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There’s a six-month waiting list for the Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder. (PETRINA GENTILE FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
There’s a six-month waiting list for the Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder. (PETRINA GENTILE FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

2010 Lamborghini

Extreme, exclusive and more powerful than ever Add to ...

It's a tough time for car companies - no manufacturer is immune from the economic fallout, especially high-end luxury makers. But some, like Automobili Lamborghini, are optimistic in the face of uncertainty.

The company ended 2008 on a high note, with a slight increase in sales - 2,430 vs. 2,406 in 2007. Despite recent order cancellations, CEO Stephan Winkelmann remains positive.

"The year 2009, for us, is a very challenging year, not only for Automobili Lamborghini, but for the entire economy. We are affected like all the other businesses. ... We lost - especially in the U.S., due to the real estate problem and the financing sector problem - a part of our usual buyers and I don't think they're coming back soon.

"But I strongly believe that after the crisis, as history shows, the desire to come back to luxury will be even higher than before."

These days, Winkelmann is focusing on brand image and expanding Lamborghini's presence worldwide. So far, there are 122 dealers in 45 countries - in 2008, new showrooms opened in Amman, Jordan and Istanbul, Turkey. Others are set to open in Mexico and Brazil this year.

Winkelmann says he is still committed to delivering a new product to market every year. He is in Tenerife - the largest of the seven Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa - to introduce the latest raging bull, the 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder.

It boasts a more powerful engine, permanent all-wheel-drive system and an all-new chassis. Yet it still embodies the essence of the Italian automaker's brand image - extreme, exclusive and aggressive.

That's why officials chose Tenerife - an island of extremes both in landscape and weather - to complement this exotic, intense two-seater.

We travel up twisty mountain roads amid dropping temperatures to Mount Teide - the highest mountain in Spain. The LP560-4 Spyder tackled the route easily thanks to its new 5.2-litre V-10 engine, which delivers a gut-wrenching 560 horsepower - 40 more than its predecessor.

Incidentally, "560" in the model name denotes the horsepower, the "4" refers to the permanent four-wheel-drive system, and "LP" stands for "longitudinale posteriore" - the position of the engine, which lies lengthwise in front of the rear axle.

The Spyder's handling is razor-sharp; its brakes stop it on a dime. With 398 lb-ft of torque, hit the throttle and it'll launch from 0-100 km/h in a mere four seconds flat. While it's breathtakingly swift, it's also stable, secure and surprisingly easy to drive.

My driving partner did have difficulty with a three-point turn. Because he was blocking tour bus traffic on both sides of a mountain road, he panicked, asking, "Where is reverse?" I pointed to a tiny R button left of the steering wheel.

Reversing is tricky, even with the roof down. The roadster is wide with blind spots galore. But a rear-view camera, at $3,090, helps simplify the task; it's a must-have.

Also worth noting is the Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder's distinct sound; it's absolutely intoxicating and undeniably one of its greatest attributes.

Our test vehicles had an automated e-gear transmission, a six-speed clutch-less manual. It's optional for $11,890 and the preferred choice among Lambo drivers - 98 per cent of them opt for e-gear instead of the standard six-speed manual transmission.

The e-gear doesn't disappoint; it's exhilarating changing gears with the paddle-shifters on the steering wheel. For lazy days when you want to sit back and soak up the sun, you can leave it in automatic mode.

With e-gear, there are three different drive programs - standard, sport with shorter shift times and corsa, which delivers optimum engine acceleration. The e-gear system is idiot-proof; if you forget to downshift or up-shift, it'll do it for you.

Engineers worked hard to reduce weight. The two-seater comes in at 1,550 kg - 20 kg less than its predecessor. But it's also more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendlier than ever before. Fuel consumption and CO{-2} emissions have dropped 18 per cent - sure, it's not much, but it's a step in the right direction. Combined highway and city driving is rated at 14 litres/100 km - good luck achieving it, though; as you drive, the gas gauge needle dips right before your eyes.

Top up or down, the Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder solicits attention everywhere. The fabric top raises and lowers with the touch of a button. In only 20 seconds, you're going topless.

The car's design is breathtaking and remains true to its roots. There are no embellishments or ornaments on these wheels - yet its minimalist look and distinct Italian DNA speaks volumes.

The inside is high-tech with many gauges and toggle switches. The electric and heated seats came in handy as temperatures dipped. They cost $4,300, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the price of the matte paint. While visually stunning, it costs a whopping $30,890.

On the plus side, you don't have to pay for standard items such as frontal airbags, side head-thorax airbags, ABS, four-wheel-drive, dual-zone climate control, a stereo system with USB interface, sports seats, leather upholstery and bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights shaped in a funky Y pattern. Luggage space is sparse - there's only 110 litres of room at the front of the vehicle.

The 2010 LP560-4 Spyder hits Canadian dealerships this summer; despite the economy and its hefty price tag of $272,700, consumers are still lining up to buy one. So far, 350 have been preordered worldwide and there's still a six-month waiting list.

Don't despair - hopefully by the time you take possession, the economy will have taken a turn for the better, too.

pgentile@globeandmail.com

****

2010 Lamborghini GALLARDO LP560-4 SPYDER

Type: Two-passenger exotic convertible

Base Price: $272,700

Engine: 5.2-litre, DOHC, V-10

Horsepower/Torque: 560 hp/398 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed clutch-less manual with paddles

Drive: All-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 21 city/10 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Ferrari F430 Spider, Aston Martin DBS Volante, Bentley Continental GTC Speed, upcoming 2010 Maserati Gran Turismo Spyder

****

Like

  • Fantastic driving dynamics
  • Aggressive styling
  • Rear-view camera
  • Easy-to-operate roof
  • Lower CO{-2} emissions and fuel consumption

****

Don't like

  • Thirsty
  • Luggage space sparse
  • Price tag and cost of options

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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