Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

Mixing Italian panache with German efficiency, the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder is more than just the Murcielago's little brother, says Sean O'Grady

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: £131,000
Engine: Petrol V10; 4,961cc
Performance: Top speed: 195 mph (roof closed); 190 mph (roof open). 0 to 60mph in 4.3 seconds.
CO2: 400g/km
Worth considering: Ferrari F430 Open; Aston Martin DB9 Volante; Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG

We take our pleasures where we can here at Independent Motoring. So when we were offered the chance to take a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder round the Millbrook proving ground, we grabbed it.

We were piggy-backing on an event for prospective Lamborghini owners, who get a little more than the usual run round the block with the salesperson. Our panel certainly enjoyed the experience, which included a few laps of the speed bowl, an attempt to see just how fast we could go on the one-mile straight, and the simulated Alpine driving circuit, full of hairpins. Our time at Millbrook was rounded off with some professional drivers showing us what the Gallardo can do in the right hands.

So what of it? First, the Gallardo's style. It really is a mini-me to the Dr Evil that is the Lamborghini Murcielago. There's a 4.9-litre V10 in place of a 6.5-litre V12, so things aren't that downsized. Crucially, the Murcielago's angular lines translate well to the smaller car, especially in Spyder form, so you gain most of the Murcielago's menacing presence at a fraction of the cost. On the road, telling them apart by looks isn't easy and both squeal and roar in the same heavy-metal idiom.

Second, there's how the Gallardo goes. Here, the proving ground came into its own, with speeds and conditions just not possible on public roads. It is, in brief, a superbly stable, agile performer, almost as rapid as big brother but much more nimble. You shouldn't get into trouble, in any sense, in a Gallardo: it's easier to control than most peers.

And it ought not to break down. Although it's built - as almost every Lambo has been for the past 43 years - at Sant'Agata Bolognese, there's an awful lot of engineering expertise in there from Audi. Lamborghini has been part of the Volkswagen/Audi group since 1998, and you should expect the quality and reliability of this product to be far superior to that of the gorgeous but troublesome Miuras, Countachs and Diablos.

Indeed, Audi is now liberating some of the technology it lent to Lamborghini, such as that magical V10 engine and compact all-wheel-drive transmission. The forthcoming Audi R8 sports car, initially packing a V8, may in time use both and be cheaper than a Gallardo. Well, it is stunning, and it will go superbly - just like a Gallardo, in fact - but when you are spending this sort of money on a car, which would you rather have: a Lamborghini with an Audi badge, or an Audi with a Lamborghini badge?

David McDougall, 37, works in insurance, Milton Keynes

USUAL CAR: MERCEDES 190E

The first thing that strikes you about the Gallardo is that it is a relatively compact supercar. It has retained Italian flair but is now complemented by German quality and functionality. To put the roof down takes less than a minute. There is ample leg- and headroom and the build quality is first class. The clutch and gearbox offer no problems and the acceleration is phenomenal. Handling in corners is fantastic and with the four-wheel drive you never feel you are going to lose the rear end. Travelling at high speeds is relaxed, even with the roof down. If you want a soft-top car with looks, power, handling and pedigree you'll be happy if you pick the Gallardo.

Jeremy Maynard, 42, accountant , Harpenden, Herts

USUAL CAR: MINI COOPER

I wondered how to write about this car without sounding like a gushing schoolboy, but decided in the end that's what it deserves. The driving position is first rate, making you feel attached to the car. The switchgear looks good and works well. The ride quality surpasses any expectations I had of a supercar. But the pièce de résistance is the engine. From the first note as it roars into life, the lion's purr at idle, the sonorous but menacing tone as you drive normally to the explosive howl as you accelerate. It's like listening to your favourite soundtrack. Being 1.89m tall, I could feel the roof lining but it becomes a forgettable niggle. I could buy the convertible instead.

John McDowall, 40, London taxi driver, Hertford

USUAL CARS: CITROEN C3, TAXI CAB

It is hard not to have a few preconceptions about test-driving the Lamborghini. It looks fabulous, while the interior is a glorious cocoon of leather and carbon fibre. The acceleration, braking and road holding are jaw-droppingly astonishing. Of course, such a machine will be a brute to drive. Well, actually no. It's wider than you're used to and the major controls are a touch heavier than your average saloon but it is very drivable - at least in the dry! Are there any downsides? Well it doesn't do much for your green credentials and there is that silly, inane "I've just driven a Gallardo" grin that you wear for several hours after getting out of the driver's seat.

THE VERDICT

If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@independent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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