Autos: Bull Speed Ahead

The name Superleggera (Italian for "superlight") is nothing new to Lamborghini’s baby bull. Only three years have passed since weight-shedding was applied to the Superleggera Gallardo, which—despite its overly responsive carbon-ceramic brakes—was the first modern-day Lamborghini to challenge the handling capabilities of Ferrari’s road cars. More than 600 Superleggera models were sold in its only year of production; the limited edition was discontinued to make way for its successor, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4, Robb Report’s 2009 Car of the Year.

Today the popular moniker returns for the 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera, which is based on the LP 560-4 model. The car’s lightness is achieved, in part, by the use of polycarbonate in place of traditional glass for the engine cover and rear windows. The carbon-fiber composite seats, door panels, rear-wing spoiler, and side mirrors further reduce the load, making this Superleggera the first Gallardo to have a curb weight of less than 3,000 pounds. Even the Lotus Evora weighs more.

The Superleggera was engineered with an emphasis on weight reduction, but Lamborghini still chose to squeeze an additional 10 hp out of the new car’s 5.2-liter V-10 engine, which derives from the LP 560-4, to compete with the Superleggera’s closest competitor, the Ferrari 458 Italia. Both Italian manufacturers claim that their new cars accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds, and each vehicle has an official top speed of 202 mph.

Unfortunately the Ferrari 458 Italia was not available for side-by-side comparison with the Superleggera, nor was Circuito Monteblanco—the newly built racetrack just outside of Seville, Spain, where Lamborghini provided a fleet of Superleggera models for media testing—equipped with a sufficiently long straightaway to accommodate top-speed runs. However, the 1.5-mile course, with multiple high-speed corners and a half-mile straightaway, was the perfect venue to test the Superleggera’s outstanding handling prowess. Like its lightweight architecture, the Superleggera’s sport-tuned suspension benefited from engineering concepts found in the Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo competition-only racecar. Simply put, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera was built for the track.

During warm-up laps, the 2011 Superleggera was surprisingly more docile than its predecessor. The quick shifts from Lamborghini’s E-gear transmission and the refined carbon-ceramic brakes (a $15,600 option) helped our test vehicle remain predictable through every corner. To intensify the experience, the driver simply presses the Corsa button in the center console. Corsa mode not only suspends all traction controls by deactiving the electronic stability program (ESP) system, but also makes the gearshifts more aggressive and opens a valve in the exhaust to exaggerate the sound of Lamborghini’s monstrous V-10 engine. With these adjustments, the Superleggera really shows its strengths. The steering is spot-on at any speed, and this version overcomes the standard car’s tendency to understeer—a drawback of the Gallardo line’s mid-engine configuration—thanks to its outstanding suspension and all-wheel-drive layout.

Thankfully, the all-new Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera comes standard with steel brakes for owners who are more interested in weekend cruising along the coast than recording lap times on the track. But regardless of one’s personal preference, the pleasure of driving the best-handling Lamborghini ever built is well worth the Superleggera’s $237,600 base price.

 

Lamborghini, www.lamborghini.com

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