The Lightest Lambo: 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, Popular Mechanics, July, 2010
SEVILLE, Spain— In a region famous for its bullfighting rings resides Circuito Monteblanco, a newly built racetrack just 30 miles west of the Andalusian capital. Fittingly, this FIA-approved facility was the site of the international media launch for the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera—the latest raging bull from Sant'Agata.
Lamborghinis, like all sports cars, have gained some serious weight since they debuted in 1963. When the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 arrived in 2009, it was praised for being lighter and more powerful than its predecessor. The new LP570-4 Superleggera, 10 hp fiercer than the LP560-4, is the lightest road-going car in Lamborghini's lineup, and boasts a number of track-inspired tweaks.
The Superleggera weighs in at 3241 pounds, which means it trims 154 pounds of fat off the base Gallardo, thanks mostly to Lamborghini's partnership with Boeing—builders of the composite-intensive 787 Dreamliner. Eighty-eight pounds of the weight savings is due to the implementation of carbon-fiber replacement parts—rear spoiler, side mirrors, seat shells, door panels. Inside, the leather upholstery has been replaced with lighter weight Alcantara, though air conditioning and power windows remain, for civility's sake. Polycarbonate rear and side windows, and a polycarbonate engine cover further reduce mass, and forged-aluminum 19-inch wheels attached with titanium bolts save an additional 28 pounds.
Motivating the remaining mass is a 5.2-liter V10, which produces 10 additional horsepower thanks to a new engine-management strategy. Maximum acceleration is produced in Thrust mode, which dumps the clutch at 5000 rpm; using said electronic trickery, the Superleggera achieves 62 mph in 3.4 seconds—a third of a second quicker than the standard-issue LP560-4—while 124 mph can be reached from a standstill in 10.2 seconds. Lamborghini's eGear automated manual is the standard transmission, though traditionalists can order a gated six-speed manual at no additional cost. Power is routed to all four wheels via a permanent all-wheel-drive system, which uses a central viscous coupling and a default torque split of 30:70, front-to-rear.
Lamborghini used firsthand experience from its Blancpain Super Trofeo race series to retune the Superleggera's suspension and chassis for sharper handling and greater high-speed stability. It's a tight ride. The double-wishbone suspension's shocks are 20 percent stiffer, the antiroll bars are thicker, and the bushings are 90 percent more rigid.
It's stiffer, but it's also slicker. Modified underbody covers, new sill elements, larger front air intakes, and a redesigned rear diffuser help manage airflow. The standard carbon-fiber spoiler produces as much as 50 percent more downforce than the non-Superleggera Gallardo, and an even larger spoiler is available as an option.
To bring this Italian spaceship to a halt, a pair of eight-piston brakes up front and a set of four-piston rear units clamp down hard. Carbon-ceramic brakes are available, equipped with larger 380-mm discs at the front wheels, and two fewer pistons.
The Superleggera is a $32,600 premium over the LP560-4, priced at $237,600. As we discovered at Circuito Monteblanco, it's money well spent.
Although the Gallardo Superleggera lacks the scissor doors found on the flagship MurciŽlago, form-fitting seats and Alcantara signal this car's sporting intentions. Tug on the leather tassel, and the carbon-paneled door seals you inside an austere cockpit decorated with color-coded stitching and a dotted line running across the floor and up the seats. The matte texture of the synthetic suede directs the eye to white-faced gauges and the glint of aluminum pedals resting deep within the footwell.
Turn the key, and the V10's exhaust sound is not quite as raucous as you'd expect for a track-oriented machine. Still, as I ease onto the pit lane and approach turn one of Monteblanco, I'm struck by the quicksilver throttle response and stirring notes produced by four large exhaust pipes.
Warm-up laps unearth a flexible engine and handling prowess that clearly one-ups the LP560-4; even at lower speeds, the Superleggera feels more direct and willing to change direction. But higher velocities reveal more telling aspects of the Superleggera's undercurrents. Pitch the flat-bottomed steering wheel into a high-speed turn, and body rotation is instigated more easily than in the standard Gallardo, accompanied by greater grip and more confidence-inspiring steering feedback. The base car's mild understeer has been largely eradicated. What's left is decisive handling during transitional moments; the Superleggera is capable of following the intended arc and settles quickly out of corners, always ready for more throttle. The accessibility of its raw edges makes the Superleggera livelier, more involving and more entertaining than the LP560-4. Our drive was limited to the track; the Superleggera's transference of minor surface irregularities suggests its ride would be bone-rattling on public roads.
The powerplant's slight horsepower gain may seem nominal, but in concert with the car's lightened weight, the V10 propels the Superleggera with a heightened sense of urgency. The eGear transmission's cog swaps become sharp in Sport mode and downright violent in Corsa, slamming into gears abruptly—though Corsa mode requires you to pull the right paddle yourself to avoid bouncing off the rev limiter. Nail the throttle mid-corner, and the Superleggera power-slides smoothly around apexes.
The Superleggera feels stable at 140 mph along Monteblanco's half-mile straight, but a sudden stab at the left pedal unsettles the car, sending it squirming before the sharp right-hander; it's moments like this that remind me the Superleggera is less forgiving than its milder mannered sibling. However, it's also more rewarding, as proven by an afternoon session in which increasingly quick laps and familiarity with the proper racing line allowed us to exploit the Pirelli P Zero Corsas' considerable grip.
The Bottom Line
Unlike Ferrari's 458 Italia or McLaren's forthcoming MP4-12C, the new Superleggera is more evolution than revolution; an incremental upgrade rather than a game-changing leapfrog. But by shedding mass, massaging its powerplant, and digging further into the potential of its aluminum space-frame chassis, the Superleggera has become a purer expression of an athletic, midengine Italian exotic.
It certainly isn't for everyone, but for enthusiasts who savor the subtleties of precise steering, smooth weight transfer and tempestuous acceleration, it's hard not to stoke the adrenal glands behind the carbon-trimmed wheel of Lamborghini's latest supercar.