Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder reviewhttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/carreviews/5049876/Lamborghini-Gallardo-LP560-4-Spyder-review.html
Awesome is an over-used word, but it's the only way to describe the latest drop-top to emerge from Sant' Agata.
It's 100 years since Tenerife's Mount Teide last blew its lid and, looking at the weird streams of solidified lava clinging to its sides, I'm reminded that when it comes to extreme power, Mother Nature still writes the rulebook.
The vistas unfolding through the windscreen are jaw-dropping in their majesty yet squeezing the throttle of Lamborghini's latest offering – the snappily monikered Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder – I'm also reminded that when it comes to extreme power on four wheels, the boys from Sant' Agata reign supreme.
The Gallardo has been around since 2003 and, unlike the ubiquitous V8 Vantages, 911s and Continental GTs, it still has tremendous impact. No flab, no unnecessary bodywork addenda, just razor sharp styling that shows serious intent. Yet the Gallardo is also useable and easy to drive hard. You can see out of it, its doors open in the conventional fashion and it's built with Germanic precision and Italian verve – a winning combination.
The current version of the coupé was launched last summer and brought with it a raft of improvements to a car that had not much wrong with it in the first place. A bit of a refresh to the front and rear end styling, less pollution, more efficiency, more power and a massive price hike.
Thankfully the ingredients that made the car so special in the first place were left alone and as I drop into third and stamp on the gas, I'm glad there's no roof on this one. The deep-chested roar that accompanies the savage acceleration is the polar opposite of a Ferrari V8's high-pitched wail. This is angry, masculine noise and totally addictive.
Far from being simply a Santa Monica boulevard cruiser, the Spyder remains a serious performance car, giving away very little to its tin-topped brother. It takes four seconds to reach 62mph rather than 3.7 and has an irrelevant 1mph top speed deficiency at 201mph.
You need to be fairly short in stature to not get your head bashed when raising or lowering the electronic canvas roof and when it's up the lines look a little awkward. Still, if the weather turns inclement and you want the full sonic treatment, the small glass window (that acts as a wind deflector when the hood is down) can be lowered. Nice touch.
It's exquisitely engineered thanks to Audi's parental guidance but the parts-bin switchgear looks gaudy and out of place in the snug cabin. My test car came equipped with Lamborghini's six-speed 'e.gear' paddle-shift transmission and it really is superb, the only downside being that the paddles don't rotate with the steering wheel.
In 'Corsa' (track) mode the shift times have been shaved by 40 per cent and the traction control is less obtrusive, too. The hilariously named 'Thrust' mode facilitates maximum acceleration but will no doubt severely reduce the clutch's lifespan so is best left for bar room bragging rights.
Even on rough surfaces it feels every bit the equal of the brilliant coupé and apart from Audi's R8 I cannot think of another supercar that flatters and excites in such measures. It's incredibly easy to drive hard but it never seems remote from its driver unlike, say, a Porsche 911 Turbo.
Lamborghini says it aims to sell just 200 cars in the UK during 2009 and, on the strength of this, it should be quite achievable. "Always different. Always Lamborghini," shouts the huge poster outside our hotel. It's good to know that in this life some things remain constant.
Price/availability: £136,450. On sale now.
Engine/transmission: 5,204cc V10 petrol with DOHC and four valves per cylinder; 552bhp at 8,000rpm, 399lb ft of torque at 6,500rpm. Six-speed manual or sequential 'e.gear' transmission, permanent four-wheel drive.
Performance: top speed 201mph, 0-62mph in 4.0sec, EU Urban fuel consumption 13.5mpg (Combined 18.8mpg), CO2 emissions 351g/km.
We like: Build quality, looks, effortless performance, engine noise.
We don't like: Ownership costs, Audi switchgear, onlookers will think you're Rod Stewart.
Alternatives: Ferrari F430 Spyder, £144,592. Aston Martin DBS Volante, from about £168,000 when it goes on sale in late summer. Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, £106,359.