x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Richard Whitehead believes this exotic Italian convertible is perfect in every way.

Only the huge rock forms of a volcanic island can make the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder look small. Don't be fooled though, this is a car of epic proportions.
Only the huge rock forms of a volcanic island can make the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder look small. Don't be fooled though, this is a car of epic proportions.

Since this is a professional, independent and thoroughly informative car review, let's start off with what I didn't like about the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder. Now that's over with, we can move on to what makes it so totally, entirely, absolutely, wholly, fully, thoroughly, perfectly and utterly brilliant. That's the tricky part, because there is only enough room here for about a thousand words, and to outline everything that is good about the latest Lambo would require the rest of this section, the whole of Personal Finance, much of House & Home and a good chunk of Travel, too. You see, this is a great car in absolutely every respect. It might not be everybody's cup of tea, but there is no mistaking that this is a supercar that performs even better than the legendary fighting bull that gives it its name.

Set against the backdrop of the volcanic island of Tenerife in Spain's Islas Canarias - a land of sweeping curves, majestic views and wonderful people - this majestic soft-top comes into its own. If you were to steer this car along the roads of northern Europe, it would earn you glares of resentment for having the gall to drive something that is largely irrelevant in this day and age. Here in Tenerife, the locals go wild for the boom of the engine and the conspicuous façade of one of the most aggressive vehicles ever built.

The boom is all-important; there is nothing else like it in the world. While its rivals, which include the Ferrari F430 Spyder and the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, let loose the high-pitched scream of a V8, the V10 Lambo bellows an explosion of all things holy from an enormous 5.2-litre unit set just inches behind your ears. It summons to mind a band from Finland named Apocalyptica, which specialises in playing heavy metal music at full steam on rich, reverberating cellos. Imagine this group multiplied by a hundred, with each instrument vying for fortissimo supremacy, and that's half way to how this most magnificent of engines sounds.

And situated as we were, at around lunchtime at the 3,000-metre-plus peak of Mount Teide, Tenerife's centrepiece volcano: 20 rampant Lamborghini engines bellowing across the island a harmonic Armageddon, the local populace going absolutely mad. In a good way, that is, given the salutes, photographs and cries of "¡Olé!" When you regard this proud wedge of power, not one bit of it looks easy to drive. But with the exception of trying to keep the 552 horses under control at crawling speeds and while reversing, that's just not true. Of course, it's no Honda Jazz, and most wouldn't fancy the notion of parking it, but it is surprisingly easy in town.

But who cares when you have a twisting road, someone else's no-claim bonus and the wind in your hair? This is a car that looks good in an urban environment but which comes into its own when it's allowed to do what comes naturally: that is, to motor. You don't take the Spyder gently, not with the 541Nm of torque that becomes available in moments. Neither do you treat it with disrespect because the car is a land-based rocket. You have to gird your loins at all times, not just to savour the experience, but to stay safe in a car that makes it to over 323kph.

But for all these superstar statistics, the big drophead drives impeccably, with a scintillating blend of balance, handling, control and performance. On the old, narrow mountain roads of Tenerife, with undulating surfaces and cambers that are all over the place, the Gallardo's stability and rigidity - especially for a convertible - come into their own. Whereas so many other performance cars can feel a little daring as they bop up and down on their springs at speed, challenging the flex of the frame, this one is taught and controlled at all times.

And sitting so close to the ground in the snug, leather cabin that can be hard work for anybody a few inches over six feet, the sensation of pure speed is greatly multiplied. Taking hairpins is a joy: accelerate up until the very last moment, drop down the gears - drinking in the feel and sound of the cogs engaging in quick time - and step hard on the giant ceramic brakes as the inertia of the candy-green missile lithely makes the apex. Accelerate out of the turn, exhale and repeat.

And for a little added adventure, you can sample the Corsa, or track, mode that shortens shift times by 40 per cent while muting the traction control system. Even behind old Seat vans, the sonic joy of the nuclear-sized power plant keeps you as entertained as the speedo does on the free road. Who cares that there's just enough room available in the front-end boot for an airport novel, and that much of the switchgear and such are straight out of a base Audi? It doesn't even matter if taller drivers need to duck as they raise and lower the canvas roof. Quibbles like these pale into insignificance compared to all that is mighty about this vehicle.

If you want shopping convenience, go for something that's more relevant to these times - buy it with the change you would get back from stumping up $200,000 (Dh735,000) for the Spyder. And then you would qualify for the "My other car's a Lamborghini" bumper sticker, only without the irony. It is difficult to say with a straight face that a supercar like this is value for money, but this is the closest thing to it for the price tag. The spectacular build quality that is now the norm for Lamborghini, thanks largely to Audi's input, makes it worth it; the machinery that surrounds you and turns you into an integral part of the car makes it worth it; and the symphonic sound alone makes it worth it. I think I'll buy three. motoring@thenational.ae