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Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder review

By Michael Taylor, 11 Jan 2010 Reviews

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder review main

Removing the LP560-4’s roof merely adds to its allure

Removing the LP560-4’s roof merely adds to its allure.

The new open-top Lambo’s already doing 270km/h − well shy of its claimed v-max − as things become even more interesting. The braking markers fly past with a disturbing frequency and, finally, half a second’s hard braking washes off the scariest 50km/h.

But, still, the Spyder turns in at more than 220km/h to a long, long, long corner that tightens up twice. Twisting, snarling and challenging the most accomplished cars and drivers, this corner would have worried Lamborghini’s old Gallardo Spyder. It would have worried the driver a lot more. It’s a piece of extreme engineering and it demands a piece of extreme machinery.

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder front
The Gallardo LP560-4 is just that. It’s carrying about 235 or so as the corner tightens up. The old car hated this kind of thing – most cars would – but after you get the nose turned in, you find yourself nervously squeezing back down on the gas in fifth gear because, well, the redesigned, stiffened LP560-4 chassis just seems to cope with it.

The Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder is a completely different animal to its predecessor. In addition to improvements to the 5.2-litre V10, it has benefitted from a complete, rigidity-rich redesign of the rear architecture and more-sophisticated front and rear suspensions.

If you tightened or changed direction unexpectedly in the old model, the bushes didn’t always cope, the suspension’s architecture didn’t cope and sometimes − often when you really, really didn’t want it to − the rear-end could break away. That doesn’t happen in the LP560-4, as like its coupe brethren, the Spyder now has double wishbones that bolt directly to the chassis (and with four bolts, rather than two) and a relocated anti-roll bar. The differences are immediately obvious.

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder side profile
There is no lurch from the rear, no suspension wobble, no heart-in-mouth moment, waiting to see which way it goes. Because you know instantly where it’s going to go. Even here, turning and braking hard from 235 for a 180km/h corner, you just know it’s heading exactly where you point it. And nowhere else.

Three hundred metres further on, it does it again, from 180 or so down two gears to a corner worth 80 and, again, there’s nothing but what you ask for. It’s symptomatic of a tighter, more organised and more accessible machine and it has been lifted by far more than the sum of its parts.

The torque curve, for example, is more accessible and even though it says 540Nm at 6500rpm, it feels stronger, earlier, than the old V10. While that means it’s easier to leave it in one gear and cruise the city streets, the six-speed E-gear paddle-shift system is also faster than it used to be, though little smoother.

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder rear
The Y-shaped daytime running lamps mark this Spyder immediately as part of the LP560 family and the taillights seem to add even more visual width to the topless version than they do to the coupe. There is more presence behind the cabin, too, because the engine cover hides not only the cloth roof and its bracing bar, but a hydraulic pump and six cylinders, an electric motor and two actuators − all of which explains the weight and the higher roll-centre.

It’s a dramatic piece of theatre because Lamborghini doesn’t bother with a discreet flip-up home for its roof. It just lifts the entire carbonfibre engine cover and, 20 seconds later, once it has swallowed the roof, it drops it down again.

You can hold comfortable conversations with the roof up, even at 250km/h. The cloth barely buffets and wind noise only begins to reach uncomfortable levels at extremely high speeds. With the cloth roof lowered, the rear window acts as a wind blocker and does so with surprising effectiveness.

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Deep beneath the seats, the Spyder is faster and more fuel efficient than its predecessor. That’s partly because the new direct-fuel-injection system increases efficiency and partly because the car is, at 1550kg, 20kg lighter.

The 5.2-litre V10 spins freely right through to the 8300rpm cut-out and it would be a cruel man who didn’t love the way the sound had its own rich, distinct character at each and every rpm. It’s a deeper note than you’d think possible, full of huskiness and rising from a menacing growl at idle to a full blooded, barrel-chested bellow nearer to the redline. And it’s not just noise, either.

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder engineLamborghini’s 0-100km/h claim of 4.0sec sounds about right to us − even if launching the all-wheel drive cleanly is not an easy job − and, with enough road, the 324km/h top-speed claim seems easily achievable, too. When we ran out of road at 280km/h, the LP560 Spyder was still howling and accelerating hard.

It’s comfortable in the default setting, starts swinging when you push the Sport button to change the six-speed E-gear’s paddle-shift software, and throws its heaviest punches in the track-oriented Corsa mode.

There, the shifts become more brutal, cutting 40 percent from the shift time and sending an audible ‘bang’ from the clutch all the way down through the viscous-coupling centre differential to the front and rear diffs.

The changes to the chassis have altered the character to sharp and reliable from crisp and dazzling. Even if you didn’t know about the roof, you’d know that its driving character is softer than the coupe’s. They’ve done a much better job of hiding the high nature of the roof’s extra weight than they did on the original Spyder.

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder wheels
It never feels like it will bite you, regardless of the situation, and that’s partly because the upgraded, faster ESP software flashes its warning light more often (and cuts in less obtrusively) than it seemed to before. But it is also the most comfortable Gallardo yet, with a charming, compliant ride.

There’s more weight in the steering, too, though that doesn’t necessarily translate to a more intimate picture of what’s happening beneath the front wheels. And, what’s happening is usually happening quickly, because it comes together so much better than its predecessor.

It is, unerringly, the front-end that runs out of grip first and it does so with a gentle lightening of the steering weight − and it’s the same modus operandi regardless of whether you’re in second or fifth gear. And you fix it the same way; by simply rolling off the gas just a touch, letting it regain traction and then squeezing down again, with the sportier ESP setting letting you streak towards your exit points while performing beautiful four-wheel drifts.

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder driving
You can choose the optional carbon-ceramic brakes, but if you drive hard enough to need them, then the Spyder’s probably not the car for you in the first place. Instead, the enormous eight-piston Brembo calipers up front will comfortably do the job, clamping down on the 365mm front discs with an authority backed up by four-piston units at the back.

Inside, there are still some issues, such as window winders that seem to work the wrong way. The main visible upgrades are isolated to the new instrument graphics, the digital readout on the dash, and the switch materials (an unpleasant chromed plastic) on the centre console.

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder interior
It’s a more predictable car than it was, but that’s not to say Lamborghini has taken the fun out of the Spyder. It hasn’t. It’s removed some excitement, for sure, but the will-the-parachute-open kind of excitement wasn’t always what you were looking for.

What you have now is a fast, achingly soulful car that’s more GT than Superleggera and easier to live with every day than you’d expect. It’s a superb job – a car that’s not just a roofless Gallardo, but a Lamborghini with a unique character in its own right.