At 12,198 feet, Mount Teide might be the highest point in all of the territories that comprise Spain and one of the main tourist sites in the Canary Islands. But on this particular Thursday in March, at the parking lot of the viewing center nestled in the volcanic rock near its summit, El Teide is definitely a second-string attraction for the tourists milling about. That's because the mountain, which last erupted in 1909, has been upstaged by the fleet of 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyders that just came roaring in. A single example of the ragtop version of the revised Gallardo coupe that debuted last year would garner attention wherever it went, even if it were painted generic silver. But what we have here at the top of Tenerife is a flotilla of more than a dozen Gallardo Spyders painted dayglow yellow, electric lime green, brilliant blue, matte black, and crisp white with black wheels, among other eye-popping shades. The cabins are just as colorful and enticing, every inch of them lined with exquisitely detailed leather. (Our favorite? Pearlescent white paint over rich, dark brown hides. Scrumptious.)
So, all around the parking lot, wives are aiming cameras at husbands who are posing next to Gallardos, video cameras are rolling, and the mountain is being ignored. We raise the rear lid on our car, a process that involves the use of both electric and hydraulic motors, and a scrum of tourists rushes over to point their cameras at the 5.2-liter V-10 engine that lies, resplendent, behind the passengers. Who can blame these people? Mount Teide has been here for millions of years, and if the citizens of Tenerife are fortunate, it will be here awhile longer before it erupts again. The Lamborghinis, though, are leaving, heading back down to the coast, and fast.
Fast is the operative word, because the latest Gallardo Spyder is one of the quickest ragtops in the world, with Lamborghini claiming a 0-to-62-mph time of 4.0 seconds - likely a conservative number - and a breathtaking top speed of 201 mph (with the top in place, thank you, not that we tried it). These figures are made possible by the fact that the Gallardo Spyder weighs some 44 pounds less than its predecessor, although it also weighs about 220 pounds more than the coupe, due to its extra structural reinforcements and roof-opening mechanisms. And with a 3417-pound dry weight, it can hardly be called light.
The E-gear single-clutch automated manual transmission has come a long way since the Gallardo debuted in 2003, when it lurched and hesitated. Now, it has eclipsed Ferrari's similar F1 unit in around-town driving. E-gear also comes with a launch-control mode that almost merits the gearbox's $10,000 price. Find a straight piece of road - preferably not in your own neighborhood - select Corsa mode, turn off the stability control, depress the brake pedal with your left foot, and hit the gas. Revs automatically rise to 5200 rpm and stay there; you lift your left foot, and the Gallardo erupts forward, all four Pirellis scorching the tarmac in a squealing, smoking override (abuse, really) of the all-wheel-drive system. Leave it in Corsa mode, and the shifts are brutally, violently quick. Now that E-gear is so good, Lamborghini president and CEO Stephan Winkelmann is almost disdainful of the standard-equipment manual transmission and predicts that the take rate, currently one to two percent, will soon fall to zero. Why, then, isn't E-gear standard?
As a whole, the Gallardo Spyder feels like a more complete and well-engineered effort than the car we first drove in Miami three years ago. The steering is nicely weighted, although perhaps not quite as urgently communicative as one would like; the car is easy to place in a corner; and all-wheel drive provides tremendous grip. An excellent backup camera (optional), clear ergonomics, and good visibility make the Gallardo relatively easy to live with day-to-day.
There's reason to believe that a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, which starts at $225K and can easily be larded with another $50K in options, is exactly the wrong car for our times, and Winkelmann acknowledges that Lamborghini sales have slowed considerably. But the reception the Gallardo received at Mount Teide might help you justify the purchase of one. How can something that brings so much pleasure to others be considered a selfish indulgence?