The car: Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Spyder Performante
The power: 5.2-liter, direct-injected V-10 making 570 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. Six-speed automated manual transmission with three shift modes and paddle shifters.
The speed: 0-62 mph in 3.9 seconds; top speed 201 mph
The bragging rights: Lamborghini's lightest, most powerful all-wheel drive Gallardo convertible
The price: $250,100, including $2,100 gas-guzzler tax
The details: What's in a name? The "LP" stands for Longitudinale Posteriore. It sounds like a description of Sophia Loren's backside, but it actually refers to the positioning of the engine. A longitudinally-mounted engine means the crankshaft is parallel to the length of the car.
The 570 refers to the horsepower (the better to differentiate yourself from the plebian buyer of the Gallardo 560-4 Spyder).
The 4 means the car is all-wheel drive.
Spyder means it's a convertible.
Performante references the car's lighter weight over the standard 560-4 Spyder; Lamborghini boasts that this model is 143 pounds lighter than the 560-4 Spyder. It manages this weight loss through the extensive use of carbon fiber; exterior components include the rear decklid covering the engine and soft top, the rear spoiler, door sills and diffuser. Inside, carbon fiber covers the door panels, seat shells and center console cover. Alcantara covers every other surface.
The drive: Imagine the Audi R8 V-10 Spyder's bawdy Italian cousin; more chest hair, more noise, more fun. The car fires up with a quick, loud cackle, but then settles down to a moderate idle that gets progressively louder with speed. Toggling up from Auto to Sport Auto to Corsa not only quickens the transmission's shift times, but also dials up the amount of noise with which you can inundate those in the slow lane as you blast past. Or so I'm told.
With all-wheel drive providing grip and almost 400 pound-feet of torque, entering and exiting turns at speed is an exercise in ego-magnification. Normal torque-split is 30% power to the front wheels, 70% to the rear and there is a dash of oversteer coming out of the turns. The suspension is stiffer than a stock 560-4 Spyder and body roll is nary an issue. Steering feel on the rack-and-pinion system is impeccable; direct, communicative and responsive to quick inputs or corrections.
The e-gear transmission lags a bit when upshifting in Auto or Sport Auto mode; drivers should remember this is a transmission with a single clutch, so shifts won't be as fast or smooth as a car with a dual-clutch setup. But the system reads your circumstances well; it was rare that I had to manually override the transmission's selected gear when battling turns. Click the transmission into the fully-manual "Corsa" mode and the car goes into full "Italiano" mode; the exhaust gets louder, the shifts get aggressive.
Around town, this Gallardo is fairly easy to drive. Cabin noise is minimal with the top up or down. If I had my druthers, I would skip the sport seats on this Lambo though. While a stiff ride is expected on a performance-oriented variant like this, it's exacerbated by seats with padding as thin as your date's dress. I'd be fine trading a small weight penalty for an additional modicum of comfort.
The takeaway: The traditionally Italian Gallardo after a shot of grappa.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times