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Autoweek: 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

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Taming of the Bull

With Gallardo Spyder, well-paid secretaries—er, executive assistants—never had it so good

By J.P. VETTRAINO

AutoWeek | Published 02/20/06, 8:33 am et

AT A GLANCE:

2006 LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO SPYDER

ON SALE: March

BASE PRICE: $195,000

POWERTRAIN: 5.0-liter, 520-hp, 376-lb-ft V10; awd, six-speed manual

DRY WEIGHT: 3461 lbs

0 to 62 MPH: 4.3 seconds (mfr.)

Nothing terribly complicated here, right? Gallardo Spyder is an evolution of the faster-than-Ferrari baby Lambo, which is already the bestselling Lamborghini ever. Two years after its launch the V10 Gallardo Coupe (“Lambo Chops,” July 28, 2003) did something the Diablo took 10 years to achieve, reaching 3000 sales.

Times are good in Sant’ Agata. Counting the V12 Murciélago, Lamborghini’s annual sales have increased five times in four years, to 1600 in 2005. Lambo’s managers predict 1800 to 1900 deliveries in 2006. They insist this 20 percent growth rate is “measured,” maintaining both quality and exclusivity. Automobili Lamborghini has made money four straight years—a rarity through its 43-year history. A wholly owned subsidiary of Audi AG since 1998, Lamborghini is thriving. Management credits the product, particularly the all-wheel-drive Gallardo.

The management isn’t quite as Italian as it once was. Lamborghini’s board of directors is German. CEO Stephan Winkelmann’s long, dark hair and mutton-chop sideburns look stereotypical Italian, but he is German. So is Dominik Hoberg, director of corporate image. Marketing manager Manfred Fitzgerald is American. The highest-ranking Italian is R&D chief Gabrielle Gabrielli.

Objectives for the ’06 Spyder matched those for the Coupe, according to Gabrielli: “Purity, athleticism and sharpness, with technical superiority” over an unnamed competitor—obviously the Ferrari F430 Spider.

The Gallardo Spyder’s aluminum spaceframe gets typical roadster structural enhancements, primarily through the sills and A-pillars. Its rear spoiler extends and retracts automatically, like the Coupe’s. Downforce on both axles is roughly the same as that on the Coupe. At 3461 pounds dry, the Spyder weighs 300 pounds more than the Gallardo Coupe (and the rear-drive F430 Spider, by published figures). Yet Gabrielli notes that with 11,000 lb-ft required to generate one degree of flex, the Spyder frame is “remarkably rigid.” More rigid than an open Ferrari? “Yes. For sure. A lot.”

Gallardo’s convertible top is about a foot tall, so when it’s closed this Spyder is like a speedster. Hold the button in front of the gearshift, and in about 25 seconds two motors and six hydraulic rams lift the top from the windshield frame, slide the carbon fiber engine cover back, fold the top around the engine and then slide the cover back into place. Voilà, a Spyder, and a head-turner it is.

All sharp creases and angles, the Gallardo might be more engaging as a roadster. The roll-over bars are hidden; the free-standing glass rear window is nearly invisible, even when it is raised as a wind blocker.

For thrust, the 5.0-liter V10 is modified in both coupe and roadster by massaging the ports. Yes, this engine shares its bore centers and flattish 90-degree angle with Audi’s corporate V8, but they haven’t built the Audi yet with more than 100 naturally aspirated horsepower per liter. Power increases by 20 hp to 520 hp at 8000 rpm; torque peaks at 376 lb-ft at 4250 rpm, with at least 300 lb-ft available from 1500 rpm, thanks to fully variable valve timing.

Bottom line, the V10 delivers 39 hp more than the F430’s V8. With new (generally lower) gear ratios, the Gallardo Spyder goes from 0 to 62 mph in 4.3 seconds, according to Lamborghini, or one-tenth quicker than the lighter 2005 Coupe. Velocity peaks at 196 mph, top up—at least 3 mph faster than the F430 Spider, Lambo claims.

The Gallardo Spyder shares the rest of its running gear with the Coupe: permanent awd with viscous clutch transfer, Pirelli PZeros on 19-inch rims, eight-piston brakes front, four-piston rear, with a full complement of stability and ABS electronics from Bosch. Sophisticated, perhaps, but Lambo would not allow high-speed test runs around Homestead-Miami Speedway for fear that wheel-speed differential might confuse the electronics, which can reactivate in a crisis even when they are switched off (so they said).

We had to content ourselves with a thrash through the Homestead infield course, a long-ago encounter with a 25th Anniversary Countach at Willow Springs floating somewhere in the gray matter.

Even with Gallardo’s so-called cab-forward design, the driver sees none of the aluminum bodywork beyond the base of the windshield. Yet, measured against Countach recollections, this Spyder is remarkably civilized and stable. It pushes some into bends of various radii, probably more than a Porsche 911, and is generally neutral thereafter. Force-feeding power can get the rear wheels sliding as the tires reach the grip limit, but only by inches. The electronics are more restrictive than we might choose, but they work beautifully. They brake or throttle back smoothly and unobtrusively, keeping this bull on the straight and narrow, and allowing the impression that a driver is better than he or she might actually be.

The same goes for e.gear—Lamborghini’s automated sequential-shift six-speed, which works as well or better than other transmissions of its type. Full-throttle upshifts are best, except perhaps for quick downshifts. The same applies to the other makes, certainly, but e.gear seems less jarring or annoyingly obtrusive at part- throttle, even when the Spyder is dawdling, and more like a conventional automatic.

Call us old-fashioned, but we’ll still take the full manual and clutch pedal. It is less about effect or execution and more about interaction. (And does anyone actually commute in these cars anyway?) Even with traditional machined steel gates, the shifter and clutch sync smoothly—more like a Miata than a Countach.

Claims about comparative torsional rigidity aside, this Spyder is as tight and free of shimmy as open cars get circa 2006. On generally smooth pavement like that dissecting south Florida, the only thing separating the Gallardo Spyder from a good coupe is the roar.

This Lambo is loud when you nail it—louder, we would estimate, than anything else you can buy at a new-car dealership. The noise is sweeter, too, wilder, and it wells up over the doors and spills into the cockpit and mixes with the wind and acceleration. Simply running the Gallardo full-throttle out in second gear in a straight line delivers a visceral rush few street cars can match in any circumstances. Top up? Assuredly, the car does not look as cool with the top up, but beyond that we have no judgment because we did not drive it with the top up. (If you expect such when it is 83 degrees in January, you have the problem.)

The full-bore roar is as wild as the Gallardo gets. At times the noise seems like a juxtaposition. Work the throttle less forcefully, trying to isolate sound from the rest, and what impresses is how tame this wildest of super-sport makes has grown. The ride is quite smooth, really. Steering is light, and the car is easy to shepherd just about anywhere.

The nav system and climate controls are lifted straight from Audi. That’s good, though the icon text message display between the gauges is a bit much. A backup camera comes standard (there is less visibility over the back of the car than over the front), and so does a lift mechanism that raises the front end nearly two inches to cross speed bumps or enter driveways. The Gallardo Spyder could be the first secretary’s Lamborghini, in a figurative sense.

At $195,000, it’s $50,000 more than a Coupe. Add $10,000 for e.gear. Lamborghini expects a much higher share of e.gear Spyders than Coupes—as many as 80 percent—and more women buyers. The nav system is optional, and it can be equipped for television reception.

The Spyder will increase Lamborghini output by about 300 cars and could account for up to half of Gallardo production. Some 350 Spyders are earmarked for the United States— where California takes more Lambos than any other country or the rest of the states combined—and 30 for Canada.

Link: http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti.../VEHICLEREVIEWS

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