2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder

Vital Stats

Engine:
5.2L V10
Power:
550 HP / 398 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed SCT
0-60 Time:
3.9 Seconds
Top Speed:
198 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,351 LBS
Seating:
2
MPG:
13 City / 20 HWY
Rear-Wheel Drive Is Key To The Enthusiast's Soul



Lamborghini has created so many Gallardo models over the past eight years that it appears to be peddling more flavors than Baskin-Robbins. The Italian automaker has mixed and matched engines, powertrains, paint colors and upholsteries to fabricate such variants as the SE, Super Trofeo, Nera, Bicolore, Tricolore, Valentino Balboni, Blancpain Edition, Superleggera, Spyder Performante, Super Trofeo Stradale, along with limited editions for Malaysia and Singapore, not to mention the Noctis, a variant developed exclusively for Chinese markets.

But only one is my favorite.

The Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder is the quintessential enthusiast's Lamborghini, the perfect choice for public roads. Beneath its crisp exterior is a 550-horsepower V10 mated to an aggressive single-clutch automated gearbox set low in the middle of an aluminum space-frame chassis. What matters to most, however, is that the package has been blessed with traditional rear-wheel drive.

Despite an abundance of exotics claiming to be driver-oriented sports cars, it is rare to find a vehicle that is not only gorgeous to look at, but overdelivers in all measured performance categories. Machines this entertaining – this passionate – should be registered contraband.
2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder side view2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder front view2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder rear view

The Lamborghini Gallardo was launched way back at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show, but the first customers didn't drop behind the wheel for another year. It didn't take long for the two-seater to prove itself, and as of today, more than 12,000 examples have been sold, making it a runaway success for an exotic car.

More than 12,000 Gallardos have been sold, making it a runaway success for an exotic car.

As mentioned, Lamborghini has introduced nearly a dozen different Gallardo variants since its launch. Thankfully, some logical nomenclature eases the difficulty when trying to figure out what is hidden inside each vehicle's aluminum skin. First of all, the "LP" designates the "Longitudinale Posteriore" (longitudinally mid-mounted) engine orientation. The second number generally refers to a rounded metric horsepower figure, and after the dash is a single digit reflecting the number of driven wheels. The remaining verbiage describes the bodystyle (closed-roof Coupé or drop-top Spyder) and special designations.

Today's sled is the Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder. Deciphering its genetic code generates an ear-to-ear smile – it's one of the purest Lamborghini models in recent memory. Think of it as a drop-top version of the rare 2009 LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni, an exclusive rear-wheel-drive model built as a tribute to – you guessed it – Valentino Balboni, Lamborghini's legendary chief test driver. (For you trivia buffs, the 2012 LP 550-2 Spyder represents Lamborghini's first rear-drive convertible since the 1998 Diablo SV Roadster.)

2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder headlight2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder wheel2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder badge2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder taillights

Hidden beneath its lightweight aluminum bodywork is an aluminum chassis with double-wishbone suspension, also crafted in the same lightweight alloy (the front is fitted with hydraulic lift system that eliminates scraping the low nose on driveway aprons – a godsend). Standard models arrive with beefy iron rotors and aluminum calipers, but the one parked in these photographs arrived fitted with the optional carbon-fiber ceramic brake package boasting lightweight 15-inch discs and six-piston calipers at the front, and four-piston units at the rear. Also upgraded are the wheels, forged-alloy Cordelias wearing Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires sized 235/35ZR19 in the front and 295/30ZR19 at the rear.

Mid-mounted and hung low in the chassis to preserve the car's center of gravity is a naturally aspirated dry-sump 5.2-liter V10. The all-aluminum 40-valve powerplant is rated at 550 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque (it carries an EPA fuel economy rating of 13 mpg city and 20 mpg highway). Power is sent to the rear wheels through a 45 percent limited-slip differential, reinforced to handle the increased power of the two-wheel-drive model.

This Gallardo, like nearly all in the hands of customers today, is fitted with the automaker's six-speed single-clutch electro-hydraulic e-gear automatic transmission with paddle shifters mounted on the steering column (the automaker is rumored to be dropping the manual gearbox completely in the next-generation model). For those who don't like to pull a paddle, the company's engineers have pre-programmed Sport and Automatic modes, but the most hardcore setting is the relatively new Corsa mode – its race logic actuation with 40 percent quicker shifts allows larger drift angles and a wider performance envelope.

2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder driving2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder driving2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder driving

The roof takes about 25 seconds to open or close, as the entire rear decklid must be raised out of the way.

Put the Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder on a scale and it will register about 3,351 pounds with a front-to-rear weight distribution of 47 percent/53 percent (the loss of the front driveline saves about 80 pounds overall). Bury the accelerator into the carpet, and the little Lamborghini will bust 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and howl on to a top speed of 198 mph. It is very quick and very fast.

While the Coupe models arrive with a lightweight fixed roof, all Spyder models feature a power-operated soft convertible top with a rear heated window that drops vertically into the firewall immediately behind the occupant's backs. The window can be lowered or raised to serve as a wind blocker when the top is retracted. Operated via a console-mounted switch, the roof takes about 25 seconds to open or close, as the entire rear decklid must be raised out of the way for the collapsed roof to drop into its storage compartment (interestingly enough, service technicians also access the engine through same method).

2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder intake2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder vents2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder badge2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder rear decklid

This particular test car, a 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo 550-2 Spyder, arrived with Blu Caelum paint over Nero Perseus upholstery. The model starts at $209,500, but someone at headquarters went heavy on the options, including the upgraded blue paint ($1,815), navigation system ($3,510), carbon-ceramic brakes ($15,600), full interior leather package ($4,110) plus upgraded hides ($5,530), HomeLink ($360), rearview camera ($2,600), alarm ($665), upgraded wheels ($5,200) and gas guzzler tax ($2,100). Add in the mandatory destination charge ($2,995) and the bottom line reads a tidy $253,985.

Add in the mandatory destination charges and the bottom line reads a tidy $253,985.

The cabin hasn't changed much over the years, meaning only an expert will be able to distinguish between a 2004 and a 2012 model. Nevertheless, it still looks fresh and interesting, especially with its late-model navigation system (thanks Audi). There isn't a drop of fashionable carbon fiber in the 550-2, instead every inch is swathed in supple (and very aromatic) black or ivory leather. It smells fabulous, but it won't be fun to keep clean.

Most enthusiasts, myself included, prefer coupes over convertibles, as they are traditionally lighter and more rigid. In the case of the Gallardo, I make an exception, as my six-foot, two-inch frame finds the cockpit of this particular Italian more than a bit too cozily (Alan Shepard had only a bit less room riding inside Freedom 7). On a racing circuit, my helmeted head doesn't even fit inside the fixed-head coupe without uncomfortably tilting my noggin to one side. The Spyder, lacking the confining roof, solves the problem in an artfully airy manner. Many would argue that the Spyder's near-perfect wedge proportions and lines are sexier that the Coupe's, too.

2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder interior2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder seats2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder paddle shifter2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder drive modes

Fortunately, my Los Angeles driveway is just minutes from some of the world's greatest roads. Mid-week and high noon when the canyons are free of human-powered two-wheeling locals and most tourists in rental cars is the best time to take the brilliant blue Lambo for a long spin along the famed Mulholland Highway, and I was only too happy to oblige.

Driving the 550-2 Spyder on a warm day, top down, through Southern California's canyon roads makes for emotional overload – there really is no other way to describe it.

First, there's the sound. At idle, the V10 has a quick, burbling growl which turns heads for a hundred feet in all directions. Mid-way around the tachometer, at about 4,000 rpm, the note becomes higher and more frenzied, like a fast boil. At just under redline (a stratospheric 8,500 rpm) the engine's ten cylinders are belting out their characteristic high-pitched Italian wail. The scream is so intimidating that wild animals stop bolting across the road, flying insects part a clear path and terrified motorists pull to the side.

Autoblog Short Cuts: 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder

Then there's the power. The naturally aspirated engine responds to throttle input instantly. There is no forced induction lag or delay, just a V10 beckoning to spin the crankshaft right off its bearings. With 550 horsepower sent to the rear tires, wheelspin is but a half-inch of accelerator pedal away, always ready to raise the pulse of the driver. Keep a light foot on the gas and the fat Pirellis will bond with the pavement. Drive with a heavy foot and asphalt-ripping, gravel-spitting oversteer – easily controlled with some steering input – is the rule. No all-wheel-drive vehicle could ever offer this much fun.

Finally, there's the handling. Dumping the front driveshafts and associated hardware lightens the nose noticeably while delivering improved steering feedback. Meanwhile, the Gallardo's quick steering ratio, short wheelbase, wide track and razor-sharp response mean hands stay firmly planted on the three-spoke wheel, even in the tightest of turns. A low center of gravity and firm suspension damping seem to eliminate all traces of body roll. In a tight canyon, the low-slung Gallardo transitions like a shifter kart, dancing from corner to corner as both driver and exhaust cackle in delight.

2012 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder rear 3/4 view

I'd gladly relinquish whole seconds per lap in exchange for this LP 550-2 Spyder.

After trying all of the combinations, I chose to leave the transmission in Sport mode and shift manually with the paddles (they are still too small for truly aggressive driving). The e-gear's Automatic mode wasn't quick enough, and it was jerky, while Corsa mode felt too harsh for public roads. Sport mode with manual control allowed me to hold the gears longer and then crack off jarring sequential upshifts on the straights. Downshifting was just a paddle pull away, accompanied by the engine rev-matching and a glorious backfiring rumble from the exhaust. The brakes, pounded heavily in each corner, never gave up an inch, while the seats held my 190-pound frame firmly in place. The Lamborghini drank gallons and gallons of fuel, expectedly, but its heart hardly skipped a beat.

I've been fortunate enough to drive the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Spyder, LP 550-2 Bicolore Coupé and LP 570-4 Superleggera Coupé on a track at speed. All are unquestionably quicker around a racing circuit, whether through less weight or all-wheel-drive grip. But if offered the choice, I'd gladly relinquish whole seconds per lap in exchange for the warm sun on my face, screaming wail of the engine and tail-happy playfulness of this LP 550-2 Spyder.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 49 Comments
      Custom Street Rides
      • 2 Years Ago
      Absolutely love those wheels. On my Top 10 greatest wheels list. This really is a great car and Lamborghini usually seems to get their wheels right. Jealous of anybody who gets to drive this beautiful machine. Also really love the 2 double tailpipes on the back.
      montegod7ss
      • 2 Years Ago
      Underground Racing needs to make a 1500whp one of these.
      _I_I_II_I_I_
      • 2 Years Ago
      sold!
      Orlando Soler
      • 2 Years Ago
      So basically the new GT500 can smoke this for a fraction of the price... I'm not hating I'm just broke so I have to give credit to affordability.
        telm12345
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Orlando Soler
        yes... as long as the road is completely straight. But i see your point.
        Tom
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Orlando Soler
        Actually ... no. C/D just tested it at 4.0 seconds to 60 (slower), and only 191 mph top speed (less).
          Orlando Soler
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Tom
          C/D tested it at 3.7 0 - 60 and 202 top speed: here is the link: http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2013-ford-mustang-shelby-gt500-prototype-ride-review Your facts are as wrong as putting "191MPH" and "ONLY" together
        Shiftright
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Orlando Soler
        Apple, meet orange...
      Andy
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'd rather have a Balboni (manual). But wow.
        Andy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andy
        I mean, especially if you're getting the convertible, you're clearly not all about ultimate lap times. If it's about feeling and hearing and enjoying the drive, get the third pedal.
      AU3783
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think the mclaren mp4-12c spider (post below) is a better looking car for the money.
      rocketmoose
      • 2 Years Ago
      The world needs more V10s. That sounds utterly entrancing.
        sp33dklz
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rocketmoose
        I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly. I'm tired of big displacement v8's, they all sound the same. Much like the fart-can pedigree that permeated the 1990's with small displacement 4cylinders. I love when engines sound different.
      bperlow
      • 2 Years Ago
      Its an overpriced Audi R8. 0-60 in 3.9? Meh. The porsche turbo convertible can do it faster, and more comfortably. The new Mclaren looks like it'll own this italian POS. Lamborghinis are for showoffy wannabees. At least Underground Racing will fix this car to what it should be. Ill wait to see a test on that one.
        bbostic5
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bperlow
        you obviously don't understand the point of this car
          bperlow
          • 2 Years Ago
          @bbostic5
          for the price of this you can get 2 nissan gtrs and afford to destroy the tranny on 1 during launch control. i think lambos and astons dont give the performance for the money. its a more show than go car. its a car purely to show off and impress the ladies, but not something for serious performance. a zr1 will eat this thing and has a manual transmission. you can spend another 100 k in nice body kits and custom panels and have a better car for the money, lamborghini is no longer the top car for exotics. That was around 1985.
        Tom
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bperlow
        Why would you _need_ to go faster, except to show off?
          LoneWolf
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Tom
          That's a stupid argument. Why would anyone _need_ a $200k+ two seater anyway, except to show off?
      Indubitably
      • 2 Years Ago
      Absolutely LOVE those wheels!
        Michael Harley
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Indubitably
        Yes, the wheels are stunning (on my short list of favorite wheels). - Mike
          ZPrime
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          The wheels look like HREs that are all the rage in the VW scene right now. They look out of place on this car, IMO.
      Xedicon
      • 2 Years Ago
      No roof no want.
      Andre Neves
      • 2 Years Ago
      Beautiful car.
      Keldon
      • 2 Years Ago
      Beautiful car except for the wheels that look like they were pulled straight off the Kmart shelf.
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