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2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera - First Drive

The baby bull all grown up

Karl Funke
Aug 25, 2010 SHARE

I've got to be honest for a moment. I never really liked the Gallardo. I mean really liked it, instead of merely liking it.

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Don't get me wrong; its sheer audacity and extroverted nature, not to mention flat-out speed, made and make it a blast to drive. There just always seemed to be something missing, some gap in the genome that kept it from being entirely convincing.

The new Superleggera changes that. This is definitely a Gallardo I'd own.

"Superleggera" translates to "superlight" and the company's mantra for this model is described simply as "more power, less weight." In addition to shedding about 154 pounds from the Gallardo LP 560-4's dry weight through expanded use of materials like carbon fiber, making it Lamborghini's lightest road car, power output from the mid-rear-mounted V10 is bumped by an additional 10 hp. This gives the Superleggera a power to weight ratio of 5.18 pounds per horsepower unit. The slight power increase was accomplished through engine management trickery; the company also claims improved fuel economy and fewer emissions by upwards of 20 percent.

The lightweight philosophy employed in this car also gives us a glimpse of Lamborghini's future. In the coming years the company will have invested heavily in lightweight technologies like carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), thus pairing the traditional stratospheric engine outputs with increasingly lightweight body shells. Research and development re-investment has been bumped up by more than 30 percent over previous levels according to Lamborghini top brass, and various partnerships have been formed with experts in lightweight material construction, like one recently formed with aerospace pioneer Boeing.

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The Superleggera official press launch could not have been more different than that of the LP 560-4 three years ago. In the middle of the glitzy, neon-soaked hot mess that is Las Vegas, the then-latest Gallardo iteration was touted as a potential fashion accessory. Lamborghini literally put on a fashion show on a 50-foot banquet table that doubled as a runway, complete with long-limbed, sulking Italian models.

This time much more time was given to explore the new car's innate performance capabilities, the whole of the test drive taking place on the newly completed Monteblanco Circuit outside Seville, Spain. It was an ideal venue to generate appreciation for the truly great performer the Gallardo has become: tighter, sharper and more incisive, and yes, even faster. Myriad small changes have added up to an even more visceral driving experience.

In addition to lighter weight, more power, and better efficiency, focus was given to improving overall aerodynamics. The front bumper has been revised with larger corner scoops and a central carbon splitter for better cooling and a dangerous, sharp-edged look-making it look like a baby SV in many respects. The underbody is fully flat and incorporates new sill elements and an aggressive rear diffuser.

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The pictured wing is a factory option and shaped to improve downforce at high speeds. Each test car was also fitted with the optional carbon ceramic brake package, comprising eight-piston aluminum front calipers, four-piston rears, and massive composite brake rotors. Fixed-back carbon seats are standard, and four-point harnesses (available as a factory option) were present in about half of the test cars. Additional race-bred options include an in-cockpit fire extinguisher and a steel roll cage.

A host of aesthetic options are available through Lamborghini's Ad Personum program, including extended carbon interior trim inside both the cockpit and engine bay, contrasting interior stitching, Alcantara everything, and body-colored brake calipers.

Each car was also equipped with the E-gear manu-matic gearbox. According to some sources, only around one percent of Lamborghinis sold worldwide leave the Sant'Agata factory with a stick shift. My only gripe with the automated system is the positioning of the steering column-mounted shift levers, which unlike those on the Murciélago seem positioned somewhat far from the wheel, and the business ends of which are shorter and more difficult to access with your hands cranked at extreme steering angles.

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The E-gear transmission also works part and parcel with the button-activated performance modes: Sport and Corsa, the latter of which offers increased angles of rear slip in spite of the car's variable all-wheel drive.

Chasing Lamborghini chief test driver Giorgio Sanna around the road course at Monteblanco, it's evident all the improvements conspire to make the sum of these parts much more convincing than previous sums. Turn-in is sharper, the steering feel has come alive, the brakes are more easily modulated yet just as brutally forceful. And the acceleration, well, can be best described as LP 640-esque. This Gallardo sprints to 62 mph (100 kph in Euro terms) in an equally incredible 3.4 seconds, according to Lambo's own test data. And it must be pointed out that, quite unlike the murkier days throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when claimed power and performance figures were, shall we say, somewhat optimistic, today Lamborghini seems to err more on the conservative side of things. It could be that those acceleration figures may very well come even closer to three seconds even.

Once simply a way to aggrandize yearly production figures-albeit a rip-roaringly riotous way to do it-in this latest Superleggera configuration the Lamborghini Gallardo really seems to have come into its own, even if only in my own mind. That is to say, it's now every bit as convincing, every bit as Lamborghini, as its bigger, more elusive, and more expensive brother.

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Role Play For A Day
I'm sitting on the pre-grid at Infineon Raceway; behind me is a large group of Can Am cars waiting to take to the track. My task is driving the pace car for the groups participating in the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival. It's 95 degrees in the shade, the sky is clear blue, and I've been idling for five minutes with the a/c running and the windows up. The temperature gauge hasn't moved.

This would seem hardly remarkable except for the fact that I'm driving a new Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera. A few years ago this would have been unthinkable in any Lamborghini. Memories of steam rising and the sound of the valves pounding their seats into the cylinder heads. As with other vintage exotics, sitting still caused all kinds of overheating mischief that affected more than just the powerplant. But here I sit.

This car is one of four present in the country. A good portion of the production run is spoken for and customer deliveries will have begun this summer. While the Gallardo's performance is something special-a top speed of 202 mph with the a/c running is pretty special-I'm more in awe of the engineering advances that have made it possible that Lamborghini is still with us.

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The one-minute signal is given and the thundering Can Am group is ready to move. I check the field on the nav screen by switching on the rearview camera normally used for reverse. Here we go, out of the pits, up the hill; I pull the shift paddle, the E-gear shifts to Third and the Gallardo is up to speed. Spectators take pictures with their iPhones-the car, not me.

You could hardly make up the story of Ferruccio Lamborghini, the tractor leopard whose name eventually graced sports cars. What is it about tractor dudes? David Brown, who saved Aston Martin, was also a heavy-duty earthmover type. The timing couldn't have been more perfect for a new exotic back in the mid '60s. Sure, the 350 and 400 GT models were acceptable, but the Miura made everything else seem less important and unleashed future possibilities. How many times have you watched the opening of The Italian Job just to see the real Red Bull in action? I still cringe when the supposed Miura remains get unceremoniously dumped down the mountain and into the water.

Lamborghinis were cars we all wanted to own; we just didn't want to consider the maintenance costs and issues. I had a friend who owned a Miura SV, the ultimate moving image. He hardly drove his prized possession since he couldn't have a machine shop in tow. Fantasy over.

The succession of various Lamborghini owners did their best under trying circumstances and economic downturns. But who can name these people? Who recalls that Chrysler owned the company at one time? The amazing fact is that through it all, the image and aura has remained intact. Lamborghini's present guardian, Audi AG through its parent company Volkswagen, has invested huge money and brought reliability and forward-thinking technology, and the new Gallardo is just the latest stunning example of this relationship. It is a Lamborghini first and foremost. All-wheel drive does not make it a Quattro. Clamps and fittings don't have visible VW markings. Whatever you think of the styling, it didn't originate in Ingolstadt.

One does not drive a bright yellow Gallardo and hope to sneak into town. A less likely surveillance vehicle does not exist. A black-ops Lamborghini may work for Bruce Wayne, but then again, he isn't of this world. Lamborghini has always understood its clientele and those who can afford to be so highly visible. One current owner just won his umpteenth NBA Championship. But personally, I'd like to see a bull win an FIA Championship, or even Le Mans, someday.

Is there a need for Lamborghini to race? Not really; the company has its own unique territory, and besides, they didn't consult me. No real reason they should.

Do I really have to give this Lambo back tomorrow? How about another week? -Kerry Morse

2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera

Layout
Longitudinal mid-engine, all-wheel drive

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Engine
5.2-liter V10, dohc, 40-valve

Transmission
Six-speed E-gear automated manual; optional six-speed manual

Suspension
Aluminum double wishbones, anti-roll bars (f/r)

Brakes
Four-piston aluminum calipers/365mm steel rotors; four-piston rear calipers, 356mm steel rotors; optional eight-piston front calipers and carbon-ceramic rotors (f/r)

Dimensions
Length/Width/Height (in.): 172.7/74.8/45.9
Wheelbase: 100.8 in.
Dry Weight: 2,954 lb

Performance
Peak Power: 561 hp @ 8000 rpm
Peak Torque: 398 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.4 sec.
Top Speed: 202 mph

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By Karl Funke
177 Articles

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