. The roof is a fabric affair that folds up under the engine compartment in about 20 seconds, leaving a slinky profile. Roll bars are pop-up, and trigger only if the worst happens - and you'll have to be trying very hard indeed to get the LP560-4 to snap.

Mainly because the Spyder maintains nearly all of the Coupe's athleticism. There's a touch of steering column wobble on really bad roads, but it deals with bumps and ruts better than you expect from an open-topper that's capable of 0-62mph in four seconds and 201mph roof up or down. It also manages to be some 20kg lighter than the old Spyder, though to be honest you struggle to tell driving it.

The best bit remains in that you really don't have to be a racing driver to get a healthy dose of go-faster goodness out of the Spyder - just like the Coupe. In ‘Sport' (stiffens dampers and lessens ESP interference), four-wheel drive and decent natural balance mean that if you start lifting nervously mid-corner, you do nothing worse than get the nose to tuck up and the back to sway a little bit. If you decide to go faster and be a bit more brutal, stick the car in ‘Corsa' (as per Sport but with even less notice paid by the traction control fairies) and the littlest Lambo gets on with the job and revels in a bit of gentle oversteer. It doesn't feel like there's much undiscovered at the outer reaches of the envelope, but there were big jaggedy rocks on the edges of the test route and I didn't feel like being nailed to them using a white Lamborghini as a hammer.

Power comes from the same unit as the Coupe, so that means a 560bhp V10 (up 40bhp from the old car) mounted amidships driving all four wheels. The engine is strong right through the rev range, but you must remember to mine the upper reaches if you really want to go fast: max torque is up at 6,500rpm and max power is at a screaming 8k. It's worth it though: the noise from that V10 is just gorgeous, ranging from a kind of off-beat guttural gurgle at light throttle to a full-on hysterical race-car scream at 8,200rpm. And without the roof in the way, your ears get the full aural battering - you know a car is loud when you can still hear it on the plane home. It's probably worth a nod that the new engine actually produces 18 per cent less CO2 than the old motor, but considering that's 18 per cent less CO2 than the average Chinese coal-fired power station, I doubt environmentalists will be cheering particularly hard. A step in the right direction though.

There are issues. Ones that might make you think ‘character' or ‘serious manufacturing flaw', depending on your mood, or attitude to the company. For instance, when you open the roof via the lovely knurled switch on the centre console, the fabric roof - available in shades of beige, blue, black and grey - will, if you are anything more than 5ft 8, gently but irritatingly tap you in the back of the head as it folds. Not cool. The seats don't drop far enough down, so not only do you get a serious amount of windscreen top rail headlining your vision but the seats also incessantly squeak against the bulkhead. And the pedals are weirdly positioned, meaning that your knees touch the bottom of the steering wheel no matter how indecently splayed you become.

The optional £5k e-gear paddle-operated manual gearbox isn't brilliant either. Put simply, it's a bit off the pace now. Even though Lambo has decreased the shift times it still feels like it comes straight from a no-frills race car. It thumps through the gears like a heavyweight boxer taking potshots at your lower back. Probably quite cool on a circuit, but tiring and then irritating on the road.

For once though, sheer ballsy character makes mincemeat of the irritating detail. This car shrugs off criticism as soon as you get near it. It looks outrageous enough to put a smile on the face of even the most jealous bottle-throwing thug. It's also very easy to drive, but bloody quick, which means that it probably has its target market nailed. Worth noting that in an idle moment I managed to spec a Gallardo Spyder to £160k without trying hard, so this should not be considered a ‘cheap' Lambo. But, apart from a couple of niggles, it is a really very good one.

Tom Ford

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