Faster, lighter, stronger
When you’re in the business of manufacturing highly stratified vehicles that slot into the super-sports category, your objective is the same, year in and year out: Add more power, strip away more weight, fine-tune your design DNA, establish more exclusivity and, thus, create more desire.
This is the precise tack Lamborghini have taken with their latest creation, the 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera.
For those readers whose Italian is not quite up to snuff, the key word in the model name is the last one, which translates to “super light.” Of course, the “570” part is also significant—this car boasts 10 more horsepower than the “base” Gallardo LP560-4. But what do all these words and numbers mean?
First things first: The Superleggera is largely a thinly disguised race car, so the fine people at Lamborghini decided that all driving impressions would be gathered at the track—specifically, the Montebello Circuit in southwestern Spain. A smart choice.
For the track sessions, a lead-and-follow format was used: one professional pace driver tailed by three journalists. The first session was all about learning the turns—the layout chosen was a fairly tight one with two moderately fast corners and one long straightaway—and getting familiar with the capabilities of the car.
As mentioned, the Superleggera features more horsepower than the regular Gallardo; both cars are powered by the same direct-injection 5.2-litre V10, but the new model receives a revised engine management system that creates the 10 extra markers—up from 560 to 670—and cuts emissions as well. Torque remains the same at 540 Nm, peaking at 6,500 rpm. (So, yes, this V10 is a bit of a screamer.)
The other major development is the slashing of 70 kg from the regular Gallardo’s curb weight through the extensive use of carbon fibre. The car’s front splitter, rocker panels, undertray, rear diffuser and engine cover are all made of the stuff—very strong, very light, very expensive.
As a result, the manufacturer estimates that the Superleggera will blast from 0-100 km/h in just 3.4 seconds with the launch control feature engaged—three-tenths faster than the Gallardo—and there’s really no reason whatsoever to doubt them.
The car rockets out of the gates with the kind of effortless acceleration that very few cars in any price range can manage. For the most part, the e-gear 6-speed automatic transmission keeps pace with the proceedings, although the hesitation between shifts is still on the violent side.
To be sure, the Superleggera is in fairly urgent need of a dual-clutch transmission to bring added layers of smoothness to the driving experience. I’m left wondering why one hasn’t been fitted to this car or its close relative, the Audi R8, considering parent company Volkswagen has come close to perfecting the technology with the Bugatti Veyron. (A cost and/or complexity issue, no doubt.)
Enough grousing, though, because the quality of the transmission actually helps to define the Gallardo as an uncompromising super-sports car. Not too thrilled with being punched in the kidney every time you upshift? Tough luck because the higher you rev the Superleggera—redline is 8,500 rpm—the more brutal the shifts become. But this is all part of the fun.
Along the track’s many short straights, the Lamborghini proved its mettle, the sprints coming out of one corner and barreling towards the next seeming like a jet ride through turbulent skies. Top speed is a lofty 325 km/h, but we were reigned in down the long straight to somewhere around 250 km/h.
The corners themselves were opportunities to experience the car’s incredible all-wheel drive system, which is all too capable of putting the power to the ground. The system maintains a 30/70 front/rear bias and features a limited-slip differential, so most of the power is sent to the rear wheels and a truly racy driving experience is created. The specially designed Pirelli P Zero Corsa 19-inch tires help out by generating prodigious levels of grip. And the steering is remarkably direct—very minor inputs create very immediate results.
The traction control system has four settings from fully on to certifiably insane; with the system in the moderately relaxed Corsa mode, the back end can be coaxed around a bit and the front end will wash out if turns are entered with excess aggression. Although the all-wheel drive system is always on, this car is more neutral handling than others with similar layout and underpinnings, including the R8.
The Superleggera also benefits from improved aerodynamics and more total downforce than the Gallardo. The fully covered underbody is the reason, along with a redesigned rear diffuser and a small rear spoiler (that can be replaced with a larger optional spoiler).
The suspension system on the Superleggera is very much racier than that of the Gallardo. The new car is stiffer, the anti-roll bars are more robust and the damping force has increased by 20%.
The track featured an incredibly smooth surface, but there were two noticeable ripples before one quick and sweeping left-hand turn and a rise just before the braking point for the hairpin. In the Superleggera, these minor imperfections were very noticeable, so I’d guess that the car would not take to rough roads at all.
Given that the Superleggera is such an extreme car, you’d expect it to be uncomfortable with various bits jabbing you in the ribs, the steering wheel being either too far away or too close, and the pedals offset to one side or the other. This is not the case; the car boasts the kind of single-minded design normally reserved for full-bred race cars, with more than a few comfort features thrown in for good measure.
Climbing inside is relatively easy, the seats are well-shaped and the steering wheel tilts into place nicely. The shift paddles attached to the steering column are within easy reach (although I prefer them attached to the wheel) and the visibility forward is good.
Beyond that, the interior is also incredibly beautiful. Almost the entire cabin is swathed in black Alcantara, including the seats; almost every other surface is covered in carbon fibre. In fact, the lightweight material is used to construct the door panels, seats and transmission tunnel cover. Other fantastic touches include the aluminium pedals, leather strap door pulls and flat-bottomed steering wheel covered in suede. Absolutely stunning.
The 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera is very special—and as close to a real race car as you can get without bolting in a roll cage and strapping on a four-point racing harness (both of which happen to be on the options list). Towards the end of the track test—some 30 progressively faster laps for each driver over the course of about four hours—the brakes on certain cars did start to smoke and fade. The cure for this is also found on the options list: carbon fibre-ceramic discs.
The only question with regard to this new super-sports car is whether it’s worth the price of admission. The Gallardo tips the scales at US$205,000; the Superleggera costs another US$32,600—a not-insignificant premium. If I were in the market for this car, I’d go full-bore, selecting the Superleggera with all the performance options…and then head straight to the track to test out that top speed claim.
Prices for Australia to follow but expect to pay between AUD$540,000 and AUD$550,000 and if you've got this kind of coin and you've driven the previous LP 540-4 Supperleggera, you won't bat an eyelid.