Here's a wild ride for you, insanely fast, ridiculously impractical and scandalously expensive. And, man, did I like it.

Purists lament that Gallardo is not a true Lamborghini, fading before the mighty Murcielago and influenced by Audi, the German owner of the Italian car company. But they need to get over it and realize that Gallardo is every bit the supercar, boasting plenty of performance, style and charisma.

Behind the Gallardo's stark and aggressive styling is an ultrasophisticated sports car with shrieking power from a 5-liter V-10 engine that's mounted behind the seats and churns 520 horsepower through all four wheels. The shocking acceleration is like one of those NASA rocket sleds and accompanied by a raucous shriek that you could hear in the next county.

The ragtop Spyder is a new model for 2006, coming two years after the Gallardo coupe first hit the streets as the second, smaller and less-expensive midengine sports car from Lamborghini. Of course, less-expensive is relative when you compare $210,000 for the "baby Lambo" Spyder to its high-profile sibling, the V-12-powered Murcielago roadster, priced at a cool $328,000.

Driving Murcielago may be thrilling, but it's also like piloting a rocket ship. Gallardo is comparatively docile and easy to drive, designed to be an exotic that a wealthy owner could use every day, similar to a Porsche 911 Turbo or a Dodge Viper.

That also puts off the purists, who feel Gallardo is maybe not macho enough. Well, if driving a high-performance supercar that's fit for the real world is a problem, then so be it.

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The lowdown

PERFORMANCE: The vibrant sound of this engine is pure symphony as it rises toward an 8,000-rpm crescendo, a gorgeous accompaniment to the mind-warping acceleration.

The 5-liter V-10, a modification of Audi's V-8, uses variable valve timing and variable intake geometry to achieve 300 pound-feet of torque at just 1,500 rpm, for immediate response.

Gas mileage is dismal, but nobody's buying these things for their economy. advertisement

The six-speed transmission is smooth and easy to shift, with the classic "gated" shifter looking and feeling appropriately macho.

DRIVABILITY: The suspension is stiff but supple, allowing Gallardo to be tossed into turns with amazing grace. No way did I get this craft near its limits, but I enjoyed the quick response from steering, suspension and brakes.

In a nod toward practicality, the front end raises electronically to get the low-slung chin over curb cuts and speed bumps.

STYLING: The exotic shape reflects some of the styling cues of Murcielago, though trimmer. The forward position of the seats, the scoops and airfoils, and the long rear deck boast of the power that lies within.

And showing up anywhere in a Gallardo guarantees instant celebrity status and front-row valet parking.

INTERIOR: My lanky frame was crammed into this small cockpit, and I don't think anyone over 6 feet tall would find comfort here. The dramatically canted windshield is set quite low, and with the top up, headroom is scant.

Fit and finish are beautiful, with a handmade feel to the many yards of leather. Gauges and controls are straightforward, reflecting the Audi influence.

BOTTOM LINE: For those with loads of disposable income, Gallardo has to be on the sports-car shopping list. Lamborghini has already sold 3,000 coupes and roadsters. Everybody loved this car, including my wife, who usually rolls her eyes at such excess.

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Related

Vehicle type: Two-passenger, two-door sports car, all-wheel drive.

Engine: 5-liter V-10, 520 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, 376 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual.

Wheelbase: 100.8 inches.

Overall length: 169.3 inches.

Curb weight: 3,461 pounds.

EPA rating: 9 city, 19 highway.

Highs: Wild acceleration, race-car cornering, awesome styling.

Lows: Tight interior, grim gas mileage, scary price tag.

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Pricing

Base price: $201,400.

Price as tested: $215,143.

OPTIONS

* Leather package, $3,910.

* Power heated seats, $3,340.

* Rear-view camera, $2,600.

* Metallic paint, $1,380.

* Alarm system, $638.

* Custom rims, $575.

* Shipping, $1,300.

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Read more: For more on the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, go to autos.azcentral.com.