Milan is a city I know only too well. That said, it continues to impress me at every turn with its unique combination of fashion, art and history. Getting here is easy by plane, train or car. But until this day, I have never arrived with such fanfare.
The streets are buzzing with excitement as I pass, waist-high, a ghostly white spectre on a dark and dreary rain-soaked evening. Though my ego may choose to think so, it is not me they are staring at, but what I am driving that excites everyone around me.
The shape of the 2013 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder looks dazzling in the rain. Inside, it feels somewhat awkward at low speeds on cobblestones, especially because the uneven road surface is slick with water. I try with modest success to squeeze between buses, taxis and the ever-present scooters, motorcycles and pedal bikes. It's a nightmare on many fronts, but equally intoxicating.
Somehow, there always seems to be just enough space to keep going, so I press on towards my goal of the Park Hyatt Milan. I take a chance and follow several taxis down a narrow, poorly lit back alley. My female navigation co-pilot is pleased with the choice. So far so good. Within seconds, all concern vanishes as I abruptly arrive in the driveway of the hotel. Twisting the key, the engine stops and for the moment, all is quiet. Ah, but this is Italy and the night is still young.
The 2012 Paris Motor Show held recently in September saw the introduction of not one, but several new Lamborghini Gallardo supercars. A bevvy of leggy models stood on the platform, causing cameras to click and whir at a rapid pace as each photographer sought the perfect angle for car and cleavage. Auto shows are a Milan fashion show on steroids as heavy metal and leather of every kind are on glorious display.
For a seasoned car journalist like me, the uniqueness of seeing a new exotic car up close and personal at a show quickly wanes and I am consumed with a desire to get behind the wheel and drive. Tempted as I am, I have always resisted the urge to grab the keys, drive off the platform and accelerate on to public roads. Up to now, that is.
It took Lamborghini only a month to offer me the opportunity to be one of the first to drive the new Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder in Italy. How could I resist. They would provide me with a full tank of fuel and leave me on my own for several days to drive wherever I chose. Exiting the factory in Sant'Agata Bolognese, Milan seemed perfect and so it is that I find myself here today.
The new Lamborghini Gallardo Coupe and Spyder are similar in many ways to the previous model, but with several exciting changes. Both the front and rear sections of the car are dramatically revamped. Extreme angles and razor-sharp lines have somehow managed to become even more pronounced. Massive triangles and trapezoids fill the space where most other exotic cars offer large round openings and curves. The look is meant to be sinister. It works, in both the marketplace and on the street; Gallardo is a smash success.
Power comes in rampant bursts from the 5.2-litre 90-degree V10 DOHC engine. Performance numbers specify 560 horsepower at 8,000rpm and 397lb per ft of torque at 6,500rpm. Matched to a six-speed E-gear transmission, shifting takes place using paddle-shifters located on the steering wheel. Permanent four-wheel drive with viscous traction control keep all four tires firmly planted to the ground. Zero to 100km/h takes 4.0 seconds. Top speed is set at 324km/h.
Passion on four wheels is the best way to describe the exhaust note of the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. Parked at the hotel entrance in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a crowd has gathered nearby to enjoy a concert conducted by several gifted local artisans. The music is heartening as it bounces off the great glass dome above, echoing through the halls occupied by elite shops and coffeehouses.
Everyone is captivated to the point of ecstasy. As for me, the opportunity is too rich and I simply can't help myself. Taking the keys from the valet, I open the driver's door, insert the key, place my foot firmly on the gas pedal and turn the key. The rapturous engine note is sent heavenward as every head immediately turns to the source.
The chorus doesn't miss a beat. Musical instruments are sacred vessels to be played with absolute proficiency, especially here in the land of Pavarotti and Stradivarius. But as I suspected, the assembled crowd understands what it is they just experienced. Instruments come in many shapes and sizes. This one just happens to have 10 cylinders, quad exhaust pipes and seating for two.
Stopping is never an issue in the Gallardo. Premium brake performance is guaranteed with eight-cylinder front and four-cylinder rear aluminium alloy brake calipers. Anti-lock brakes, ESP, ASR (traction control) and ABD (automatic brake-force distribution) are standard. Giant Pirelli P-Zero tires grab the asphalt attached to 19-inch alloy wheels. Steering is power-assisted rack-and-pinion.
Leather seats are firm yet compliant to almost any shape. Carbon fibre and aluminium dominate the centre console. The toggle switches take a few minutes to get accustomed to, but work flawlessly. The fully electric soft top opens and closes rapidly, providing a crowd-pleasing show on numerous occasions for my ever-present entourage. Alcantara lines the steering wheel making it easy to stay connected and in control.
Leaving Milan behind, I jump in the fast lane of the A1 highway for a cross-country tour. Speed is not unlimited here, as it is on several highways throughout Germany. But I cruise along in tandem with several other fast cars at speeds that would have my license revoked almost anywhere else in the world. A quick exit off the highway and I am soon enjoying the roads Italy is most notorious for — one-and-a-half lane roads disguised as two.
Vineyards recede in steady succession as I glance in the rearview mirror. I lose all track of time, my world revolves around upshifts and downshifts; impossible right turns followed by improbable lefts. This is the call of the new 2013 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder, not sitting under spotlights on a stage in Paris. Next time, I may reconsider taking the keys at the show and letting the bull run free of its pen, no matter the consequences. As Ernest Hemmingway once stated: “The bulls are my best friends.” Olé!
2013 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder
Model: Two-door convertible
Configuration: Mid-engine/all-wheel drive.
Engine/transmission: 5.2L 10-cylinder/
Power/torque: 560hp/397 lb/ft
Fuel (capacity): Premium (80L)
Fuel economy ratings: 13.8L/100km city, combined
Warranties: Three years/unlimited km (basic)
Competitors: Aston Martin V12 Vantage, Ferrari 458 Italia, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Porsche 911 Turbo S